Aishwarya Ramesh

"After lockdown ended, 7 out of 10 men have reduced their contribution to household chores": Sharat Verma, P&G

In conversation with chief marketing officer, P&G India, and vice president, fabric care, P&G and BBDO’s Josy Paul about the latest rendition of Share the Load campaign.

When it comes to gender equality
We still have a long way to go
Women’s demands are pretty simple though
Equality in pay
Equality in gaze
Believe in my ideas, not just my pretty face.

I wrote this in the context of International Women’s Day (March 8) last year. But it seems fitting to start a conversation about Ariel’s new ad campaign with these lines.

Share the Load’ is back for its fifth season and, this time, the ad talks about equality among partners. We see a conversation unfold between a couple. The woman questions her husband about whether or not he truly views her as his equal.

Josy Paul, chairman of BBDO India, begins the conversation by laying some context about the previous ‘Share the Load’ iterations. BBDO has been responsible for creating these ads for Ariel since 2015, when the first one was released.

Since then, every year, the agency meets the client and the two have a discussion, or what Paul calls an open, creative collaborative session. People speak and open up to each other to gain insights that ‘Share the Load’ is based on.

“It’s an emotional and interactive process. We supplement it with statistics and data. We’ve found things that have been said by the experts. We read articles and bring all these inputs into the room.”

Josy Paul
Josy Paul

“Then, we interrogate these inputs over many sessions. The briefing sessions sometimes last as long as 10 sessions, since we want to dig deep and know about the things that women face. Then, we arrive at the idea.”

Sharat Verma, chief marketing officer, Procter & Gamble India, and vice president, fabric care, P&G, says that the brief is to give men more reasons to share the load of household work with women.

In a line in the ad, the woman asks her husband why he doesn’t value her time. We wondered how the team came up with this specific insight.

“There are so many nuances to how we see each other in a relationship and we discuss that in great depth. Some of this data comes from our personal lives or the collective lives of the people sitting in the room,” explains Paul.

"Some of this data comes from our personal lives or the collective lives of the people sitting in the room"
Josy Paul

He calls these insights ‘data of the soul’. It takes time to hit on these insights, since people take time to open and bare their vulnerabilities on these topics. Paul tells us that these insights came from multiple people, both from P&G’s end, his team, and some from the director Shimit Amin’s team.

(Note: If Amin’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the director of movies like ‘Chak De! India’ and ‘A Suitable Boy’.)

Verma chimes in, agreeing that the team had to refer to multiple data sources, quantitative studies, online surveys, social listening, in depth consumer research – “but the most important thing is putting all that data into context. The stories from people in the room help us articulate the data. It’s also important to keep listening to what the consumers are saying.”

Verma goes into detail – explaining the different conclusions he reached, as a result of the research that went into creating this campaign.

“We found out that during the initial (COVID-induced) lockdown, 95 per cent of the men said they had begun to contribute to household chores. It made us realise that if needed, men can step up and share housework equitably.”

Sharat Verma
Sharat Verma

“Data tells us that 80 per cent of the women also know that men know how to do the work, but they choose not to. Similarly, 70 per cent of the men we surveyed informed us that when living with other men, whether it’s as college roommates or work colleagues, they do share the load equally.”

Verma adds that another piece of data that came through was that 80 per cent of the men knew that when they shared the load of household work, it’ll improve their relationships with their wife. But they don’t necessarily always offer to help out.

“What we’ve seen after the lockdown is that seven out of 10 men have reduced their contribution to household chores. Women feel things are moving in the right direction, but change is not coming fast enough. We’re far from equal distribution of household chores.”

"A recent report from the World Economic Forum claims that gender parity is 135 years away"
Sharat Verma

“A recent report from the World Economic Forum claims that gender parity is 135 years away. That’s a long time to wait for something that comes naturally to men, who would split household duties, while living with other men.”

Verma tells us that the film wants to portray a larger sense of conditioning and unconscious bias people have.

“We witness the first bias is when the husband goes to the neighbour’s house. The second is when they are asked if they want tea or coffee, and the husband picks coffee. The third is when tea spills on his shirt and he says ‘we will take care of it’ because he knows that he’s not the one who’s going to be cleaning the shirt – his wife is.”

According to Verma, the ad’s intention was to portray the men of today – that’s why it also shows two men who share household chores.

“We wanted to show the men of today who see and treat each other as equals. We wanted to portray that sense of impatience, when it comes to the pace of change.”

Paul ends the conversation on a playful note. Whenever he slacks off when it comes to helping around the house – his wife threatens to call his client to complain about his behaviour. Truly woke behaviour, indeed!

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