Baggit raps 'mansplainers' on the knuckles

By Abid Hussain Barlaskar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising
Published : July 05, 2018 05:23 AM
In a new campaign titled #PutItOnTheTable, Baggit condemns 'mansplaining'. But will it help the brand sell more bags?

#PutItOnTheTable, Baggit's first TV ad, features actress Shraddha Kapoor and takes a jab at mansplaining! But before we proceed to the dissection of the ad, let's talk a bit about mansplaining, specifically... what it means:-

The Oxford Dictionary describes the verb 'mansplain' as '(of a man) to explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.' Simply put, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it - what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does'.

In June, the internet was taken by a storm over an outdoor ad for Adelaide University. The ad showed a seated man who appeared to be explaining something to a group of women standing around him. The ad was perceived by social media users as one that promotes mansplaining and was taken down following the social media upheaval.

Now, getting back to the ad in question and its hit on mansplaining:-

The video opens up with a male and a female movie director discussing a movie script with actress Shraddha Kapoor over tea. Just as the woman initiates the conversation, her companion cuts in and takes charge. He goes on to present a description of what the film is about only to be snubbed by Shraddha. The actress further places her Baggit satchel on the table and says, "If you can speak for her, my bag can speak for me."

Apart from the ad films, Baggit has also released a set of stills featuring the product independently and alongside Shradhha. With this, the brand hasn't completely refrained from the status quo of displaying products in the category.

afaqs! Spoke to Nina Lekhi, MD and chief design curator, Baggit, to find out why the ad took such a progressive stand and why it was not, perhaps, considered sufficient for a known face-celeb-model to pose with the product and/or just display the features to put across the message.

Lekhi reveals, "We are one of the earliest brands to have caught onto the trend that fashion is equally about style as it is about substance. It is a powerful tool to make your voice heard and we are driving home the point with #PutItOnTheTable. Everyone has the right to an opinion and everyone deserves to be heard. During our research on the brand and the genre, we found that young audiences are using their accessories to make their presence felt. Based on that, we decided to make it the central thread of thought for the campaign and made Baggit the tool that the consumer will use to make themselves heard. Whatever you have to say, put it on the table!

Nina Lekhi Nina Lekhi

Raj Kamble Raj Kamble

"This is Baggit's first TV ad. Our brief to the agency was to establish what the brand stands for, as a lifestyle brand. Fashion plays such an important part in our lives and fashion brands tend to veer towards the same kind of advertising - with celebrities and nice-looking shots. But we wanted to go a step ahead and the direction given was to build love and an emotional connect with the audience. The powerful message helped us in establishing the same. According to me, creativity has no limits and I do believe in taking risks. I look forward to reinforcing the message with as much impact as we can," she adds.

We spoke to Famous Innovations, the agency that crafted the ads, about imbibing progressive themes and ideas into ads.

Raj Kamble, Founder & CCO, Famous Innovations, says, "The insight and idea emerge from what the brand needs, its own life-stage, the role of the brand in consumers' lives etc. Keeping today's cluttered media environment in mind we always try to create something that's relevant in people's on-going conversations and something that is forward-worthy. That may lead us to a progressive theme or not, but it should be relevant to the culture either way. We saw the whole category of bags and accessories and found the same kind of work across - just pretty bags without any substance. Thus, we saw the opportunity to do more and do better."

One might also notice a small, as it's termed these days, "Easter Egg", in the ad; a second progressive theme. This is subtly embedded into the ad as part of the script that is being discussed in the scene. It's about a female hero who finds her innocent brother in jail, catches the bad guys and saves the day; much to contrary of the regular Bollywood 'damsel in distress' storyline. We spoke to Kamble about this hidden theme.

He seemed quite pleased that it was noticed saying, "It was a detail subtly worked in. And just like it, there are many other small details present that maybe viewers would notice in a second or third watch. The music, the girl's expression and other nuances are there for viewers to discover and enjoy. I believe that the camera captures much more than the human eye sees and you need to enjoy every frame while making a film - giving viewers a larger canvas to catch something they like."

About the progressive theme and the future, Kamble adds, "Today, we have taken on mansplaining, but #PutItOnTheTable is not about women alone. It can be a man or anyone who feels like his/ her voice is being suppressed. The brand already has such a wide audience; we hope that if we can be a part of our audience's movement, we can create more love for it through storytelling and truly make it an iconic brand in the category."

Here's what the industry experts had to say about the ad:-

Lubna Khan Lubna Khan

Ferzad Variyava Ferzad Variyava

Strategy consultant Lubna Khan is of the opinion that fashion is fundamentally an attitude and bags are cultural objects that tell the world about one's attitude towards contemporary themes. "So it is smart and correct for a fashion accessories brand like Baggit to participate in one of the biggest contemporary cultural conversations - around gender interactions and the power of free self-expression within those interactions," Khan says.

"Within the ad, tackling the issue of mansplaining and male condescension in a professional setting feels both relevant and fresh. The choice of celebrity is also well thought through - someone who is more than just a pretty face. But I find the structure of the story itself to be somewhat paradoxical. Bags actually do speak for people - they are a public representation of a woman's sense of self. So why equate the protagonist's voice with that of the mansplaining jerk?" Khan raises an interesting question.

Ferzad Variyava, group creative director, FCB Interface, believes that the brand has used a celebrity to catapult the message but also maintains that one school of thought would be to keep it real and not use celebrities. "Many a time a brand's communication might need one (celebrity) to bring a wider reach to an already powerful and relevant message. I feel in this case, the latter works and the celebrity usage is not merely for glam value," Variyava says.

Commenting on whether the usage of progressiveness in the ad was gimmicky in its approach, Variyava states, "I genuinely feel that there is no such thing as too much progressiveness in the times we live in. Messages that empower women in a progressive and relevant manner are always welcome. Furthermore, if there is a seamless brand connect that positions the product in a fresh and memorable way, we can only have more power for progressive positioning in advertising."

"There's a bold departure from the oft-explored sashaying fashion statements handbag advertising has been accustomed to. And that's refreshing. The campaign also effortlessly pulls the viewer in, compelling him to deliver a silent nod to the stand it takes on mansplaining," Variyava signs off.

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