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Miles To Go Before We Do Justice To HER

Advertising with its immense reach plays a crucial role in representing society with the right value system as they have the potential to condition consumer behaviour. Though, to be honest, the depiction of women in commercials is not entirely pleasant

Advertising with its immense reach plays a crucial role in representing society with the right value system as they have the potential to condition consumer behaviour. Though, to be honest, the depiction of women in commercials is not entirely pleasant.

Recently IKEA Middle East launched- What Nature would do if nature were you campaign to celebrate Earth day. The creative brings to life a beautiful story of environmental consciousness by making small changes to everyday life.

Nudging the family to save water, cycle to work, use natural light & switch to energy-saving bulbs – all done by the Motherly Polar bear which does not hesitate to use aggression when needed! (That thump & roar on the dining table was purely adorable).

She is most relatable as the woman of the house who is trying to make everything & everyone better constantly – while she is an embodiment of Mother Nature & Mama bear. For the larger goodness, the character brings as Nature itself – seeing the bear playing mama on screen is not irksome.

The portrayal of Mother’s role by a non-human entity!

Well in the Indian context, it might have stirred up a riot for the portrayal of Mother’s role by a non-human entity! Though honestly, the imagery of women in advertisements is not a completely pretty picture.

A recent study on Gender bias & Inclusion in Advertising in India by UNICEF & Geena Davis institute clearly brings to light the issues pertaining to representation with the right intent.

Advertising with its immense reach plays a crucial role in representing society with the right value system as they have the potential to condition consumer behaviour.

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Certain aspects of advertising have not evolved!

There was an era when husband’s happiness was paramount to sell anything from face- cream to health drink, raising a daughter meant nothing but preparing her to be ideal housewife & looks decided woman’s fortune.

Advertising in today’s era has replaced a lot of these as society has progressed tremendously – but certain aspects have not evolved & some disturbing ones have joined the foray.

Not getting into the Fairness game entirely for it has been thoroughly debated in recent times. Got to respect the 46yr old category veteran for taking a big step to change the game by starting with the foundation of the brand name itself set the ball rolling to move forward.

What concerns me more in this topic is the majority of dark skin characters are presented as a lower class (56.5%) while characters with light skin are shown as an upper class (65.7%).

The deeply disturbing trend of how darker tone is not only looked down- but additionally allotted for a certain social segment signalling discrimination at the core.

Seduction and sexual objectification have evolved into powerful cards to play.

Seduction & Sexual objectification have become strong cards to play when there is nothing else left to play- this did not exist in the era when the conventional family set-up was all that was acceptable in advertising. Now it has become an easy way out, to create sensual ambience, bring in partially dressed woman & hopefully she’ll gather eyeballs.

Female characters are 6 times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing than males. At times even a category that within a mile has no codes attempts seduction for its magnetic effect to grab attention.

Now imagine a dim-lit room filled with feathers, petals, satin, candles in the view & scantily clad women slowly walks in do we really need all this to sell Mango juice??

Hopefully, the next generation will not suffer through the seduction based selling of male deodorants betting on women with sexual innuendos to do all the weight-lifting!

Wishing that dance sequences in movies with dozen women in skimpy clothes behind heroin in skimpiest will cease to exist by the next century!!

Women in professional set up have a lower portrayal.

Women in professional set up have lower portrayal compared to men with strikingly high 2X difference – Why is this not surprising as we see them almost always in the kitchen!!

Well, women have been cooking for centuries now, but if they can be shown changing tyres- I am sure men can safely fry vadas & not set the kitchen on fire.

Lloyd’s ad for a Unisex washing machine was memorable for raising the right question. Ariel took a big step with the “Share the load” campaign- bringing every male member of the family into the fold by not just doing the task but taking a moment to realise the need for it.

Depict women as caretakers restricting them to traditional gender roles.

Food brands have a big role to play here as they continue to depict women as caretakers restricting them to traditional gender roles. Even if it raises the question of focussing on the core target audience, there is always scope for subtle inclusion.

Nescafe Sunrise over the years has placed the man in the kitchen to whip aromatic cups of coffee, though it is usually the woman who is the purchase decision-maker. One year of the pandemic has given us ample opportunity to reverse the gender roles in managing the household- Why should women do all the cooking??

Breaking stereotypes surrounding Parenting, another space deserving some attention. Female characters are 3 times more likely to be depicted as a parent than male characters – again in the same ratio as excellent parents.

Why can’t more brands step up to place the father take up tasks that are conventionally mother’s domain & how do we honour those dads who are already doing it?? Let’s just not bring them in like prized properties to be featured in Father’s Day promotions – instead, show them as capable partners in parenting. Pampers “A father’s choice” campaign is well crafted for today’s world as it definitely takes 2- so let us acknowledge it. Mama knows best for sure- but that’s not a reason for Papa to sit back!!

Titan has always been a step ahead in boldly leading the way!

Stalwarts like Titan have always been a step ahead in boldly leading the way – celebrating today’s women in every possible emerging dimension– Women putting career as her priority, marriage for right reasons, becoming a mother by choice, breaking bias as workplace & most recently making time for herself.

That single frame of a pregnant woman dragging chair a chair to enter a meeting room & saying “Sorry I think they forgot to inform me” with a voice-over of how women are not a long term is as hard-hitting as it can get.

Challenged perspectives & stereotypes surrounding topics.

Brands like Biba, Anouk have challenged perspectives & stereotypes surrounding topics like marriage, career, pregnancy & parenting over the years.

But a major chunk of brands honour women for juggling work & home, being the best parent for a child, sacrifices made for the family on occasions like Women’s day or Mother’s day.

Probably it is high time we step out of that ritualistic behaviour. Time to consciously drive change in everyday life & move away from portraying women in traditional gender roles.

Time to think, How many brands have consciously attempted such remarkable feats consistently??

Reference – https://www.unicef.org/rosa/reports/gender-bias-inclusion-advertising-india

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About the Author

Aarthee Suriyakumar

Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar. read more...

21 Posts | 25,827 Views

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