Who will prevent the Fair and Handsome Advert from being shown in the UK

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Some companies are in order to maximize their profit by launching the unethical advertisement can be commonly found today. One of the major factor is these companies have lack of understanding in country’s culture. Fair and Lovely is a branded product of Hindustan LTD (HLL) which has large market share in India by selling skin lightening cream for women. However, HLL was involved in unethical issue with the advertisement which was harmful to the Indian culture. In September 2007, HLL launched Fair and Handsome skin lightening cream for men, and the product that was on the shelves of British Shop, the advertisement which was once again involved in unethical issue of complexion and age-old prejudices. Therefore, the question has raised, should advertising Standard Authority, the independent British self regulatory organisation (SRO) of the advertising industry to prevent the Fair and Handsome advert from being shown in the UK or let British Asian consumers decide?

Unethical advertisement can bring very harmful impacts on both company and customer; especially it is involved in culture and various discrimination issues. The aim of this report is to analysis the country culture which from national culture, subculture and business ethic to criticize the Fair and Handsome advertisement by answering the question above. Secondly, it will point out it is very crucial for companies to have good understanding in culture, especially in the multicultural countries such as UK. Finally it will give further recommendations how companies can fairly trade with one country’s culture.

Back Ground

Fair and Lovely is a branded product of Hindustan LTD (HLL). It’s a top selling skin lightening cream, which has huge market share generates about $60 million annually in India, according to the industry sources. In order to maximize HLL’s profit, it increased its advertising effort and launched a series of unethical advertisement. This was extremely harmful in a country such as India where gender discrimination is rampant. Another offence is perpetuating a culture of discrimination in a society where ”fair” is synonymous with ”beautiful” That was result in All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) appealed to the National Human Right Commission alleging that the advertisement demeaned women by three things: the ads were racist, they were promoting son preference and they were insulting to working women. As a result, the ad was off the air (Fair& Lovely case study)

However, in September 2007, the company has launched a skin- lightening cream for men Fair and Handsome in the UK market. The advert has not shown in UK yet, however it was widely through media via YouTube and BBC news. By promoting this product, the company use one of Bollywood’s big film star Khan. The advertisement was once again involved in unethical issue. It was very obvious, both actor and the company were heavily criticized for promoting a product that allegedly strengthened harmful stereotypes and age old prejudices that equated fair skin with good looks. It is not ethical to exploit cultural norms and values to promote the product as the cultural norms and values plays an integral part in promoting the product but point should be considered that the advertising is providing benefits to the society rather than doing any harm to the society.

Skin colour is a powerful them in India as well as much of Asia where a lighter colour represent a higher status. Culturally, fair skin is associated with positive values that relate to class and beauty. However the customer can’t realize the old stereotype. The customer in India whom has been brought up by the caste culture still consider the only way to get away from bottom of the society is changing the complexion. The advertisement has brought very harmful impact to let old stereotype rampant.

Culture (national culture, subculture)

By answering the question, it’s very essential to analysis from culture perspective. Culture may defined as ”the standards of beliefs, perception, evaluation, and behaviour shared by the members of a social group” (M Hans 2006) Hans also defined the consumer culture and business culture. ”consumer culture, that is, the cultural factors determining consumer decision making and behaviour; Business culture, that is, all cultural factors influencing business behaviour” Countries, market, organizations and companies exist inside such culture context. Culture can affect consumer’s preference, taste and behaviour. It has significant power to influence the market and consumer’s buying power.

However, to some extents, culture can bring some negative influence to society. Especially some old custom, stereotype sand caste is spread from thousands years back. According to the case study, it exists in India and most of Asian countries. In India, Skin colour is powerful theme and closely identified with caste and laden with symbolism. Secondly, gender discrimination is rampant in India; the preference for a son who would be able to take on the financial responsibility for his parents is especially harmful in a country. Companies should have better view to consider the positive side of culture as business tool, not negative side.

Subculture ”which is a distinct and identifiable cultural group that has values in common with the overall society but also certain characteristics that are unique to itself. Subcultures are group of people within a larger society, although the various subcultures share some basic traits of wider culture, their own custom and lifestyle, making them significantly different from other groups within the larger culture of which they are a part” (Onkvisit and Shaw 1989). As the globalization and economic integration take place, it has increased on the global movement of people (Migration) Most of developed country such as UK, USA and Canada, their culture tend to be multicultural. Culture in those countries is from different region.

