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January 20, 2017

9 Indian Ads That Tried To Break Gender Stereotypes

Text by Tanisha Choudhury

We analyse the ones that succeeded and a few that didn’t…

A common defence of advertising and its often-sexist depictions of women is that it mirrors society. But as women learn to assert themselves and increase their spending power, brands are realising that they can no longer pander to the lowest common denominator in their communication. They are tapping this growing demographic by respecting individuality and subverting tired tropes.

Tokenism, feminism or gimmickry — whatever the motivation of these brands, we have to acknowledge that the importance of gender equality is rising in public sentiment. After a great deal of searching, we zeroed in on a few campaigns that attempt to show women in a progressive light. Not all of them are successful, but here are the ones that left an impact….

Not so-dirty laundry

In Ariel’s Share The Load, a father watches his daughter juggle work and household responsibilities, without help from her husband. This leads him to introspect on the example he set for her. In an attempt to bring about positve change, he agrees to share laundry duties with his wife. The campaign won the Glass Lion at the Cannes Lions two years in a row, an award that recognises ads that challenge gender stereotypes. Perhaps this ad would encourage a great deal more self-reflection.

Fearless living

UK-based feminine hygiene products brand Bodyform’s Blood depicts the strength and ferocity of a number of women — including ballet dancers, rugby  players,  skateboarders, mountain  climbers,  surfers  and boxers — who put their bodies to the test  on a daily basis. The ad shows them falling, getting hurt, bleeding and continuing with renewed vigour. The tag line of the ad being: ‘No blood should hold us back’. Finally a sanitary napkin ad that doesn’t show women in white pants running to work. Bonus points for not holding back from showing the colour of blood!

Cutting colloquialism

In Whisper’s Like A Girl campaign grown-ups were asked to run, fight and throw ‘like a girl’. The video depicts their silliest impressions of the action. Cut to young girls being asked the same question, with them putting their best foot forward. Doing something ‘like a girl’ doesn’t have a negative connotation for young girls. When did the rest of us forget this simple truth?

Updating traditions

Change the Convention, from Biba’s Change series — that tackle various aspects  of  arranged  marriage  in India — is a fresh spin on the ‘boy’s family coming to see the girl’ scenario. The twist sees the girl’s father questioning the boy’s cooking skills. Making the arranged marriage setup fair to both genders doesn’t take much, does it?

Last thing on her mind

Tanishq’s Best At Work ad for their Mia range of work-wear jewellery describes the pointless debates surrounding professional women. A poem read out as a voiceover clarifies that women are least interested in ‘rules’ on ‘appropriate’ work-wear. Nor are they bothered about seeming overambitious or by misconceptions about how they get ahead at work. While the rest of the world is busy debating how women ‘should’ behave, working women are busy shattering every  glass ceiling.

Mama’s boy

Star Plus, as part of their Nayi Soch campaign, launched a series of three ad films showing ace cricketers Virat Kohli, M. S. Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane paying tribute to their mothers by sporting the women’s first names on their jerseys. It’s about time we turned the ‘Baap ka naam roshan karega’ expectation on its head.

Bittersweet beginnings

Anouk’s The Move, part of their Bold is Beautiful campaign, tackles what young urban couples face in India. On the eve of moving to a new city, the husband refuses, saying he’s up for a promotion. Their conversation reveals that the wife has made a similar move in the past for her husband, but this time since it’s her career on the line, he doesn’t think it’s important enough to uproot his work life. Ultimately, she decides to relocate in order to pursue her career. It’s time we spoke about a marriage of equals.

Set her ‘free’

One of Amazon’s Mom Be A Girl Again ads has a son sending his mother a camera, reminding her that she used to be a photographer. His letter explains that since now she has some time to spare (no longer needing to cook and clean for him, since he has left to study abroad), she should indulge in her hobbies. Perhaps you can claim your life back when your fully grown, totally-dependent adult son goes away to study. Or perhaps you can do it sooner.

Too little too late

Colors TV’s latest campaign wants to start a people’s movement, to make society recognise how hardworking women are. A montage depicts women balancing work, family life and household chores — even on weekends, while their husbands and sons look on. The solution to this unfair situation? #SundayIsHerHoliday Thank you so much for one day off in a week. The thoughtfulness is almost too much.

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