Swiss underwear ads aim for controversy in India

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BOMBAY -- Swiss underwear marketer Calida, which last year entered India through a muted launch, will make up for lost time with the debut of an ad campaign that's likely to raise conservative Indian hackles.

The campaign by Lowe Group affiliate Enterprise Nexus Communications in Bangalore, Karnataka, comprises four print ads and an imminent follow-up on TV. The first ad shows a black and white visual of a man and a woman lying on a bed, both dressed in Calida underwear. The two are laughing over a glass of champagne.

"Well, the Swiss have always known a thing or two about keeping your assets under wraps," reads the suggestive headline.

The sparse copy continues in the same vein: "But now they're willing to bare all. At least where comfort is concerned. Presenting Calida of Switzerland. Panties and briefs so meticulously crafted, they're almost as comfortable as wearing nothing. And so affordable, you needn't dip into your Swiss account."

"It's tongue-and-cheek, a take-off on something Swiss and tied up with the brand," says Rajiv Agrawal, Bombay-based managing director of Enterprise Nexus.

Largely unknown in India, the campaign seeks to build awareness of the brand by courting controversy. Calida's Natural Textiles Ltd. equal joint venture was forged last year with Bombay-based textiles and commodities exporter Phulchand Group.

Mr. Agrawal says Calida is the first brand in India to retail both men's underwear and women's lingerie under one name. The brand, which leads in the Swiss home market and is among the top-rankers in neighboring Germany and France, will compete in India with upmarket rivals such as VF Corp.'s Vanity Fair, Lovable and Liberblu labels for women and Jockey and Bombay-based VIP's Rivolta for men.

Calida initially chose India merely as an export base but a good response from an early test-market in the city of Bangalore convinced the marketer to contemplate a domestic foray. A plant near Bangalore will supply the Calida range.

Advertising will play a crucial role in generating public response, though not all is likely to be favorable in a country currently ruled by an uptight rightwing regime.

"At one level, the ads could be considered provocative," admits Mr. Agrawal. "Calida is the only brand which has men's and women's underwear available under one name. And its ads, I think, are the first to show men and women together, clad only in their undergarments."

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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