It's time we talked about advertising | Discussing social issues through ad films

India is a land of unending social diversities. Due to its rich and varied tapestry of traditions, customs and yes, even prejudices, there are so many stories that go untold, so many conversations that are waiting to see the light of day.

Advertising offers opportunities to address that issue through storytelling. The themes of these stories are the themes of conversations that India is having with itself. Some of these ads have broken away from the otherwise mind-numbing clutter and created a flutter of conversations.

The Vicks ad where the mother of an adopted girl child is revealed to be a transgender person in the end with the brand’s proposition as Generations of Care, is one such ad. Gender issues have gone beyond the realm of men or women’s issues and there are progressive voices in society that want to assimilate those who do not necessarily look like us, dress like us or speak like us. The fact that a brand recognised and capitalised on it shows that issues that were considered as taboo subjects are now ready to be discussed in the open.

The Tanishq ad, which celebrates the remarriage of a divorced woman, was a courageous ad to make in a country where divorce is such a social stigma even today.

Of course, not all conversations that we are not having in society are forbidden. A recent Ariel ad shows the father of a working woman realising (quite late in life) that his own habits have inadvertently furthered the notion that men don’t need to do housework, burdening women (specifically his daughter) with both domesticity and office work. It is a subtle way to bring to the fore what can be termed as soft patriarchy. Not every issue needs to be screamed out; some need a whisper.

Havell is another brand that has sought to start conversations with its Hawa Badlegi series. It typically tries to empower the everyman, with small acts and gestures. Sometimes it’s the man rejecting donations while standing for elections; at other times it’s the husband adopting his wife’s last name or the parent not adhering to established notions of religion when it comes to his newborn child. These are a reflection of the small everyday conversations that we have from the tea stall to the canteen to the boardroom.

All these ads seek to challenge the status quo in society without being too combative or shrill. And yes, the impact they’ve created has opened up avenues for more such inspiring advertising from brands.

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