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Brands, marketers need to be clear on 'why' they are creating women-centric messaging

The industry is getting it wrong on how ads should be relevant to and appropriate for women.

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MUMBAI: While most brands seek to create an impact and positively influence the society, they are, probably, not getting the formula right and just creating an illusion of a culture of tokenism thriving in the industry. Especially when it comes to talking about women issues, most brands miss the target with several miles as they do not understand ‘why’ they are trying to create a certain proposition with their communications.

An all-women panel discussed if there is much tokenism in advertising which comprising moderator GTB managing partner Babita Baruah, Wunderman Thompson South Asia regional creative director Tista Sen, and consultant Deepa G. They highlighted these points while outlining where the marketing industry is going wrong when it comes to creating campaigns that talk to women.

Tista Sen noted, “The good thing is everybody is conscious that they must do something but the bad thing is that people are doing it very badly. There are conversations and discussions but do they translate into meaningful ‘making a difference’ kind of way? I don’t know if it is tokenism, but if you really want to be relevant to women what we are doing right now is not the right way to go about it.”

Deepa G, agreeing to her, stated, “I say there is a lot of tokenism because everybody is making an effort. But I don’t think this is ever totally directed at making a change as much as at ‘we need to make certain statements about our culture and our brand’.”

The panel agreed that while the central objective of any campaign remains to attain business goals, they also pinpointed the need to tailor communication to align with the brand purpose. Sen said, “What we are asking of you is that even if you have a male-centred narrative, do not make the woman in the story look like a prop.”

On asked how to do it the right way, she cited the example of the Swiggy campaign where mothers are seen asking their kids and husbands to order food from the app if they want something extra than what she has cooked. She emphasised how the brand went ahead to challenge the age-old norms of women being the caregivers and designated cooks. “The campaign made a mother’s role redundant. It was a brave decision.”

Deepa G added that the campaign shifted the prism through which people saw women, shifting the perspective from associating her to a ‘role’ to her being a ‘person’.

The duo also noted that communication has the power to shape culture. They mentioned that such campaigns effortlessly become a part of the culture and can bring in substantial change.

There was also a consensus among the panel on the fact that more women should become a part of the strategy and boardroom meetings to ensure that brands are talking to women that deserve to be talked to. Women voices bring a different point of view that is more nuanced and textured and can help agencies in designing better campaigns.

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