A pink cupboard door opens and two young women stumble out of the closet, still fumbling with hot-pant zippers and tempramental skirts, and walk away in opposite directions. What were they up to inside? Well, they weren’t playing Backgammon that’s for sure.
From slyly scooting out of the boy’s hostel to ending up in a closet with another woman, the Fastrack girl has certainly moved on. The new Fastrack girl propagates ‘coming out of the closet’, an extension to the brand’s ‘Move On’ philosophy.
The baseline refers to coming to terms with one’s identity. The first of the three TVCs touches on homosexuality. Embrace it if you possess it and move on from the norms that have shackled you from doing so all this while; is the message the film conveys.
Fastrack has been brash and cheeky. But never before has it pushed the envelope to the point of taking a stand on a hot button issue. Consider the fact that hardly any brands even in more so-called advanced markets have committed themselves one way or the other to the LGBT audience. And also the fact that sympathetic homosexual characters on television programming and films are a relatively recent phenomenon.
According to Arun Iyer, national creative director, Lowe Lintas (the creative agency for the campaign), “It’s not controversial, but progressive.” The idea is to ask people to let go of the unnecessary societal mores and embrace their preferences.
The brief given to the agency was to find out what would be the next step on the ladder called ‘move on’. “We thought this space of challenging taboos was neat. It was hot, more edgy, and more contemporary, all at once,” he adds.
The campaign that’s spread over TV and digital broke on IPL-6. The digital leg, handled by 22feet, will focus on creating conversations around the thematic campaign with ‘move on’ at the centre of all the activity.
The online initiative will peak over the next 4-5 weeks. So, how does the industry at large react to this? While some might think it’s like waving a red flag at an easily offended bull, Nima Namchu, executive creative director, Cheil Worldwide, gives it a thumbs up.
He says, “For me this commercial clearly says this brand is not one that lives in yesterday. It makes me respect how the brand is thinking.” Chlorophyll’s Anand Halve, however, is not so impressed.
“If you’re saying Fastrack is taking a stand on homosexuality, I’d say one odd commercial doesn’t translate into this,” he asserts. Taking a cue from the Tata Tea’s Jaago Re campaign, Halve believes a stand translates into a long term commitment made over a period of time, with a consistent line of communication across different mediums.
Here, he has questions. Will Fastrack sponsor LGBT programs from hereon? He believes that brands and advertising are not about bringing social change and therefore “should stop kidding themselves. Unlike the USA, we don’t have a sufficiently developed market for the LGBT community that a brand could cater to, profitably at that.” He also feels that while the ad may seem progressive to the fraternity, it’s also because people in advertising are scared of being seen as closeminded.
But it has potential of offending a wider audience. One would argue that the film and the category is meant for a younger target group. So why bother if it offends a slightly conservative age group? “Because the ads are aired on TV and not a particular adult-subscription channel,” he reasons.
Except for an Amul outdoor ad from July 2009 that was dedicated to celebrating decriminalisation of homosexuality, there aren’t any examples of Indian ads depicting or supporting gay rights.
Even globally, there are not too many. But here, we don’t have a paradigm to base any predictions on. So these few questions remain — Will the youngsters be amused? Will Halve’s fears be unfounded? Will the campaign at best create a controversy without bringing in any further commitment to the issue from the brand’s end? We’ll figure out fast whether the brand is moving on track, or not.