This is the narrative adopted by Hindustan Unilever’s Brooke Bond Red Label tea. In a recent commercial, the woman breaks her husband’s prejudice against Coronavirus
and despite his hesitation, offers a cup of tea (in a contactless fashion of course) to a neighbour infected with the virus.
Ambi M G Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder for Brand-Building.com said that it is well known that during a crisis, consumers look for a security blanket. “Brands will have to see how they can dial up their own ‘emotional’ quotient. However you cannot just make sentimental communication if that does not sit with the long term brand strategy and positioning. The ad by Brooke Bond weaves a socially relevant message around woman power and the potential of a hot cup of tea.”
Advertisers have been reviewing gender roles for a while now, looking at a more equal sharing of household chores (#ShareTheLoad for Ariel by Procter & Gamble) and adjusting the gaze towards women in categories that were openly chauvinistic before (deodorant ads that talked about their brands ‘getting’ women have changed tack to project confidence-building and other such values). But in the present crisis, it is not about a more equal portrayal of gender roles but about how women are best equipped to deal with the problems at hand. This can make the messaging problematic.
Consider for instance, recent ads by Amul that applaud women for being multitasking heroes and managing work and home, while at home. This turns the clock back on gender profiling and as Mishra warns, “Brands need to be careful of two things, one becoming a caricature of care and losing themselves in the sea of sameness. Second, they need to be prepared to resolve the dilemmas of humanity, welfare and equality against the on-hold greed for aggressive growth and profiteering.”
Advertisers have been reviewing gender roles for a while now, looking at a more equal sharing of household chore
Parameswaran believes brands are mending their ways as many big companies
have signed up for the UN directed initiative ‘UnStereoType’. “So we can expect them to avoid what is often very gender stereotypical depiction of women,” he said.
However, getting the pitch right is more than having men do the dishes, or wash clothes. And as a recent KANTAR report on gender portrayal suggests, marketers may think they are getting it right, but consumers have a different view altogether. In a global survey reported last year, the research agency found that 76 per cent of female consumers and 71 per cent of male consumers believe the way they are portrayed in advertising
is completely out of touch.
The report said, “Consumer concerns are further validated by research from JWT/ Geena Davis Institute. In an analysis of 2,000 Cannes Lions films from 2006 to 2016, researchers found that men speak seven times the amount women do in ads. Men get four times more screen time than women. And men are 62 per cent more likely to be shown as ‘smart’.” Advertisers have to walk carefully around some of these prejudices and biases, pandemic or no pandemic.