Author : Sana Anand
I switched on the television and saw a very strange advertisement flashing on the screen. Sebamed openly targeting and in a way criticising India’s largest consumer goods company- Hindustan Unilever (HUL). This encouraged me to research a bit more about the ongoing HUL and Sebamed war!
Behind the scenes
Sebamed, a German Company in its advertisement has been naming HUL’s products like Dove, Lux and a few others, indicating that they are not upto standards. It claimed that the pH level of dove is much higher than that of Sebamed soaps which is harmful for the skin. Obviously, this advertisement must have reached millions of people, essentially the customer base of HUL and they might have at least thought to try and switch to sebamed soaps instead.
The face off
After Sebamed’s advertisement, HUL also jumped into the arena for a quick face off and started publishing counter advertisements claiming lux to have a perfect 5.5 ph and dove to be number 1 soap recommended by dermatologists. Sebamed, made yet another move by claiming that Lux body soap has same pH as that of detergent powder Rin.
The legal battle
After continuous backlashes, HUL knocked the court room doors of Bombay High court. Although it did not give prior notice to Sebamed India, it managed to provide arguments to the court for restraining the advertisement from going on air.
Much to our surprise, Bombay High Court in its subsequent hearings has lifted its injunction orders which had restricted Sebamed from publishing advertisements. It has now ordered that Sebamed can continue to publish the advertisements across all the mediums after making a few modifications. Sebamed has been instructed to change the words that it uses in the advertisement like from “safe” to “not safe” and “ideal” to “not ideal”.
Sebamed can now continue to publish comparative advertisements by naming the products manufactured by Hindustan Unilever if it has scientific evidence to support its claims. The court has however asked Sebamed to remove the reference of equating Rin’s pH to that of Lux and Dove. Only the pH value of a soap does not account for claiming how mild or harsh a soap is. There are many ingredients that go into making a soap which decide how skin friendly a product is. Using pH value as a means of comparison used in the advertisements might mislead the consumers.
There has been a history of interesting advertisement battles between different brands like McDonald’s abs Burger King, Pepsi and Coca Cola, Pepsodent Vs. Colgate. It becomes really interesting for the viewers to watch these and see at the end who wins. However, before putting up any advertisement on the electronic mediums, a company should ensure that the advertisements are ethical and legal in nature. It should not provide wrong or misleading information at any cost. In case the company gets legally sued for providing false information, it might lose the trust and faith or customer loyalty. The company’s image and reputation get adversely affected which might cause them to forego a share of their customer base.