Changing Role of Women in Indian TV Commercials

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 12, 2014

Over the decades, particularly in India, the position of women had been submissive to men. Men have always shirked in accepting women at par with them. Consequently, the role of the women to a large extent till late 20th century was limited to a mother, wife, daughter, homecare et al barring few exceptions but to think of her working outside her house in service/manufacturing industry or sports et al at par with men was anachronistic.

As a result the position and role of women in the society had been stereotyped. And, marketers who are also a part of the society had not remain unaffected and had portrayed women in advertisements (TV commercials) in the role of hardworking homemaker, mother or housewife where her life and actions had revolved around those products which are associated with the women who is confined within her "lakshaman rekha" drawn by the society.

But, over the last ten-fifteen years there has been change in attitude of society towards women. It is the result of various factors like literacy rate, financial independence, employment, social empowerment et cetera. Literacy rate has gone up over the decades and the gap in literacy rate between men and women has reduced (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Her life no longer revolves around kitchen or family, but she sits in company's boardroom, wins medals for the nation, and even serves as the head of the army as a President.

Data shows that their participation in the workforce in different sectors like manufacturing, services, SMEs et al are significant and in some industries exceeds more than 50%(Figure 2).

Figure 2

The marketers and advertisers have felt and observed this attitudinal shift in the society. And, you will clearly see the change if you compare and observe now a day's advertisements with their earlier counterparts.

The latest advertisements of Nestle - Kitkat, Pepsico - Kurkure and Bharti Airtel, portrayed women as the protagonist (an astronaut, working women and boss of her husband) and to promote products which were not directly related to women.

According to a study, if we categorize women in three different roles played by them in TVCs, such as Traditional (wife, daughter, mother, homemaker and decorative), Neutral (others) and Nontraditional (professional, professional and homemaker, girlfriend, women superior to men or equal to men). Their portrayal in traditional role has gone down while nontraditional role has increased (Figure 3).

And, if we categorize products advertised by women into Woman dominant products (cleaning and food products, home appliances, beauty essentials etc.), Neutral Products (snacks, beverages, clothing etc) and Male dominant products (travel, automobiles, banks, alcoholic beverages), (Figure 4) we can see the changes in their role.

The most relevant example here will be the classic TVC of Nirma Washing Powder of late 80s, where we see a woman telling you all the attributes of the product, but if you compare it with the TVC of 2011, it shows four empowered woman of 21st century who are audacious. It was an attempt to establish a connection to the women who have transformed over decades financially, socially and individually.

Contraceptive TVCs, like Mala-D Deluxe Nirodh of early 2000s revolved more around family planning, women health and larger aim of controlling population. But today's TVCs are about the freedom and right of women over herself, her desires and preferences.

It is very progressive for a society that we are accepting women in new roles and giving them equal status as of men. It is even more plausible that marketers are not only showing these changes but also influencing and forcing societies which have not accepted women rights by creating new feminist advertisements.

Note - The word "advertisements" used here only refers to TV commercials.

This article has been authored by Priyank Bhartiya from IIFT Kolkata


WORKING PAPER NO: 446 The Changing Roles Portrayed by Women in Indian Advertisements: A Longitudinal Content Analysis

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