It's in bad taste

Published On: 2012-03-28

Author: unknown

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'It's in bad taste'


Source: Rediff
By: Lata Khubchandani 


They can't live with each other. They can't live without each other. 

The result? A war that's raged across the globe for the last few years. 

The latest salvo in this Coke-Pepsi battle for supremacy has wounded the nation's heartthrob, Hrithik Roshan. Who, say sources, is rather upset. 

The cause? Pepsi's response to Coke launching Hrithik as their latest mascot. 

A senior official at Pepsi -- who was very insistent about not being quoted -- did not agree. "This ad is a continuation of the Yeh Dil Maange More series and is about 'more' romance. This is a 60-seconder with a strong story line. The story revolves around Shah Rukh Khan and a young girl. It is a fun ad like many other Pepsi commercials." 

While the Coke ad currently on air showcases Hrithik as indulgently as his debut film did, the Pepsi rebuttal has not been gentle. For those who are yet to tune in to the ad, it is set in Bombay's famed The Bowling Co. Model Maya Sharma loses a game and is supposed to kiss the winner. But she decides that a spin of the Pepsi bottle will decide the lucky recipient of her favour. 

Spin one points to the ad's contentious part -- the Hrithik Roshan look-alike or, as Pepsi insists, the guy who in no way looks like Hrithik, but would like to look like him. To add to the ignominy, he wears braces and is dressed to look like Hrithik in the Coke ad. Pretty Woman turns away in disgust. 

Spin two points to a little kid whose plans to kiss Pretty Woman are upset by Shah Rukh's vociferous objections. 

Spin three finds Shah Rukh stopping the bottle as soon as it faces him. Pretty Woman refuses to kiss him. But when the Khan shows every sign of being heartbroken, she walks back to him. A Pepsi symbol covers the screen and you hear the distinct sound of a smooch. 

Papa Rakesh Roshan is very offended by the ad, say media reports. There is even speculation that the idea behind the ad was Shah Rukh's. It has been directed by ace adman Prahlad Kakkar for HTA, which holds the Pepsi account. 

"As far as Shah Rukh is concerned," says Mithali, Prahlad's wife, "he's been doing Pepsi for a really long time now. He's had to spoof Sachin last year. Even Sachin could have objected, but he's above it all. Since these are film people, they probably don't realise that in advertising, the director is not the last word. He comes third -- there's the client on top, the agency in the middle and then the director, who happens to be Prahlad in this case. 

"It was HTA's creative team that scripted the ad. It was done in a spirit of fun and it should be taken in that way. People who've seen the ad don't even realise that it's a Hrithik lookalike. One can't get a Hrithik lookalike really because there's only one of Hrithik. It's a wannabe person and there are so many of them on the roads today." 

But Rakesh Roshan questions the brand's innocence. "See, if Pepsi was not involved in the beginning stages, then one might say that this is done in a humorous way. We wrote a letter to Pepsi saying we've heard you're going to do this ad and it won't be in good taste because Hrithik is just starting his career. We requested them to see to it that they don't damage his image. And they wrote back saying they haven't done anything of the sort and someone must have misinformed us. I was told they had pressurised Prahlad Kakkar to do this because Hrithik hadn't signed up with them." 

When asked why he's taking this so seriously, Roshan says, "I'm a father. No father would like somebody to make fun of his son. I think it's in bad taste and so does Hrithik. If we're talking of humour here, it would be humorous if the girl walks away with Hrithik, even if he wears braces. But making faces suggesting 'ugh' etc, that is in poor taste." 

To which Mitali counters, "I really don't know what the objection is. Maybe Hrithik's not used to this kind of thing because he's just started his career. But he must get used to it, especially if he's signed up with a cola like Coke which has this war going on with Pepsi for a long time. He must be prepared to see the lighter side of it. Besides, Hrithik is a star: nobody can take that away." 

Which does not really mollify Rakesh Roshan.

But does he find the ad so offensive? "It's not offensive, but sometimes you can read between the lines. They've done this ad deliberately because they wanted Hrithik to endorse Pepsi. This is a deliberate attempt to get back at him because we went for Coke." 

Pepsi deny that they approached Hrithik to endorse their product. "Actually, Hrithik approached us," says the senior official who wished to remain unnamed, "but we've heard that Coke has paid Hrithik an unheard-of amount. If the figure we've heard is true, then it's much more than what we've paid Shah Rukh." 

Vibha Rishi, Pepsi's executive director (marketing), adds, "We have nothing but affection for Hrithik Roshan. The young man in question in our ad wishes he looked like Hrithik, but, in fact, looks nothing like him. Anyone can see that." 

Coke, obviously, does not agree. "We believe the ad is in very poor taste. An international product like Pepsi should not put down a person or show somebody in a negative light just to build its brand. They should at least respect Hrithik's intellectual property rights. 

Hrithik is a newcomer and should be encouraged and supported. We believe the love of his fans will sustain him through this and it will be Pepsi that will be seen in a negative light. Besides, they risk incurring the wrath of Hrithik's fans." 

Privately, both Coke and Pepsi are rather pleased with the publicity. The only people who are not are the Roshans. Says Papa Rakesh, "There's nothing one can do really, but it is in bad taste." While beta Hrithik continues to shoot non-stop, as he wraps one commitment and begins another.