De­cod­ing an Ad

An ad that brings gen­der dis­cus­sions to the fore once again.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL | CONTENTS - By Deep­ashree Ban­er­jee deep­ashree.ban­er­jee@afaqs.com

An ad that brings gen­der dis­cus­sions to the fore again.

Amidst the cur­rent hul­la­baloo, the last thing any brand would want, at this point, is to get trapped by gen­der par­ity trolls.

Con­cep­tu­alised by Ogilvy In­dia, Mil­ton’s new ad ad­dresses the strug­gle of every work­ing pro­fes­sional who is look­ing to bal­ance their daily of­fice rou­tine and sat­isfy their hunger pangs. The ar­guably no­ble idea be­hind this ad seems to be in slight (or too early to de­duce?) con­trast to the fem­i­nist ide­olo­gies which other brands have sworn by in the past.

How­ever, both the brand and agency spokesper­son want to steer clear of any such con­ver­sa­tions.

Ajay Vaghani, man­ag­ing direc­tor, Hamil­ton House­wares, says, “The cam­paign high­lights the un­der­ly­ing cul­ture of lunch-breaks and the dilemma of every of­fice-goer in In­dia to­day. The high-stan­dard, high-pres­sure work­place makes one set­tle for cold food and rushed lunches. Small joys like hav­ing hot, home-made food are com­pro­mised. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion fo­cuses on the so­lu­tion by high­light­ing the core ben­e­fit of our tif­fin while tak­ing the viewer on a jour­ney that is both en­gag­ing and en­ter­tain­ing.”

Anurag Ag­ni­hotri, ex­ec­u­tive creative direc­tor, Ogilvy In­dia, says, “One can’t choose a hot lunch over work. The film brings this eter­nal con­flict alive where the boss rep­re­sents work and the wife, lunch.’’

How­ever, what caught our eye was the fact that though hu­mour was right­fully em­ployed to con­vey the mes­sage in the new spot, the tra­di­tional roles still dis­turbingly re­main the way they were twenty years ago in to­day’s egal­i­tar­ian (or so we would like to be­lieve) times.

For the unini­ti­ated, a 2014 Air­tel ad evoked a flurry of mixed re­ac­tions from Twit­terati which in­cluded jokes on what the com­pany wanted to say and what was ac­tu­ally con­veyed, with many la­belling it as ‘sex­ist’ while oth­ers giv­ing it a thumbs up.

In­ter­est­ingly, we of­ten find ads by seg­ments, namely home-ware and kitchen ap­pli­ance mak­ers, al­most lost in the del­uge of gen­der-bi­ased prod­uct place­ment on main­stream me­dia. For in­stance, the Tup­per­ware In­dia (the big­gest ri­val to Mil­ton in the seg­ment) ad here.

But cut back to 2014 again when Havells went a step ahead. So­cial me­dia went abuzz with dis­cus­sions about the Havells ads that asked users to re­spect women. Sev­eral sit­u­a­tions in which women find them­selves play­ing re­gres­sive roles every day come up in these ads, and of­ten they are the tar­get of a sub­tle sex­ist bias from a close fam­ily mem­ber. How they deal with it forms the nar­ra­tive and core of these ads.

Mil­ton’s 40-se­cond TVC cam­paign is run­ning on ma­jor English, Hindi, Gu­jarati, Tamil, Kan­nada, Malay­alam, and Tel­ugu TV chan­nels and is also be­ing pro­moted on YouTube, Face­book and In­sta­gram.

So, was the ad com­mu­ni­ca­tion pitch per­fect or jar­ring noise?

To clear our predica­ment, we got in touch with the ex­perts. Strat­egy con­sul­tant Lubna Khan feels that the work man­ages to clearly con­vey the func­tional ben­e­fit of a mi­crowave­able steel tif­fin. How­ever, she feels it does not do as well in cre­at­ing a much deeper emo­tional con­nect with its au­di­ence.

“It is an op­por­tu­nity missed to do jus­tice to the pro­gres­sive stance im­plied in the brand’s tagline - ‘Kuch naya sochte hain’. There would have been greater im­pact if the work had added cul­tural weight and sub­stance to the brand,” she signs off.

Not one to mince words, Jagdish Acharya, founder and creative head, Cut the Crap finds this a su­per stereo­typ­i­cal por­trayal of a ‘good wife’ turn­ing into a ‘bet­ter wife’, all thanks to the brand play­ing its clichéd role.

“There are many such com­mer­cials be­ing made and aired. In fact, in num­bers, these kinds would form the clear ma­jor­ity. Much like the ‘saas-bahu’ fare on tele­vi­sion, they never go away,” he smirks.

“Hav­ing said that, there is an au­di­ence for the un­chang­ing se­ri­als and the lot is likely to bear and smile at the never-chang­ing com­mer­cials be­ing played dur­ing the breaks,” he adds fur­ther.

We asked Acharya if it was pos­si­ble the brand could find it­self in a soup any­time soon, to which he promptly replied, “Mil­ton is not a brand high up on the Twit­terati con­science and the ad is un­likely to stir any re­ac­tions the way the Air­tel ad did.”

How­ever, Bod­hisatwa Das­gupta, se­nior creative direc­tor, Happy mc­gar­ry­bowen has a rather in­ter­est­ing take to share, “Most of what we’ve been see­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing is lit­tered with stereo­types. And while we may shrug and say ‘they seem to work so far’, we all feel a lit­tle un­com­fort­able see­ing it hap­pen.”

This par­tic­u­lar com­mer­cial, how­ever, he feels is nicely bal­anced and ex­plains why, “Yes, it showed the boss of home as a woman who has pre­pared her hus­band’s lunch. And I know every­one’s go­ing to jump up and say ‘Hey, it’s 2018! Why can’t the man cook his own lunch?’ But here’s the thing, the com­mer­cial also showed the hus­band re­port­ing to a woman. That, I felt, was re­fresh­ing.”

With so many con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing on break­ing the glass ceil­ing and equal pay, Das­gupta felt the com­mer­cial was re­lat­able and pro­gres­sive.

All the de­bate and post­mortem aside, was it a good ad? “Of course, it was nicely writ­ten, there was lovely word­play, the char­ac­ters were well rounded, it was a de­light to watch,” he an­swers.

So, to an­swer the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion, is hubby’s lunch still the wife’s de­part­ment? “Well, that’s be­tween the hubby and the wife to de­cide, isn’t?” he quips. And of course, we can read be­tween the lines!

While, of course, there is the de­pic­tion of the wife be­ing the “tif­fin bearer” that does pan­der to stereo­type, to Bikram Bin­dra, vi­cepres­i­dent and strate­gic plan­ning head - Delhi, Grey Group, the more wor­ri­some nar­ra­tive is that of per­pet­u­at­ing the need to choose be­tween a hot lunch and work.

“I think enough cor­po­rate-go­ers end up ne­glect­ing their meals in the quest to push them­selves work-wise, and we, per­haps, don’t need to be told that is a re­al­ity that we need to live with,” he says.

What he did like was the clear ben­e­fit ar­tic­u­la­tion and the de­pic­tion of the same and the great cast­ing. ■

“There would have been greater im­pact if the work had added cul­tural weight and sub­stance to the brand.” LUBNA KHAN

The ad adds on to the so many con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing on break­ing the glass ceil­ing.

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