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5 Progressive Ads Of 2017 That Won Me Over, And 3 That Left Me Cringing

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Advertisers play well with our subconscious biases and primarily reflect upon the common ideologies of societies – thereby, leaving no stone unturned in strengthening them further. Although there is no empirical and theoretical evidence to validate the interconnection between society’s ideological flaws and the regressive content of ads, we can easily draw parallels between ads and everyday practices by closely observing our surroundings.

For example, almost all fairness cream ads have cleverly forced us to believe that a ‘fair skin’ is the primary parameter for beauty – and anything below that is ugly and unacceptable. Interestingly, it is often believed that the ‘skin colour’ in a box of crayons is the lightest shade of orange. In my opinion, this also enforces the idea that other shades of skin need to be beautified and improved through beauty lotions and creams. This shows how ad campaigns play a major role in exacerbating the existing ideological flaws in society.

In 2017, we witnessed heaps of such advertisements endorsing regressive ideas in the society.

Regressive Ad Campaigns

1. Raymond – ‘The Complete Man’ 

Raymond is one of the oldest cloth-manufacturing companies in India. Its products have often been revered for there fine texture, variety and longevity.

Recently, the company has ventured into making clothes and apparel for women – but the ad’s tagline, “The complete man” seems to have neglected the idea that women also need to be suited up to head out for work. The new ads on Raymond’s autumn collection doesn’t feature women donned in suits – they can only be seen swooning over nicely-dressed men.

2. Colgate – ‘Maa Ka Bharosa’

Struggling to recreate its mark, Colgate launched a new advertising campaign to rope the ‘mothers’ into it. The ad shows mothers (who aren’t actors) talking about the benefits of the toothpaste, with the voice-over in the end saying that Colgate is what mothers endorse. But where are the fathers? Aren’t they also responsible for taking care of their child’s dental health? Unfortunately, we don’t see any father in the ad.

3. Rin Detergent Soap – ‘Exclusively For Women’

Like most other detergent soap ads, the new Rin bar advertisement shows how the new soap can help women save a lot of water. We don’t see men washing clothes in the ad, which, in a way, endorses the fact that only women are responsible for cleaning clothes. Therefore, they are the only ones who need to be careful while selecting the suitable cleaning liquid or soap.

Gendered And Social Scripts

All of these examples show how advertisements often proliferate gender-based biases by normalising general assumptions/stereotypes. The fact that a suit-manufacturing brand doesn’t feature women (despite the fact that the brand manufactures women’s apparel as well) or that women (mothers and wives) are shown to be solely responsible to take care of their kids’ and family’s health and sanitation substantiate and justify the idea that women and men need to adhere to the roles assigned to them – and that one cannot/should not question these baseless categorisations.

John Gagnon and William Simon’s work on sexual scripts and predictable sequences in the construction of gender identities (“Sexual Conduct: The Social Sources of Human Sexuality”) talks about how gender-based identities are enforced upon us by repeatedly bombarding information in the form of script or language. The above-mentioned regressive ads can be considered as ‘gendered scripts’ which only enforce gender-based biases and even normalise them, in a certain way.

Progressive Ad Campaigns

There have also been a few progressive ad campaigns which did not abide by the rules of a ‘gendered script’. Rather, they attempted to question these rules. Piyush Pandey (Chairman, Ogilvy and Mather), while talking about the importance of unconventional ad campaigns, said, “It’s not that advertising is some sort of a moral guide, but it still has certain responsibilities towards society as it reaches millions of homes and influences people.”

Here are some progressive ad campaigns of 2017:

1. Ghadi Detergent- ‘Saare Mael Dho Daalo’

Ghadi Detergent launched an ad campaign a week before Holi to raise a voice against eve-teasing during the festival. This ad was shared on different social media platforms, and a lot of people came out in support of it.

The campaign was later pitched during Diwali to break the common perceptions associated with the police (who are generally believed to be corrupt).

2. Vicks- ‘Touch of Care’

Based on a true story, this ad features a transgender person who fights daily to educate her adopted daughter. To my knowledge, this is the first time we saw a transgender person being portrayed in an unconventional manner in an ad. The ad campaign was rightly applauded worldwide for its progressive portrayal of a transgender person.

3. FruitsUp TVC – ‘Nayi Soch Ke Liye Naya Swaad’

Featuring Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu, this ad speaks against the age-old tradition of dowry in the Indian marriage system. The ad shows Taapsee (the would-be bride) confidently asking her would-be in-laws whether they can afford the hefty items demanded as dowry. This sarcastic statement subtly questions the flawed tradition of dowry in Indian society.

4. Titan Raga – ‘Mom By Choice’

This emotionally-stirring ad shows a woman talking about motherhood not as a sacrifice but as a choice. She talks about her own mother who did not give up on her dreams and aspirations, even after becoming a mother.

This ad campaign stands exactly opposite to all those ‘mother-centric’ ads which depict household responsibilities being forced upon a mother (like the above-mentioned Colgate’s ‘Maa Ka Bharosa’ ad). In fact, this ad celebrates motherhood – not by considering it as a societal pressure, but as a woman’s self-made choice. In short, it talks about the ‘changing times’.

5. Comfort After Wash- ‘A Small Step For Big Shine’

This ad of a fabric conditioner tends to uphold Aerial’s ‘Share The Load‘ ad campaign which questioned the idea of only a woman doing the laundry at home.

The Comfort After Wash ad has a mother teaching her son to use the fabric conditioner, and then asking him why only Shruti (his sister) should be asked to wash clothes. This detergent ad can be contrasted with the other detergent ads where we only see women doing the job of cleaning. This ad shows how small changes can make a big impact on social structures.

All of these progressive ad campaigns do not talk about shaking mountains or altering all social structures. Rather, they endorse bringing in small changes in our daily practices. Unlike the general perception, these progressive ad campaigns don’t lose their brand value when they question the common ideologies. In fact, it provides them an edge over other ad campaigns and brands – and eventually contributes to their reach and influence.

These progressive ads can be looked upon as a positive sign for big changes that the society may see in the recent future. This process can only be accelerated when all the existing brands come up with more of these progressive ideas.

What would you add to this list? Add it in the comments below or publish a post about it.

You must be to comment.
  1. Angel Sharon

    I’m sorry dear, but it felt sad to see that all the Ada that you picked up tried to show a feminine nature. Knowingly or unknowingly the choice reflected an utter feminist ideology. Search for ‘men will be men’ ads by imperial blue or the recent book my show ad. Is that what is defined as empowerment?

    1. Tanya Jha

      Thank you Ma’am for reading my piece and sharing your observation but Why are you sad to find that the ads I picked up reflect a feminist ideology. What is wrong if I am bringing in examples focusing on one single ideology? If things are problematic, don’t you think it is important to point them out?

      Also responding to your imperial blue ad example, it is undeniable that there still exists many regressive ads like the one you mentioned. But there are also some ad campaigns with progressive ideas and we can’t overlook them.

  2. Angel Sharon

    I’m sorry but not all but most of them…

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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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