Indian brands are exploring social issues with bolder themes in 2015. Apparently, it’s working for them to connect with the new age millennial who likes brands that have a bold voice on social issues, mirroring those of her own. The trend that kicked off in 2014, picked up momentum in 2015, and this year we’ve seen a variety of Indian brands making a bold foray into the world of social issues.
When the Supreme Court passed its verdict on Section 377, criminalizing homosexual sex between two consenting adults, in December 2013, quite a few Indian brands came forward to show their support for the LGBT community.
Around the same time in 2013, jewellery brand Tanishq created a massive social media buzz, going against society stereotypes by featuring the second marriage of a dusky bride, also the mother of a little girl. Tanishq stole headlines everywhere for its bold, pro-women film. It won the fourth place in Adweek’s list of ‘The 7 most inspiring ad campaigns for women in 2013’ and is the only Indian ad in the list.
Whisper, the sanitary napkin brand from P&G created quite a furore on social media with the launch of its ‘Touch the pickle’ campaign designed to bust period taboos, in 2014. India is home to many period taboos, of which one is as weird as this – girls on periods should not touch pickle jars as that will contaminate the pickle. The campaign won the agency BBDO India a Grand Prix in the Glass Lions at the Cannes Lions 2015, for having the “power to effect true cultural change.”
2015 sees many brands take up the baton; live-in relationships, homosexuality, gender equality, single parenting, widow remarriage, discrimination against pregnant working women, choosing to stay single and more social issues have been explored. Let’s take a look:
P&G scored again in 2015 with its #ShareTheLoad campaign for Ariel. The campaign sought to highlight gender equality and debunk mindsets where ‘laundry is only a woman’s job’. Leveraging household statistics by A C Neilson, the brand set off social media conversations asking ‘Is Laundry only a woman’s job?’
The ad film is set in a home where two aged women are having tea, and discussing about the changed times where women have started joining the workforce and earning much more than what they did in the earlier times. The discussion them moves to the daughter in law earning more than her son, but who is still answerable to her husband as to why she hasn’t washed his green shirt yet.
The buzz was further amplified by celebrity couples and bloggers and a horde of social media contests. Ariel #ShareTheLoad also won BBDO a Glass Lion at the Cannes Lions 2015.
Titan Raga ‘Her Life Her Choices’
Titan Raga has been perfectly aligned with its brand philosophy in ‘Her Life Her Choices’, the watchmaker’s campaign to celebrate women who live life by their own choices. Last year, it got actress Nimrat Kaur to play this confident woman who isn’t guilty about the career choices she has made. This year, it roped in actress Katrina Kaif to tell us about the right time and reason to get married.
Katrina is seen getting dressed like a bride, while her voice is heard in the background. The monologue reflects the various kinds of societal pressures on a woman to get married – aunty harassment, ex-boyfriend getting married, all friends getting married, too late to be a mother, little sister in tow, etc. In the end, she is heard answering the most pertinent question about the right time to get married – ‘When you find someone who deserves your time.’
Red Label “Live-in”
Brooke Bond Red Label, one of the major tea brands by Hindustan Unilever has always been brewing togetherness among families and diverse communities in its brand communication, where the idea is that tea melts away differences. After having created quite a stir in 2014, when it portrayed a reluctant Hindu family turning into good friends with their Muslim neighbour, over a few cups of Red Label tea, the brand touched upon a taboo subject like ‘live-in relationships’ this year.
The minute-long film titled ‘Surprise Visit’ begins with a guy being paid a surprise visit by his parents, when they realise he is in a live-in relationship with his girlfriend. Of course, the girlfriend makes them some Red Label tea to win them over.
The ad was labelled progressive for supporting ‘live-in relationships’ as well as regressive for having portrayed the girl as someone who needs to please the parents of the boy.
Omron ‘Tumhaari Amma’
Omron India’s campaign showed a daughter reversing roles with her mother by finding her a partner. In a move to promote its home healthcare products, Omron rolled out a long format digital film titled ‘Tumhaari Amma’. It begins with the mother receiving a letter from her worried daughter – in which she’s been addressed as ‘beta’ – telling her to check her BP and also about a new man she has found.
The mother is excited for her daughter, and can’t wait to meet him. The film ends when the mother realizes the man waiting outside has actually come to meet her. A backstory shows how the daughter went about choosing the man, starting with an ad on a matchmaking portal.
Myntra Anouk ‘Bold is Beautiful’
When fashion wear etailer, Myntra wanted to create buzz for Anouk, its contemporary ethnic wear brand, it rolled out 3 3-minute films, each broaching up social acceptance issues around women. The three films in the campaign ‘Bold is Beautiful’ focus on issues like ‘homosexuality’, ‘single-parenting’ and ‘staying single’.
The most viral of all three ‘The Visit’ is the story of a lesbian couple who had been hiding about their relationship with their parents, and now plan to reveal it.
‘The Whispers’ portrayed a segment of Indian society that is forever indulging in gossip around a single mother. In one such encounter she demonstrates why the father not being around has no negative influence on her or her daughter, and that she is perfectly capable of bringing her up on her own.
‘The Calling’ featured actress Radhika Apte as this high performing architect who isn’t being promoted despite having worked nights on the project. This discrimination started from the time she had gotten pregnant, but victory is hers at the end. She walks away from the job and starts up on her own.
Girls on their periods are often told to stay indoors, take rest or steer clear from physical activities as they must be ‘feeling low’ or ’feeling down’. Sofy, the feminine hygiene product from Unicharm India, wanted to change their mindsets with its campaign #Imnotdown. It roped in influential youngsters to encourage girls to say #Iamnotdown, through the use of real interviews, music and poetry slam.
The #Iamnotdown poetry slam by Rene Sharanya Verma, a student who also raps to raise awareness of misogyny in India (famous for her rap slamming Honey Singh), has some hard-hitting lines on ‘feeling down’ during periods. The 2.15 minute poetry slam has the girl thrashing perceptions and euphemisms surrounding periods.
Havells India ‘Winds of Change’
Havells India is a regular at taking up social issues. In fact, all its advertising has always keenly focused on women empowerment, and now issues like gender equality, religious conversion, period taboos, and orphan inclusion.
Part of its ‘Hawa Badlegi’ campaign that seeks to inspire a change in our mindsets, the Havells ‘Winds of change’ campaign rolled out a series of TVCs on each of the taboo subjects. This one on gender equality titled ‘Censor Board’ makes a hard-hitting point, with a touch of humour.
After having finished watching a film, one of the censor board member says the movie should be given a ‘U’ certificate as it qualifies to be a ‘family film’. Everyone agrees except for one who thinks it should be given an ‘A’ certificate as the hero was topless in many scenes. It ends with a hard-hitting observation about society – “Ladki kare tho nude, ladka kare tho dude.”
The trend is catching up real quick, and looks like 2016 will witness even more bolder themes in brand communication.