Home Your Opinion Why some advertisements are shown the finger over gender stereotype

Why some advertisements are shown the finger over gender stereotype

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Ford Figo ad
A screenshot of an ad posted online last week by JWT India to promote the Ford Figo, a hatchback car made in India.

The recent Ford Figo ad that showed three young women gagged and bound in the rear of a vehicle while Silvio Berlusconi giving the victory sign, has landed not only the company in trouble, but started a huge “Indian ads suck” chorus.

In the zeal to win some ad-making competition, a young team of advertisement makers went a little overboard and mindlessly came up with such an idea. Though the image was supposed to project the concept of someone driving this car leaving all worries behind; in the light of recent enlightenment of junta about women’s rights, got this ad in a soup.

Of course, ten people were politely asked to leave the company, apologies asked, politically correct statements issued and so on; but I am surprised that the ad created so much controversy in the first place.

Go and switch on your television, or go to youtube.com. You will come across hundreds of TV advertisements, selling deodorants, washing powders, electronics, cars; anything and everything under the sun has an advertisement now. Now look at five – ten of these ads, can you see a pattern?

Most of these ads clearly show a woman seeking beauty (which she gets from fairness creams), clean clothes (that she gets from insanely well scented washing detergents) or chiseled men who have poured a full bottle of some x. Then there is one advertisement of a soda company that pretty blatantly shows how men will be men. Women are incessantly shown to be obsessed with “shopping” (refer to the ads showing a husband coaxing his wife to shop online so that his only holiday is not wasted carrying her bag). The list is endless.

The point is, Indian ad industry strives on the stereotyping of sexes. And whether you like it or not, that is how things work. An ad making company, while creating an advertisement for a new cooking oil, will think “What will a housewife of Rampur think when she sees the ad? Will she be convinced enough to buy this cooking oil for her husband?” The ad will never show a great chef recommending the oil for “better taste” or something like that; it will be the woman who will be shown to be recommending it.  While an advertisement is made, it is never “gender neutral”.

I have seen women shop for detergent powder, as well as luxury cars, without the influence of their husbands or male counterparts. I have also seen men buying beauty products without asking their female friends, wife or anybody. But the target consumer is not those one or two exceptions, the fact remains that the advertisements are created keeping in mind 85% of the population at least, and not the other portion that does not fall into the stereotyped categories.

To throw a ruckus over one ad is agreeable and understandable. To chant that “Indian ads stereotype women” is also justified. But the fact remains, that is how the ad industry works; because like it or not, that is how the consumer mentality works too.

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