New spot by this microwave-safe tiffin brand brings the gender role discussion to the fore once again.
Amidst the current hullabaloo, the last thing any brand would want, at this point, is to get trapped by gender parity trolls.
Conceptualised by Ogilvy India, Milton's new ad addresses the struggle of every working professional who is looking to balance their daily office routine and satisfy their hunger pangs. The arguably noble idea behind this ad seems to be in slight (or too early to deduce?) contrast to the feminist ideologies which other brands have sworn by in the past.
However, both the brand and agency spokesperson want to steer clear of any such conversations.
Ajay Vaghani, managing director, Hamilton Housewares, says, "The campaign highlights the underlying culture of lunch-breaks and the dilemma of every office-goer in India today. The high-standard, high-pressure workplace makes one settle for cold food and rushed lunches. Small joys like having hot, home-made food are compromised. The communication focuses on the solution by highlighting the core benefit of our tiffin while taking the viewer on a journey that is both engaging and entertaining."
Anurag Agnihotri, executive creative director, Ogilvy India, says, "One can't choose a hot lunch over work. The film brings this eternal conflict alive where the boss represents work and the wife, lunch.''
However, what caught our eye was the fact that though humour was rightfully employed to convey the message in the new spot, the traditional roles still disturbingly remain the way they were twenty years ago in today's egalitarian (or so we would like to believe) times.
For the uninitiated, the 2014 Airtel ad evoked a flurry of mixed reactions from Twitterati which included jokes on what the company wanted to say and what was actually conveyed, with many labelling it as 'sexist' while others giving it a thumbs up.
Interestingly, we often find ads by segments, namely home-ware and kitchen appliance makers, almost lost in the deluge of gender-biased product placement on mainstream media. For instance, the Tupperware India (the biggest rival to Milton in the segment) ad here.
But cut back to 2014 again when Havells went a step ahead.
Social media went abuzz with discussions about the Havells ads that asked users to respect women. Several situations in which women find themselves playing regressive roles every day come up in these ads, and often they are the target of a subtle sexist bias from a close family member. How they deal with it forms the narrative and core of these ads.
Milton's 40-second TVC campaign is running on major English, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu TV channels and is also being promoted on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
So, was the ad communication pitch perfect or jarring noise?
To clear our predicament, we got in touch with the experts...
Strategy consultant Lubna Khan feels the work manages to clearly convey the functional benefit of a microwaveable steel tiffin. However, she feels it does not do as well in creating a deeper emotional connect with its audience.
"It is an opportunity missed to do justice to the progressive stance implied in the brand's tagline - 'Kuch naya sochte hain'. There would have been greater impact if the work had added cultural weight and substance to the brand," she signs off.
Not one to mince words, Jagdish Acharya, founder and creative head, Cut the Crap finds this a super stereotypical portrayal of a 'good wife' turning into a 'better wife', all thanks to the brand playing its clichéd role.
"There are many such commercials being made and aired. In fact, in numbers, these kinds would form the clear majority. Much like the 'saas-bahu' fare on television, they never go away," he smirks.
"Having said that, there is an audience for the unchanging serials and the lot is likely to bear and smile at the never-changing commercials being played during the breaks," he adds further.
We asked Acharya if it was possible the brand could find itself in a soup anytime soon, to which he promptly replied, "Milton is not a brand high up on the Twitterati conscience and the ad is unlikely to stir any reactions the way the Airtel ad did."
However, Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, senior creative director, Happy mcgarrybowen has a rather interesting take to share, "Most of what we've been seeing in advertising is littered with stereotypes. And while we may shrug and say 'they seem to work so far', we all feel a little uncomfortable seeing it happen."
This particular commercial, however, he feels is nicely balanced and explains why, "Yes, it showed the boss of home as a woman who has prepared her husband's lunch. And I know everyone's going to jump up and say 'Hey, it's 2018! Why can't the man cook his own lunch?' But here's the thing, the commercial also showed the husband reporting to a woman. That, I felt, was refreshing." With so many conversations happening on breaking the glass ceiling and equal pay, Dasgupta felt the commercial was relatable and progressive.
All the debate and postmortem aside, was it a good ad? "Of course, it was nicely written, there was lovely wordplay, the characters were well rounded, it was a delight to watch," he answers.
So, to answer the million dollar question, is hubby's lunch still the wife's department? "Well, that's between the hubby and the wife to decide, isn't?" he quips. And of course, we can read between the lines!
While, of course, there is the depiction of the wife being the "tiffin bearer" that does pander to stereotype, to Bikram Bindra, vice-president and strategic planning head - Delhi, Grey Group, the more worrisome narrative is that of perpetuating the need to choose between a hot lunch and work.
"I think enough corporate-goers end up neglecting their meals in the quest to push themselves work-wise, and we, perhaps, don't need to be told that is a reality that we need to live with," he says.
What he did like was the clear benefit articulation and the depiction of the same and the great casting.
A quick look at some of the ads released by Milton in the past: