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6 TV Ads That Will Not Make You Cringe, For A Change

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By Shambhavi Saxena

I can’t think of an evening of TV-watching, in the last ten or more years, where I haven’t pursed my lips together and massaged a throbbing vein in my temple because of the barrage of substandard advertisements regurgitating the same lopsided power relations that we see every day in real life. Sexist divisions of labour, the objectification of bodies, passive femininity and all kinds of shaming – because nothing sells like low self-esteem. These ads are normalizing blatantly unjust, socially prescribed and maintained dynamics. Which is why, when I come across an ad that doesn’t do this, I actually hunt it down on YouTube and put it in my collection, like a set of rare Pokémon cards.

Here are some of those select ads that really did the trick for me. So, sit back and enjoy:

The Closet

When Fastrack came out with this one a few years ago, I wasn’t expecting much, because they’d been doing narratives about casual sex and hooking up and urban youth break ups for a while, and I was pleasantly surprised by their choice of queer representation. Yes I know, both women look an awful lot alike, they’re model thin and overtly feminine, but hey! An Indian ad about lesbians? Trumps an ad about some soccer mom washing her son’s dirty shorts doesn’t it?

Mr. W

This one is rather old, and not likely to be on Indian screens, but still, it’s extremely powerful, and not to mention humorous. Not only is it an ad promoting renewable energy, but the writing, direction and concept are simply lovely. Mad props for imagination, Epuron. Well done.

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Alright, you’ve probably seen this one. And you’re probably not thrilled about the line: “Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.” I know. I wasn’t either. But then I got to thinking – they can’t be serious right? I mean, the hyper-masculinity of this ad is hilariously overstated, so much so that the viewer must go through a sequence of surprise, confusion, derisive laughter, and then real laughter. The ad is, in case you haven’t realized, taking a dig at all those other over-manly men’s cosmetic products, and in my opinion they really do manage it well. It is completely unrealistic, just like all those other ads, but whereas those take themselves very seriously and expect the viewer to as well, Old Spice is having a laugh at the entire tradition. Also, not using a white dude for the ad? Nice touch.

Idea Internet Network

This ad features a trans woman. And she isn’t a caricature, or comic relief, or the manifestation of some straight, cisgendered man’s transmisogynistic imagination. Part of a series of spots by telecom company Idea, the ad introduces the primary character in a sympathetic way, a conflict that affects her, and also how she’s empowering herself through the service being advertised. Ultimately, it’s marketing, but let’s not pretend that seeing a trans woman on TV is not changing the way a lot of people see hijras in our country.

Facebook Likes

This ad is too close for comfort. That’s why I love it. Way to exploit a social phenomena in a non-dehumanizing, non-sexist, non-shaming sort of way, Docomo! The intense, verbally heavy voice-over, coupled with this girl’s trivial attempts at getting some approval online kind of really sums up what much of the eGeneration (or should I say iGeneration?) in India is like. The ad doesn’t say there’s anything wrong with it. In fact, Docomo is more than happy to enable this sort of behaviour. And why not? It may be a little narcissistic, but so what if somebody likes taking selfies? It’s not genocide or abuse or bullying or patriarchal oppression.

Anti-Aging System

By the time you get midway, you’re about convinced that this is no ordinary anti-aging cream ad. Because it’s not. You can’t not love this ad. Like the Old Spice commercial, Asian Paints takes a dig at a tradition, and it sure is fun to watch. The overdone hair blowing and disconnected shots of scenery typical of cosmetic cream ads is immediately recognizable. Side note: equating beauty creams with house paints only emphasizes the fact that external appearances are probably best left for inanimate objects and should have no bearing on your worth as a human being. Now that’s smart advertising.

I should give a special mention to ads that successfully advertise their product with little or no human interference, like Lacoste’s fragrances, and Apple’s bling-bling 5S. In conclusion, it would seem that quality ad-making, while not the norm on our screens, is not impossible. I’d say there are standards we should be holding media companies to, and not the other way around.

You must be to comment.
  1. The Hulk

    The first ad is infinite times worse than showing a mother washing her boys shorts. Such women actually have a loving husband and family to care for, unlike the modern, independent woman who wants to emasculate her husband and neglect her children so that she can work for some other man and get money from her boss and her husband. Financially she is not available to one man, and thus a money whore.

    Do not marry an independent woman.

    1. Captain Logic

      The Hulk would never say that. He loves independent women if you’ve ever seen his movies or read the comics. You’re fake and honestly, quite insecure to be intimidated by independent women. Because you can’t control their life and enslave them if they depend on you.

  2. B

    Fastrack is selling the agenda of the fashion industry. In every field and walk of life, an attempt is being made to brainwash girls to indulge in nudity and buy fashion and beauty products, with one pretext or another. It is clear why fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry while girls suffer from anorexia, depression, poor self-esteem, body image issues, etc. It has reached a point where many girls are so obsessed with how they look that they even opt for plastic surgery, which is very expensive and fulfills the agenda of the beauty industry.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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