In the UK, British Asian people is a strong subculture group which its preference, taste, attitude and lifestyle are different from British national culture or some other subculture group. British Asian people still have Asian lifestyle, more or less the same in Asian. Therefore, they are more likely to use the Asian product. As result, they will ignore unethical advertisement of Fair and Handsome. Secondly, often the power of subculture is usually very weak and customers may have less awareness to this product. Moreover, this product is only focused on the British Asian customer, as most western people have lighter skin colour. Therefore most of people in the UK will pay less attention to this unethical issue.

National Culture can be defined as ”the members of a society have some common value, norms and patterns of behaviour indicating that they belong to a bigger culture group, traditionally called national culture” (Muhlbacher 2006) This means the people in one particular group have the common culture in general, even through the subculture groups have their unique culture, to some extents, they have to follow the general culture. In the UK, apart from British traditional culture, subculture is also considered as part of national culture. Another way is subculture belongs to the national culture, see figure1.

In the UK, people are very sensitive for discrimination, such as gender, age and skin colour etc, can cause very serious issues. People are more get protected by law. It emphasize on everyone is equal, and it’s extensively approved by people. Thus, the Fair and Handsome which contain obvious unethical issue, both skin colour and age old prejudices can be found in this advertisement. Therefore this advert should be banded by British Advertising Standard Authority immediately, before it has shown on the UK.

Business Ethic

Palmer, 2000 state that ”Ethic is essentially about the definition of what is right and wrong” However, it’s very difficult to judge what is the benchmark of right or wrong. Most of company consider legal is more important than ethical. This is incorrect consideration. Companies should act in responsible manner, and also need to take account of the value of society. HLL launched advert of Fair and Lovely has already brought very negative impacts which were racist, promoting son preference and insulting to working women. Regardless of this issue they have launched Fair and Handsome advert in 2007, which reinforce the age-old prejudice and skin colour discrimination. From legality perspective, the company didn’t break law, however it was very unethical. It’s awful to use the old stereotype as their tool to promote this product, make discrimination even worse. As Palmer said ”culture has great effect in defining ethic”

British Standard Advertising Authority (ASA) is an independent British self regulatory organisation. It can stop misleading, harmful or offensive advertising and ensure sales promotions are run fairly. Their mission is to apply the advertising codes and uphold standards in all media on behalf of consumers, business and society, according to the official ASA website. This is a powerful tool to stop unethical advertisement. The advertisement of Fair and Handsome should be banded before it has shown in the UK. One hand, ASA has more power than customer to stop the advert, on the other hand, it can prevent the discrimination was take place in the UK.


Bases on this case, it can be seen clearly that, unethical advert could bring negative impact. From culture view, it’s very harmful the society; from company view, they will lose the customer who have more socially responsibility. Moreover, ASA as self regulatory organization could stop the advert, which will result in that company lose their reputation.

To avoid this happen, first of all, marketer should have act in a socially responsible manner. Such as HLL, it did not respect to one country’s culture by have bad attitude. Company should have correct motive to operate the business.

Secondly, it’s very crucial to analysis market from culture perspective. Culture can affect consumer’s tastes and preference. For example, one of Jackie’s films called Tuxedo. The poster is shown as Figure 2. The universal poster was banded in Thailand by against the custom, because it’s very bad to show other sole of shoe. As soon as the film company realised the issue, they changed poster immediately. See Figure. That’s the power of culture.

Unlike HLL launched unethical advert Fair& Handsome which once again hit the culture. It will not be surprise if the ASA band the advert.

Finally, the Advertising Standard Authority should reinforce their authority to authorize ethical advert. Especially in multicultural countries such as UK. These are the recommendation should be considered in the future.


Culture has significant position in marking, it’s very crucial to analysis market from culture perspective. Based on this case study, from the culture view, on one hand, subculture group may not have enough power to against the Fair and Lovely advertisement; on the other hand customer may ignore the negative impact by only perusing to change the skin colour. From ethic aspect, HLL did not take the advice form Fair and Lovely once again launch Fair and Handsome with the same issue. That was not acceptable. Therefore, it would suggest that ASA should prevent the Fair and Handsome advert show in the UK to warn other similar unethical advert.

It will also suggest that business ethic should be considered in marketing. Company should act in good manner, rather than just maximize their profit. Although, it is difficult to judge right or wrong, it can be considered whether it is harmful to the culture, society or people etc. It’s as simple as one drop rubbish on the street or eats very smelly food on public transport. It dose against law, however, it is unethical.

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