Last week was dominated by women-centric stories in advertising and content. Both in India and globally. All the stories do raise a pertinent point: do we in advertising have any clue of the changing women consumers or are we still seeing them with the narrow perspective of past? Just sample what happened last week. Audi in China missed the mark with a TVC. In India we are doing one strange TV show about a 10-year-old boy getting married to a grown up woman. An RJ in Mumbai brought BMC to its knees, and she is a spunky lady. A movie with liberating theme about women tied the Censor Board in a tangle that the best Yoga guru couldn't fathom. The women cricket team reached the final of the world cup. Meanwhile advertising in India continues to make skin fairer, weddings grander, mom-in-laws angrier, shirts whiter and utensils shinier.
Audi in China is a very powerful brand. It has ruled the market in China for a very long period and is a part of pop culture. The market’s reaction to the ultra-insensitive Audi Used Car ad was understandable. The market reacted with horror, there were calls to ban the commercial. Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) was unforgiving. Audi’s global brand mangers apologised. The commercial compared a new bride to a used car and the analogy made a big dent into the reputation of the brand. In every such case, we must remember that there was a brief, there was an approval to a concept, there was the process of creation, post-shoot approvals and may be many rounds of market research in between. If the ad made it to screens than it begs the question, are they in touch with their consumers? Or they are completely oblivious to the realities of market.
Meanwhile back home Mumbai is witnessing a bizarre sequence of events. An RJ created a song about potholes in Mumbai and the whole BMC was up in arms. They slapped a case of mosquito breeding. Mumbai rose in unity and sided with the RJ. Across social media, the outpouring of support was massive. What possibly added to the whole movement was the fact that the RJ was a lady. What may have proved the authorities was possibly her gender. The city did not let her gender come in way of the support.
The outpouring of pride and support for the women’s cricket team who reached the final was also massive. Women’s cricket has not been a popular sport in India, despite the popular sport it is. The journey of the team from being a qualifier to almost champion fired up imagination of the country.
After a protracted battle with the censor board, Lipstick Under My Burka was received with open admiration. The movie does talk about themes that have not been a part of popular narrative in either movies or advertising. A pleasure-seeking old woman is not the theme that has ever been portrayed. The good thing to watch was not that the theme was touched upon; it was that the audience accepted the narrative.
The week also saw the release of a bizarre show on TV where a 10-year-old boy marries a lady more than twice his age. Everything about the show is wrong. However, despite the protests, the show is on screens, beamed regularly to our homes.
The wider issue is the lack of women centricity in most of commercials that are being beamed on TV. The insights and the propositions are a bit dated. Life on TV for brands is still about shinier, fairer, brighter and grander. The new emerging women consumers are not the same as what they used to be. Ten years back they were saying that it’s okay to not get married, today the signs of successful marriage are not how the husband-wife portrayal is in many mainstream brand ads.
Brands need to rethink the emotional contract they have with the consumers. They are moving at alarming speed. Brands need to be ahead, drive the change, be engaged. Maybe the next set of commercial from jewellery as category is not about a grand wedding, but about many more emerging themes.
Remember the girl’s story who does not call off her honeymoon even after her wedding broke, became an iconic movie. And the lead actor became a strong voice.
(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle.)
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