India is known for going gaga over a global concept that it speedily assimilates. Cricket is an example that comes readily to mind. A game that has often been described as one played by ‘flannelled fools’ has completely taken over the country’s imagination, as we saw last week in Bengaluru in a test match that had thrills, spills, excitement, controversy and the possibility of a major face-off between two of the most powerful boards in the world. Thankfully, the country quickly moved on to another international concept — International Women’s Day.
Women’s Day is probably more relevant for India than it is for the Western world, which probably treats the female sex as equal while, closer home, after taking the opposite sex for granted for 364 days, people are probably suddenly reminded of their obligations that seem to have been conveniently forgotten thus far.
Brands, too, realising that women are consumers and decision-makers (who dictate whether they flourish or merely exist) usually plan some activities on International Women’s Day, thereby adding to the clutter and the advertising revenues of channels. While there were several, let me focus on the ones that caught my attention.
Power of the idea
Star Plus, the popular TV channel with its huge base of women consumers, uses its enormous reach and viewership to extend its Nayi Soch concept to Women’s Day with an interesting, yet simple, commercial featuring the eternal celebrity Aamir Khan, who is shown running a very successful sweet store. When an acquaintance compliments him on his success, he attributes it to his smart children, who have converted the store online. When the admiring friend compliments Aamir on his sons, the proud father points to his two daughters who are responsible for the success and says it is not so much about son or daughter as it is about the power of the idea.
The commercial ends with the camera panning to the shop’s signboard, which proudly reads “Gurdeep Singh and Daughters”. Clearly, a commercial which is against popular sentiment and serves as an eye-opener in a country that blatantly discriminates against women, even at birth. And what better way to drive home the message than through a celebrity. Here’s the commercial that I liked.
The channel has gone further, featuring a series of successful fathers and daughters and the relationship between them, as this one featuring Sashi Sinha (IPG Mediabrands) and his daughter. Clearly, the concept is one that can be extended for it to get wider reach and appreciation.
Let the woman lead her life
Another stereotype we are familiar with is that of the woman who has to do everything for someone else, whether it is her husband, her children or even her in-laws, and has hardly any time for herself. We have seen this in mothers, wives and daughters, haven’t we? It is this consumer insight that Reliance Fresh draws on in its new commercial for Women’s Day.
It features a middle-aged couple and an annoyed husband who is just unable to handle the fact that his fifty-year-old wife is going on a “girls’ gang” trip to Goa for five days. He throws objection after objection to his smiling wife and threatens her that she will call him in two days because she will get into a problem! The wife smilingly laughs away all his objections and even ridicules his poor attempt at ill-health and cheerfully rushes off with her waiting friends, bag and bikini packed, with the closing line ”If I don’t do it at fifty when will I do it?”
Then there is another disturbing commercial which talks about sex change, a sensitive topic if ever there was one. Here’s the commercial for UrbanClap that will certainly catch your attention.
But what should brands do?
Having said all this, what’s the way forward for brands on occasions like these? Here are a few thoughts for your consideration.
Think long and hard whether you actually need to be here or you could use your money elsewhere with less clutter.
Have a calendared, annual plan. Things like this should not be ad hoc.
Does your brand really belong here? And even if it does, can it beat the clutter or will it be just one of several brands jostling for attention?
Can your brand beat the stereotype? How many commercials can we have for long-suffering Sati Savitris?
Can your brand go beyond mere advertising, as Star Plus is doing?
Can you put enough media weight behind this?
Can you focus on men, for instance, in your commercial in an interesting way that will get the attention of all women?
Finally, the old adage is worth remembering. Don’t do something that you can’t do damn well, both in strategy and execution.
Yes, the world is full of opportunities. Sadly, everything comes with a cost. Choose your opportunities carefully and belated wishes for a happy Women’s Day!