Quite a few commercials are shedding age-old inhibitions and are experimenting with themes like political corruption, remarriage, homosexuality and pre-marital sex
By Swati Madan
A dusky woman marries with her daughter in attendance. Brimming with pride and ease, she is ready to move away from her past.
Two lesbians stumble out of a rocking cabinet. One zips her hot pants and the other tames her hair before they split.
An alarm buzzes awake a girl in bed with a guy. She dresses up as she rushes out of the men’s dormitory.
Remarriage. Homosexuality. Premarital sex. Advertisers have begun to venture into hot-button subjects they never dared before. So what does that signify? Have advertisers moved away from deferring to the sensibilities of majority Indians who are conservative?
Arun Iyer, national creative director, Lowe Lintas and Partners, says, “Advertisers now explore subjects they earlier didn’t have the courage to. Society has by and large evolved. Advertisers just mirror the change. But it has to be done sensitively. It has to be relevant.”
Even as advertisements that are explicit by the way of being sexual or ‘vulgar’ come under the scanner, creative boldness has found its feet.
An advertisement for Femina shows a model marking her body with little crosses. She then gets her boyfriend to plant kisses on each of the marks. The fun and quirky her doesn’t stop at perking up the sex.
As she leaves, she sticks up notes all over the guy’s place along with one by his side that says ‘now tidy up’. The voice over says, “for all the woman you are.” Bold, creative and fun, the advertisement truly captures Femina’s target audience – the young, modern women professionals.
Flattening out of cultural differences in today’s globalised media has emboldened advertisers to dabble in bold themes. Taking cue from progressive strides the Indian society has made, advertisers have broken silence on sensitive subjects.
Prahlad Kakkar, leading Indian ad film director, says, “Advertising mirrors society which is always under a process of change. It is always a step behind the change. It anticipates change before mirroring it.”
Edgy, cheeky and youthful since the start, Fastrack’s ‘move on’ campaigns have struck an instant connect with the youth segment. These feature self-actualised and forward female protagonists who have no qualms about getting cozy in lifts or even cockpits for that matter.
The ‘Come out of the closet’ campaign challenges societal conditions and celebrates homosexuality.
“When building an edgy youth brand, you cannot take into account the conservative Indians. We are not taking a stand but just asking people to shed inhibitions and move on,” says Iyer.
According to Kakkar, advertising has traditionally been very conservative. Advertisers have not been willing to rock the boat for the fear of the political moral police coming down on them.
In the light of this, calling campaigns like Tata tea’s ‘Jaago re’ bold wouldn’t be so much of an exaggeration. ‘Jaago re’ literally means ‘wake up’ and its symbolism lies in that the brand is attempting to wake up the youth brigade to the ills that plague the nation.
The campaigns rake up issues like voting, corruption and women’s rights. The sharp and energised treatment given to the ‘cause marketing’ has successfully encompassed the hungry-for-change youth into its consumer base.
The Tanishq remarriage advertisement is drawing praise from all quarters. The advertisement breaks stereotypes by showing a dark-skinned bride and is progressive in celebrating remarriage.
Iyer says, “The Tanishq range is contemporary and new age. We wanted the communication to be the same. It would not have garnered the same appreciation a decade ago. A lot of this has got to do with publicity through social media.”
An advertisement for a Lava mobile phone model shows a woman behind the counter handing out condoms in place of loose change. Despite the advertisement’s irrelevance to the product in context, its boldness reflects the coming of age of the advertising industry.
Rahul Jauhari, national creative director of Everest Brand Solutions, says, “It often depends on which brand is making the statement. Lava doing this is effective; the brand is new and needs to be noticed. However, Airtel doing the same may not be. Virgin, by virtue of the character and tone of the brand, can get away with stuff many other brands cannot. As long as the ‘boldness’ stems from the brand, it’s okay.”