Step aside mushy ads - these anti Women's Day ads are making a strong case against discounts, flowers and chocolates.
From the last few days of February till the first week of March - it's one of capitalism's favourite times of the year. Popular brands across categories fight to make themselves as relevant to women as possible on March 8, which is celebrated as International Women's Day. Many companies also run special advertising and marketing campaigns for the occasion. Most of the messages are hinged on 'celebrating' women with brand-related rewards (for example, discounts on gym memberships).
However, most brands resort to using repetitive stereotypes in their advertising messages. There are these ad spots featuring multitasking women, sacrificing mothers, endlessly driven career women and sportswomen. This year (2020), Blush, a women's lifestyle channel from Culture Machine, decided to pay homage to all those women who were becoming sick of these advertising messages.
In a two-minute-30-second spot, the brand uses snappy edits and dry humour to make a point about the stereotypical portrayal of women by brands. The video touches on topics like tokenised representation of women, social media campaigns centred on the topic and the different shots that typically make up a Women's Day ad. In a way, it aims to be a 'template', and calls attention to the repetitiveness and unoriginality of the portrayal of women in these ad spots.
This year has had its fair share of 'conventional' Women's Day ads, but Blush's video isn't the only content piece that reflects the mindset of being sick of stereotypes. Another ad by JioSaavn puts women in the spotlight and asks them what annoys them the most about Women's Day communication.
JioSaavn inserted itself into the context of 'annoying ads' that can be skipped, and used it as an opportunity to advertise for its ad-free music offering. This is how brands are banking on relatability to sell their offerings. They are bringing attention to the ads that try to fit women into a certain box with dated stereotypes. And, in the process, they're creating a niche for themselves in the way they talk to the audience. Most brands which attempt such communication are 'new age' digital first brands. Big name advertisers are still sticking to tried and tested communication that harps on how lovely and strong women are.
The most recent ad that caught our attention was by streaming platform Netflix India. The ad sees the protagonist, actress Karishma Tanna, waking up to a literal fitness influencer, who is in her face, trying to sell her a flat 50 per cent discount on a gym membership. As her day progresses and she's getting ready for work, we see references to an e-commerce site promoting their 'Fab Fashion Sale'. When Tanna reaches her office, she sees the unoriginal heart-shaped box and flowers, and is serenaded by a colleague singing a song about how strong women are. Cue eye roll. As she winds up from work and gets ready to step out and have a drink, Netflix's ad draws attention to offers on alcoholic beverages that various restaurants offer to attract customers. In the ad, Netflix draws attention to the different items sold to women for different needs through the day.
These campaigns may be refreshing for viewers, but they are not new. In 2017, Ola Cabs tied up with stand-up comedienne Sumukhi Suresh to create a sarcastic Women's Day ad. It addressed stereotypes such as using the colour pink to represent 'girl power' and multitasking mothers of steel. Suresh's delivery is deadpan as she stares into the camera, expressionless, until she finally breaks into a smile and asks viewers to take an Ola cab, instead of allowing other brands to take them for a ride.