The emergence of social media and the ‘insight’ that social relevance in brand message makes an ad go viral may be the reason why women-centric commercials lack appeal. Now that none of the commercials this Women’s Day truly went viral, brands should relook at their narratives
Delhi | March 15, 2017
The good thing is that brands want to celebrate Women’s Day. Some do it by celebrating their relationship with women consumers, and some by turning it into a joke. This Women’s Day one brand turned it into a shopping day (because it is a retail shopping chain) and other decided to show movies with women in lead (because it is a movie chain). There are very few brands that looked at the International Women’s Day theme of #BeBoldForChange. Inox did it in unique way of declaring woman as the #HeadOfTheFamily, Anouk did it by an online film #SaveItForAnotherDay, or Kriti Sanon did a nice take in it for her brand Ms Taken.
This has become the story of Women’s Day, and I suspect a lot of it is to do with coming of social media. Brands cannot be seen left out on a #TrendingTopic and they have to be seen a part of conversation. The fear of being left out is something that grips most brands for them to push messages out. With social media and shareability on social media driving the reason to do a campaign, the messages tend to become overtly preachy.
This is what made me look for commercials that could have been done for International Women’s Day but were normal everyday brand commercials. Each of these commercials made a deep impact on the brand; they did it by not overtly espousing a cause. They were done by large mainstream brands and were definitely not preachy.
The first one is a landmark commercial of Indian advertising. Way back in 90s, TV had just started to become the lead medium of communication; brands were aggressively adopting TVC as the way to connect. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk did this commercial where the girl unabashedly celebrated the success of her friend -- the girl jumping up with joy, dodging the security guard to run on to the field and dance with gay abandon. Remember it was the 90s, and the message was about joy of eating chocolate. This could well have been the narrative about women celebrating their love without being judged. I know you guessed the TVC, but if you didn't then here it is
About a decade later, Samsung washing machines did an ad; in today’s times it may carry a click bait headline like: her husband challenged her to play football, what happened next will make you wonder! This was a commercial where the wife dressed in salwar-kameez challenges her husband for a game of football, trips him and beats him at his own game. All the things that brands today will not like to do or do it only for a special occasion like Woman’s Day. This was a simple tale, told without the packaging of empowerment and did well for the brand. Here’s the original ad
Around the same time, Hyundai broke the rules of car advertising by the tale of a girl, a boy and the father of the girl. It took a brave client to defy research to make the ad. Car ads in those days, and even today, were about running product shots; here the car is almost a prop in the narrative. Here’s the ad:
This was the tale of small town India, about the ambitions of women and prejudices of father. In today’s time this would have become the narrative of changing desires of girls and how they are choosing their own partners.
A couple of years later, HDFC Life’s ad was a fantastic take on how a girl can make his father’s life happier. The commercial https://youtu.be/OrZnGDyYO9Q, part of their ongoing campaign about self-reliance, was really progressive without the usual preachy tonality that we tend to see in today’s commercials. Here the daughter’s desire for a better car for her father, and that she planned this for her dad, is priceless. I haven’t seen this narrative by brands even for father-son bonding. Compare HDFC to #NayiSoch from Star Plus which they did as a part of their women’s day campaign by roping in Aamir Khan. HDFC Life beats the Star Plus commercial hands down, despite being made 10 years earlier.
Post 2008, it is difficult to find commercials that can be picked as commercials that made women-centric narrative as every day non-preachy affair. Ariel did #ShareTheLoad, but if they looked into their own brand history, they will find a TVC where a husband did laundry to win a favour from wife. That too is over 10 years back.
The professionals who created these ads are still in the industry. The clients, the agency pros, the researchers, all of them are still around, then where did the progress stop?
My hunch is the emergence of social media and the ‘insight’ that social relevance in a brand message makes an ad go viral. Now that none of the commercials this Women’s Day truly went viral, brands should relook at their narratives.
No more tokenism should be the mantra.
(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle. The views expressed are personal.)