I don’t recall many ads in the recent past which have kicked off such a huge debate as the new Airtel ad which went on air last week. If you are one to miss that, do watch it here. Twitterati is divided in the middle as to if the ad is reinforcing male/female stereotypes or breaking. Or for that matter if the ad is trying hard to be feminist when it is not and so on. As is the wont these days, when social media buzzes on something, can the main stream media be left far behind?? I must have pored into atleast 10 columns trashing or eulogizing the ad.
This is one interesting debate on TV !!!
While the ad breaks new ground in showing a successful woman who is giving stern work instructions to her male subordinate in the 1st half, in the second half, the same lady is shown as a better half cooking dinner for her husband who is incidentally the same subordinate at office. The common critical take in the social media is questioning this apparent stereotyping of women – as submissive where the lady inspite of being a successful career woman has to don the dutiful wife role at home and cook food. Coming on the heels of the now famous quote of Indra Nooyi that “Women can’t have it all” the response to this ad has been pretty predictable. Somehow the narrative of a successful career woman but cooking food for her partner at home has not been consumed well.
In all this debate on the ad what is being missed according to me is the strategy behind the narrative of the ad itself. Which is, to take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and be top of the mind for a good few days there by get more bang for the buck spent. And this trend in advertising has not started with this Airtel ad. This goes back quite a few years. In the past marketers were more circumspect in adopting this “Stirring up a storm” strategy to sell their products. So you saw this once in a while like the Liril waterfall ad of yore or the ad for Tuff Shoes where the models Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre were wearing just a snake and so on,..
But oflate, I guess marketers and their advertising counterparts have become more belligerent in adopting this strategy to hawk their wares and get their space under the Sun. So we now get see more and more ads which go against established stereotypes. As per me, in Indian advertising Balki of Lowe and his team has been one who have used this quite effectively and often. The Havells ads for fans usually go against the grain. Same for some of the “What an Idea, Sirji” commercials for Idea Cellular. The Jaago Re campaign for Tata Tea also I would say fall in this category of ads.
Few months back, Tanishq the jewellery brand from Tata kicked off debate and interesting conversations in the media with their ad celebrating remarriage of a woman. Watch it here. Again clearly a story which charts new territory, (shows a dusky bride, bride walks along with a small girl to the mandap, the girl is her daughter, the groom carries the small girl along while doing the pheras,…) sparks a huge debate and eventually garners a lot more interest for the brand. (Incidentally Lowe has been the agency behind all these campaigns!!!)
This recent ad for Brooke Bond Red label tea by Ogilvy India is another example of going against the tide to garner attention. The Hindu-Muslim plot (normally avoided in commercials) in the story is the new twist. There is always this threat of a strong over powering story shadowing the brand itself in ads. Like in this case while I remembered that it was a tea ad, had to drink few cups and wake myself up to recall the brand 😦 😦 This happens.
Recently, the series of ads for Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) by Leo Burnett India have also been treading this path and have met with a lot of keen interest. The two spots I saw (see here and here) as part of the campaign shatter established stereotypes. Not that great ads are required to evince interest in a successful show like KBC with Amitabh Bachchan as the anchor. But I guess they also have to sustain the interest after so many seasons.
Coming back to the Airtel Ad conceived by the agency Taproot India, my own view is that it is a sweet ad, executed very well. There is nothing in the ad which goes against woman as the social media debates make us to believe. As per me, there is nothing regressive in a woman cooking and as long as she wants to cook a nice meal and enjoys what she does (like it is shown in this TVC) to demonstrate her love to her hubby, there is nothing wrong. Same is true if its vice versa – husband cooking at home. I have to allude here to my earlier post – By hook or Cook!! here 🙂 🙂
So want your ads to work big time? Take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and the idle armchair minds in the social media (me included) will debate and do the needful for you. As far your brand, with all the unpaid buzz around the ad, will laugh its way to the coffers. That’s some home cooked food for thought 🙂 🙂 🙂
P.S: Now, only if Airtel can make their network as effective as their ads 😦 😦