Indian advertisements are portraying changing face of women
Indian women are in no mood to play submissive roles any longer in their lives. They are changing rapidly; they are becoming practical, they are educating themselves and they are taking their own decisions. Piyush Pandey, chairman, O&M India, feels it is time the ad industry stopped portraying women as being submissive and meek. He says, “Advertising tends to imply that women have no existence without ‘X’ brand. Yes, I do agree that a woman has a role as a mother, a wife and a daughter, but then we can show these things only up to an extent. We can’t keep pushing it.”
The Airtel ad showing a woman boss telling the two men of her team that they’ve got to work on a very tight deadline. One of the men protests, saying it’s not possible. She makes a sympathetic face, tells them they’ll just have to manage and complete the job before deadline ends. dismiss them. If this boss was a man, then we wouldn’t assume there’s any twist in this tale. But a woman who’s the reporting authority to two men; there must be something more than what meets the eye.
And of course there is. She’s not just a difficult boss; she’s a caring wife, who may not help with the deadline. But, she’s working around the clock to make sure that her husband who is also her team member is looked after properly. Of course this ad is pulled off air by social media.
The new Airtel ad, titled ‘Boss’, is a courageous effort to showcase the woman boss; a changing face of corporate world where woman are calling shots. They are taking decisions in corporate world. We see in the ‘Airtel’ ad the good looking man with a beard. The Bearded Man shows maturity, because he rolls up his sleeves, literally and gets down to work. Boss leaves, says bye to her colleagues and once home, she gets down to cooking dinner. Next thing you know, Bearded Man, who is still at work, gets a call on his phone. The caller is “Wife”. The handsome actor Bearded Man is more admiring as the understanding and supportive assistant to his gorgeous boss – his wife.
Yet again, Nirma brought back the more than 25 years old ‘Nirma gang of girls’ Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma with a changed face and attitude both. This time, the motley gang of girls portrays a more ‘cheeky’ approach. The ad film begins by showing an ambulance stuck badly in a muddy pond, with people staring at it. The, the four ladies dressed in white enter the puddle. They finish the task by pushing out the van from the dirt pool, not worried about the stains on their clothes. So, today’s ‘naris’ won’t join the bandwagon of onlookers; instead they will clear distress.
Watch P.C Jeweller ad: at a party, two couples greet each other; one of the women notices the earrings of the other, appreciating it and shows the same to her husband. On seeing the earrings the man suggests that since the lady’s husband is an investment banker, it is no big thing for them to be able to afford diamonds. The other man is soon to correct him. It turns out that he’s been staying at home for six months working on a book while his wife runs the house on her income. The film ends with a showcase of the diamond earrings and a sign off saying ‘Naye zamaane ke heere‘.
In the Bournvita commercial you will see a mother and son racing in the woods. She is shown pitting herself against the boy in regular sprints. The mother tells the story through the voice over. She says, “Mere bête ko jeet ki aadat tab lagegi jab woh mujhe harayega” (My son will learn the habit of winning when he defeats me). But she is in mood to let her son win by giving in. “Akhir adatein na ek din mein banti hay na asani se” (Habits are neither built in a day nor easily) she says. Then a day arrives when the son defeats her in their race. The voice over says, “Toh jis din woh mujhe harayega, main jeet jaoongi” This ad shows the attitude, the zest and the mentality of today’s young mothers – they teach their kids to fight it out with world. They are aware that competition is growing and they prepare their kids for it.
Advertisements are known to be torchbearers as they show changes taking place in society. The portrayal of women is no more synonymous with being only homely, caretakers and demure. Her world is being portrayed on a much larger canvas. She is being shown as a multi-tasker, vigorous, self-confident and current in many recent advertising commercials. The journey of the Indian women from being primarily seen as caretakers, gullible, sensitive and helpless to the bold and beautiful, daring, self-assured is reflected in the way they are being portrayed in advertisements.
Many of these changes are turning point showing the fact that most marketers now consider women as a high potential segment of spenders that will facilitate growth for their brands. Thus, to tap the potential of this segment, the changed face of women is portrayed and they are being received well. Lot of surveys were being conducted and are still being conducted on the topic of how consumers are taking these new ads – most of the respondents felt this trend is sustainable over the long run. The key take away from these studies are that brands who challenge gender stereotypes through their advertising are being received well by consumers. The respondents echoed the change is inevitable.
I would like to give example of another ad here: The Bharat Matrimony ad – the film opens at a dining table where a young man is seated with his parents. While eating dinner, the conversation steers to the absence of his wife. The elderly lady, his mother, asks him if he eats his meal all by himself every day without his wife – Sudha. The young man replies that they generally dine together and that she must have been stuck at work and hence is late. His parents look displeased, and his father leads the conversation by asking him about his work promotion and financial position. He goes on to say, “your salary must be sufficient to meet the household expenses, then why does Sudha need to work?” Meanwhile, Sudha reaches home and happens to overhear them. The young man (her husband) counters his father’s logic and asks him why he gives guest lectures at the college after retirement even though he does not need the funds. He then goes on to provide the answer, saying, “You give guest lecturers because you like it. Similarly, Sudha works because she like to.” Sudha smiles to herself at her husband’s answer as she joins the trio at the dining table. The film then moves into the past where Sudha is shown making an entry in her profile on Bharat Matrimony stating – ‘I would like to work even after marriage.’
The philosophy is changing; today’s young men are respecting and accepting their wives to be equals. In marketing terms, the changing trend is sustainable, it resets on the fact that marketers are now looking at women as probable segment to facilitate growth. It is thus important to tap their financial and decision making independence. More and more women are becoming financially independent. They have become wiser, sharper, self-regulating and self-sufficient. Women are more practical in approaching goals; they easily give up short term goals for long term plans. They take holistic approach while making financial decisions: they easily put their children, their spouse, their siblings and their parents ahead of their own goal. After all, stronger women make stronger nations.