Points of View: Why is Insurance Advertising Male Dominated?

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 19, 2015
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In India, the power to make financial planning decisions still lies with 'the man of the house', believe marketers and advertisers.

Anisha Motwani

Sanjay Tripathy

Anisha Motwani , Chief Marketing Officer, Max Life

Advertising is a reflection of reality. In households where men are the sole breadwinners - which is the case in most of India - men are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to buying insurance. And in several households where women are educated and working, they still prefer it if 'the husband' handles it - not because they can't or don't care, but simply because it's one less item on their unending job list.

But various attempts have been made by players in the category to show the other side. Max Life's 'Sanju' ad is one such example - the emotions that the female protagonist feels at the thought of her husband going away put a different spin onto life. The 'Second Chance' campaign is family-oriented, and not centered on the man.

Sanjay Tripathy, Senior EVP, Marketing, Product, Digital & Ecommerce, HDFC Life

Statistics indicate that men continue to be the primary breadwinners in India. Our primary TG lies in urban India and here, the employment participation rate of females trails at 15.4 per cent against 53.8 per cent for males (Source: NSSO, Census 2011). Across the world, only 15 per cent Millennials and 18 per cent Gen-X women make investment decisions (Source: UBS Investor Watch, Q2 2014). Over 80 per cent of our investor base is male.

In our latest ad we wanted to show a male protagonist as the provider. But the relationship depicted changes depending on the category of products being advertise. For instance, our 'Child Plan' campaign portrayed the mother as a strong influence in the decision making process. At HDFC Life, women have been an integral part of the communication. Some of our memorable campaigns have been women-centric like the film in which a girl buys her dad a big car.

Jitendra Dabas

Anika Agarwal

Jitendra Dabas, EVP and Head of Planning, McCann Worldgroup

The paradigm of insurance advertising has changed from 'protection' to 'planning'. When insurance addressed the need to protect the family from adversity, you saw the family, and sometimes only the wife, in the communication.

With insurance becoming an instrument for 'planning the future' the communication has almost become restricted to the father and the kids. It is a truth that 'fatherhood' triggers the need for insurance like nothing else since the 'protector' and the 'provider' archetype comes to the fore at that time. Brands are trying to target this archetype.

I believe that excluding the mother from the kids' future plans could perhaps face a backlash from the consumers, especially from those belonging to the higher SECs.

Anika Agarwal, Head, Marketing, Max Bupa

Indian society is still, by and large, patriarchal. However, the stereotypes of male and female roles in Indian advertising have changed significantly in the past decade. There is an increasing representation of 'family' and 'couples' in ads for consumer durables like washing machines, refrigerators and micro-wave ovens, that were previously dominated by women. We were the first in our segment to explore the concept of 'the family'.

Our research shows that there are as many female owners of health insurance as men, although it is typically the male, the chief wage earner, who still makes the purchase decision. We decided to target each family member as we don't want to insure the bread winner alone.

Gender stereotypes are hard to break, but with the changing gender-power equation, there has been a 'softening' of communication across categories.

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