By Harish Iyer:
Advertising draws a lot of inspiration from real life. Picture this. A woman is being disrobed in full public glare by a man. There is another man who wants to help the woman and restore her dignity by clothing her, instead of jumping in the ring or calling the police, he decides to shop for clothes to clothe the woman, through Myntra. This is a real advertisement that is doing its rounds. This is damn insulting to not just woman, this demeans men too. It shows men as incapable of any rational thinking and mute spectators to a gory crime. Men are shown as both onlookers and assaulters. Of course, this also demeans women and portrays them as people who would want to wear fashionable clothes after being disrobed in public and yes, they would need the assistance of a man to do that.
I purposely didn’t mention the name of the god in this ad, because we will get into the rigmarole of religion here. It’s a quick sand with no possible end. As an atheist, I draw a lot of inspiration from god stories. I learn about both – what we have to be, and what we should never be.
— Gita S. Kapoor (@GitaSKapoor) August 25, 2016
Now coming back to the advertisement, I was thinking… what was Myntra thinking when they commissioned this advertisement? Did they think that they would be hugely appreciated? Did they think this would be their version of “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”? What were they really thinking? I delved deep into Twitter to find out. Turns out that Scroll Droll had created this advertisement and had randomly put Myntra’s logo in it. They took complete responsibility for the creative with a public apology.
We did not create this artwork nor do we endorse this. https://t.co/EWyWUEsky5
— Myntra (@myntra) August 26, 2016
We apologize and deeply regret if any of our artwork has hurt the sentiments of anyone.
— ScrollDroll (@ScrollDroll) August 25, 2016
Yes Scroll Droll, you did hurt sentiments. Not religious ones, but human ones. But glad you apologised.
While I was hyperventilating in anger about this, I switched on the TV only to watch a ‘cute’ advertisement by Flipkart that showed children dressed as adults. Probably they thought that stereotyping a child as a Gorkha guard would make it inoffensive and cute. Apparently, it isn’t. People saw through it. People saw through the advertisement to realise the stereotyping of Gorkhas.
How easy it is, on social media, to screw up a brand so easily. I hope Flipkart takes adequate action and necessary steps to prevent such mishaps in the future.
And remember this advertisement? “Yeh toh bada toing hain?” They dared to use a woman (and no man) to advertise for a men’s underwear. The tagline was “crafted for fantasies”. While I have tried the underwear, it neither makes you feel ‘BIG’ or feel like you’ll ‘GET BIG’ after wearing it. I found this advertisement quite revolutionary. It shows a woman in complete control of her sexuality. A woman at a top position. Her movements suggest that she is either self-satisfying or getting a man to satisfy her. However she is in complete control. Which I found liberating. But I am sure there are many who saw this as “derogatory”.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOpuMf5q2KQ]
And who can forget this advertisement where the woman who is her husband’s boss in office, comes home to cook food for him. It reinforced the stereotype that outside you may be the sethani (boss) but in the ghar, you are always the naukrani (servant). The biggest disaster for the company who made this ad is that as a consumer, I remember the ad, but I cannot remember the brand.
And then there are advertisements where men are shown as these extremely virile species who would hump every moving object. Or men who are just interested in eve teasing. It does a great disservice to the good men who in our midst. Gender demonisation is never a solution to gender equality and is definitely not good for brand equity. And neither is commodification of men. Remember this?
In a nation already obsessed with cock sizes, (check my Sexolve columns) this advertisement takes it a step further. And I checked – this ad is misleading as there is no underwear in India that is customised according to the size of a man’s penis. Though it would be nice to go to a lingerie shop and have the male shopkeeper ask me “What’s your size? We have an undy for your size.”
And then there are examples like the recent Hilton advertisement. Brands who take a stand. When I was recently in Obama land (soon to be Hillary behen ka illaka), I had an opportunity to live in hotels that had the rainbow flag at the entrance. Most also had a dog bowl to state that they do not discriminate on basis of pet ownership and that pets as family are also welcome. The Hilton took it to another level by actually taking a strong stand on LGBT rights. Despite knowing that they’d offend a certain population of conservatives and religious bigots, they dared to say that all couples don’t comprise men and women, and that couples of all kinds are welcome to stay at their properties.
Of course, we’ve had progressive Indian ones too. They need to be commended more, as India is not as evolved. Remember the Anouk advertisement with a lesbian couple? And this advertisement by Virgin Mobile that touched on the conservative mindsets of parents and how a woman uses the conservative thought to find her way to an outstation trip with her male friends? Or do you remember The Fastrack advertisement that took another clear stand?
We have advertisements and we have adversity-intents. Hope better sense prevails in the ruthless ad world, that is often stereotyped as all glamour and zero conscience. Advertisers have a lot of responsibility. They just don’t propagate their brands with the help of the prevailing socio-psychological sentiments. They sometimes, influence people enough to form new opinions. Hope ad companies realise how big a responsibility it is.