India’s condom makers are bracing for hard times

How does one market these now?
How does one market these now?
Image: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar
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The country’s top condom makers aren’t exactly a happy lot at the moment.

A day after the Narendra Modi government’s decision to restrict the air-time given to their commercials, these companies say they’ll have to rework their media plans to reach more people.

Like most other categories such as telecom and consumer products, the bulk of condom advertisements—roughly 80%, say, marketers—are geared for television. But as per the new government advisory, they can now only be aired between 10pm and 6am.

So TV could become ineffective for the category, said Vishal Vyas, general manager of marketing at Chennai-based TTK, maker of the Skore brand of condoms. “I think it is unfair because one can regulate an advertisement if the content (is offensive) but a blanket ban on the (timing of the) category is not fair,” he told Quartz.

Vyas explained that condom commercials typically air late in the evening and over the weekend during daytime. Their target group mostly comprises men. “Even though 10pm isn’t too late, it still gives the category a handicap and shrinks our window of how we reach our audience,” he said.

The move could now see marketers shift their spends towards other categories such as digital, Vyas added.

Advertisers, too, reckon that life is going to get much harder for the marketing departments of condom companies. “Condoms as a category has far more challenges in India, to begin with, such as people not buying them in the first place. So this (advertising) restriction now becomes part of these other big challenges that marketers will face,” said Hari Desikan, Chennai branch head at advertising agency Rediffusion YR.

The world’s second-most populous country isn’t exactly big on condom usage—only 5.6% of Indians use them, a 2015 research by the National Family Health Survey shows.

Other condom makers are more sanguine, explaining that they will find ways to work around the advisory.

“If the government has said something, we can’t do anything about it,” said Joy Chatterjee, brand manager at the country’s largest brand of condoms, Manforce. His company, Mankind Pharma, will continue to strengthen its reach in stores and pharmacies.

The Dec. 11 notification invoked the Cable Television Ruling from 1994, which states that “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements.” India’s information and broadcasting ministry, therefore, advised television channels “not to telecast the advertisements of condoms which are for a particular age group and could be indecent and inappropriate for viewing by children.”