Recently, while driving through South Extension, a well-known shopping destination in South Delhi, I literally stopped in my tracks when confronted with a huge billboard ad campaign for Reebok’s latest shoe line, the Easytone. These shoes, designed after much in-house research and development at Reebok, apparently promise to help women tone up, and claim that wearing them ensures you work the leg muscles up to 28 percent more, thanks to a new technology. That’s a tall claim, and the huge billboard which covered more than 70 percent of a building’s length was in line with that sentiment. But, the image of the woman in the ad, although her face is not shown, in barely-there gym wear was what really attracted attention. The same ad campaign I found out later (after some internet searching) had first attracted attention in markets across Europe and the United States.
It was launched a few months back in India and considering what the ads look like, I am surprised it’s not been vilified by our ‘moral brigade,’ who are often prone to ripping apart posters and banning books, plays and movies that don’t agree with their ideologies. I conducted a tiny, informal poll to see whether people I knew found the ad offensive, sexist or in poor taste. Incredibly enough, there was little fervent opinion. I don’t really know what this suggests—that we are more open now at least when it comes to what women wear, or less excited by show of skin—but I remain surprised the ad has generated such little controversy.