As dengue continues to threaten lives, mosquito repellent brand All Out releases an intense long-form story.
"Mother knows best" is a phrase that I'm sure we've all heard at some point of time. Associating being fallible with motherhood is a tough consideration and not one most mothers would accept readily. Keeping that sentiment in mind, All Out is carrying the thought forward in its new campaign. Titled #IDidntKnow/#MujheSabNahiPata, the campaign addresses mothers who are tough enough to acknowledge that they don't know everything while focusing on staying vigilant against the threat of dengue.
The ad was shot by filmmaker Shoojit Sircar who informs us that the film aims to highlight how mothers can be strong enough to seek help when it comes to protecting their kids. "With this film, All Out wants mothers to come together and share their stories to be more vigilant in the future," he explains.
KV Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer, Hyper Collective (a cross-disciplinary innovations company) or Pops, as he's more popularly referred to, liked the film, but wondered why it was only the woman who was made to feel guilty.
He points out that the ad ends up victimising the mother and isolating her. "Is she the only one responsible for the children? What happened to the fathers - aren't they equally responsible? That's what I didn't like... The performance is good, the intent may be good, but are you really saying that the father has no role to play and then making women feel guilty, like lesser beings, for a child's illness?" he asks.
"While the intent is brilliant, at times, with the execution, that intent does not come through. It all lies with how people decode the communication. If the husband or someone were to come and take the blame for her and fulfil that gap, then everybody knows that mothers can't do everything. You're just making her feel guiltier by doing this. Imagine if All Out had a crying husband in the ad who takes the blame, telling us he has not done his duty and he's put too much pressure on his wife. That's an idea that could've broken the glass ceiling. I would have made the husband apologise, making him really amplify the message and urge people to take note and do this," Sridhar says.
He talks about how this is a stereotype that has persisted in advertising for nearly 40 years. "If a child does not grow, it's the mother's problem. Housewives live with a perennial fear of 'Am I doing enough?' In this ad, the husband is just sitting on the sidelines. He has absolutely nothing to worry about... I didn't like that at all."
Sridhar also states, "Somebody has forgotten to see the larger picture; the context in which a woman is perceived today in the society. Most of the advertising is created by men who are not sensitive. The creative people, the account planning guys, they need to open their eyes to society and what is happening; especially the prevailing socio-cultural tensions."
Adman KS Chakravarthy, co-founder of Tidal7 Brand & Digital, did not like the ad either. "I personally find it offensive, confused, and poorly executed. It tries to play up a mother's grief, desperately trying to get us to believe she has lost her child and then makes a fairly inept connection with a clumsy peek-a-boo. In all this manufactured drama, mothers not being infallible seems completely extraneous to the basic story and appears force-fitted. On the execution front, there is only one golden rule in 'real stories' - that it feels real and not acted out. And this is clearly 'acted' - desperately, embarrassingly so. The script is about as manufactured as you can get - in an effort at great cleverness; any semblance of believability goes out the window in the roller-coaster of emotions the film tries to capture. Fighting dengue seems to be a fleeting excuse for some pointless melodrama and not the point of this ad."
The opinion that they both share is that Sonali Bendre does not work as a brand ambassador for this campaign. Pops goes on to say that he launched Sonali Bendre in 1992 with a commercial for Parachute hair oil, but that he didn't recognise her. Chakravarthy also adds, "Sonali Bendre would seem to add no value at all - she is certainly not an instantly recognisable face and adds very little to the message."