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Furthering women's representation in advertisements

At a panel discussion at Goafest 2024 titled "Indian Women Harnessing the Power of Identity," an all-women panel consisting of a digital creator, an artist, a musician, and a filmmaker discussed how a person becomes a brand and the improvement in the representation of women in advertising

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Niveditha Kalyanaraman
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Mumbai: In today's digital age, the concept of personal branding has evolved significantly, transcending traditional notions of fame and popularity. 

A striking statistic from a survey conducted by digital marketing agency iCubesWire reveals that a whopping 71% of respondents admit their buying decisions are influenced by Bollywood celebrities featured in streaming ads. This highlights the profound impact that well-crafted personal branding can have, particularly when it leverages the power of influential figures. 

At a panel discussion at Goafest 2024 titled "Indian Women Harnessing the Power of Identity," an all-women panel consisting of a digital creator, an artist, a musician, and a filmmaker discussed how a person becomes a brand and the improvement in representation of women in advertising. 

The panel discussion unveiled several aspects of becoming a personal brand, including: 

  1. Having influence
  2. Accepting one's limitations
  3. Giving back what one wants

Prajakta Koli, the YouTuber and content creator, took the baton to address being a personal brand and said, "If you can be a catalyst in making a difference in what happens, that means you have an impact. You have influence. You're a brand."

Shilpa Rao, a musician, added her opinion and emphasised that when one can start coping with their limitations, they become a brand.

Tamannah Bhatia took the 'giving back' route and highlighted how giving back what one wants is pivotal to making human connections, and that is the core of becoming a brand.

"People today want to own a certain brand, not just because of the product, but also because of how it makes them feel. And if we cannot focus on what the things that we're trying to sell make people feel, they're never going to have that aspirational value," she added. 

Koli added, "What you stand for and who you are—for me, it's like being connected."

She believes that stories are effective only if the audience likes them. 

She added, "All the marketing, all the promotions, all the money you pump into getting everything that you need is going to kind of flatline if your audience does not push it further from there."

Women's representation in ads 

Analysis of Indian ads by Kantar's link evaluation framework indicated a steady increase in female representation, with 45% of commercials featuring women alone, surpassing the global average of 25%. 

However, within the depiction of men and women, women characters were more stereotyped and shown as fair and lean versus men. The portrayal of women was also anchored to caregiving and that of men to authority.

Bhatia highlighted how there has been a shift, but it only comes into experience for those people who have actually made the shift within themselves.

Noting the shift in women's representation in ads, Alankrita Shrivastava, a filmmaker, explained how women were often shown only as homemakers and always like the person who brought the food, like cooking in the kitchen and bringing the food to the table.

Shrivastava furthered the idea of viewing women in their totality and commented, "We haven't had enough stories where you just see women for who they are and all that. In just their full-bodiedness."

"Not that one should not respect homemakers, but it was like a constant repetition of that kind of representation. So I think those things have shifted, you know, gradually. There are more working women that you see in advertising," she added. 

She called the shift a safe kind of feminism. She elucidated the example of the revamped Cadbury's ad, which initially had a guy playing cricket and the girl running onto the field, only to have it reversed to have the girl playing cricket and the guy running onto the field.

According to Bhatia, it is important to take every opportunity and turn it around to the best that it can be. 

She added, "I think as women, our fluidity is our biggest strength. Our vulnerability is our biggest strength."

Talking about brand endorsements, she added that actors need to resonate with the brand. 

She said, "Sometimes we're telling their story. But if we are the medium, then we have to be a pure medium and let someone else's talk shine through that."

Marking a pattern for the future, Shrivastava added that things will change only by challenging the status quo in a harder way. Keeping away from the corporatisation of feminism is key to taking more steps forward. 

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