Opinion: Is Indian advertising moving beyond gender stereotypes?

In the past couple of years, many brands have made headlines with progressive takes on gender roles. But is it all talk and no show? Let us put the ads we know and love through our very own gender sensitivity test. If you can recall even a single example for each of the pointers below, advertising would have come a long way.

  1. How many car commercials can you recall with a woman on the wheel?
  2. How many FMCG advertisements have you seen targeted at men?
  3. Can you recall an advertisement for a male grooming product (read deodorant) that does not revolve around the narrative of garnering female attention?
  4. Can you think of an insurance commercial featuring a woman making financial decisions?
  5. Have you come across a baby care commercial revolving around the father and baby bond?

A few years ago, these questions would have gone unanswered. Today, some groundbreaking advertisements come with a glimmer of hope.
In a recent interview with Indian Ad Divas, Nikkesha Rangawala spoke of a commercial she did with Toyota India. The ad showed her racing a car at such a speed that her male companion could not help but perspire.
A 2018 ad for Park Avenue Perfume Spray featured Kartik Aaryan as a pilot using his deodorant freshness to turn a bad morning into a good one. (Although even this ad was not remiss of a woman sighing at the scent of the spray.)

Tackling themes of women empowerment is the current rage in advertising. Campaigns like #ShareTheLoad by Ariel, #BreakTheBias, #Remarriage by Tanishq, #Unsterotype by Red Label have worked wonders in terms of pushing the envelope. Although real change will take place when advertisements break gender stereotypes in subtle ways, instead of doing it merely to send out a message. Only then will Indian advertising be completely free of the ghost of casual sexism.


– By Prachi Shevgaonkar
Image courtesy: Economic Times

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