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Are Indian ads coming of age with social messages?

Why should laundry be a woman’s job? asks a new TV commercial for a detergent. Featuring the father of a young, working woman who gives voice to inequality in homes, the video is one of the growing number of similar ads that are touching upon social issues like gender stereotyping while marketing products, and hitting a chord among audiences.

So are Indian ads coming of age as far as gender sensitivity is concerned? Yes, say many, although there are still those fairness ads that equate success and happiness with the skin tone of a woman. Or a man.

But coming to the ones that have positive messages riding on them, the latest ad of Ariel’s “Share the Load” campaign has gone viral on the social media, a testimony to its popularity. Sharat Verma, associate brand director of Fabric Care, P&G India, said that commercial approach is a part of a bigger movement of making ads that are more purposeful and meet the needs of consumers.

“According to a study by a private agency that we have supported, two out of three children in India agree that washing clothes is only their mother’s job. And 73 percent married women agree that mothers teach household chores to only their daughters, not sons. But ironically, 79 percent fathers would want to get their daughters married to a man who will help with household chores. This campaign therefore takes the conversation on social inequality within households forward,” Verma said.
The best ads also avoid a sermonising tone.

Another one that won many hearts was a sanitary napkin’s ‘Touch the Pickle’ campaign. Challenging the age-old superstition that associated menstruating women with ‘impurity’, the ad hit a chord with the masses, and went on to win the Glass Lion at Cannes. A new award category, the Glass Lion seeks to honour work that challenge gender stereotype.

Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO, the agency behind ‘Touch the Pickle’, said that ads with social messages are a response to what is happening in society.

“There are 10,000 videos released in a day around the world. To make your presence felt in such a rush, you have to connect to the audience. We try to identify a conflict, like gender stereotyping or gender inequality in education, and resolve it. The brand does well commercially because it touches the people, and the social message also goes through,” Paul said.

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