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NEW DELHI, March 3

FAIRNESS creams - the fastest growing segment of the Rs 1,300-crore skin care market - may just acquire a blemish.

Ads that attribute success in marriage, career prospects, or family approval
to the application of fairness creams have come under fire. The Government has written to several satellite television channels to stop airing ads promoting
whitening creams on the premise that these are demeaning to women and promote complexion prejudices.

The move is a fallout of an NGO - the All India Democratic Women's
Association - petitioning 00000the Government against a particular fairness
cream ad stating that this ad was an `affront to a woman's dignity and blatantly promotes preference for a son'.

If implemented, the move could spell bad news for personal care companies.
The Rs 650-crore fairness creams market is led by Hindustan Lever's Fair &
Lovely which has a dominant 75-80 per cent share. Other significant players are CavinKare's Fairever, Godrej Fair Glow, and Emami Naturally Fair, all of which spend significantly on television advertising.

Fair & Lovely's television ad spend for the October-December 2002 period
was Rs 3.3 crore, Emami's was Rs 2.5 crore, Fairever's Rs 2.2 crore and Godrej FairGlow, Rs 20 lakh in the same period, according to media tracking agency Current Opinion & Future Trends.

For the time being, however, the corporates are playing it safe.

"The reference in the petition is to one specific ad. It is not likely to
impact the entire industry," said sources at Godrej Consumer Products Ltd.

Said Mr Aditya Agarwal, Director, Emami Group, "Several personal care
categories promote the promise of looking good through their ads. Why single out fairness creams? In any case, the reference seems to be to one specific brand."

HLL's spokesperson, meanwhile, declined to comment on the issue.

Just last week, the Information & Broadcasting Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar
Prasad, announced in the Lok Sabha that show-cause notices had been served to
some satellite channels for telecasting ads in violation of provisions of the
advertising code. The Minister's statement also adds that in 13 cases,
television channels had been directed not to show the ads which defied the code.

But TV channels are taking a guarded approach to the issue.

As a Star spokesperson said, "We will take a decision in consultation with
our clients."

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