By Binjal Shah
It is an ad about two people in love – and the two simply happen to be women. The ad portrays something utterly natural that has existed since times eternal, but is finally finding its place in mainstream art. And most importantly, the fact that a new entrant in the market dared to broach this topic, only shows that maybe, our dear old companies are caught in a rut and need some serious updating.
After watching ads about women unhappy with their flawless caramel-coloured skins, and house-wives trapped like bonded laborers in kitchens and washing pits trying to make their unforgiving husbands happy with great Gaajar halwas and sparkling cuffs, it sure felt nice to see an ad where two women were independent, in charge of their sexuality and their lives, and about to make a major decision seeking what seemed like the blessings, and not permission, of their parents.
The women in the ad were a happy couple. Azouk, a lesser known Indian clothes brand that retails through Myntra, decided to make their debut in the mainstream advertising world with a subtle, understated ad campaign of showing a typical three minutes in the lives of these women. These three minutes happened to be right before the visit of one of their parents to their home, where they are presumably living-in. The air around their conversation was casual, almost as if to tell us that this might as well have been any two heterosexual people in love – that any two people can fall in love, and conversely, being in love creates the same warm and fuzzy landscape for any two people, and is always heartwarming to witness.
Who are we to find faults in anyone’s frame from the outside, really?
Our two protagonists get to share everything from their kajal to their clothes, get expert fashion advice and second opinions right from the next room, build a home together with decor that is girly and chic- and happens to resonate with both of them equally. They play with each other’s hair, and know each other’s childhood exploits and unfortunate wardrobes. They’re sure of each other and want to embark upon the rest of their lives as one. And even as one of their father pulls up into the driveway, she reassures the nervous love of her life, that she shouldn’t be scared -that she “doesn’t want to hide it anymore”. The ad almost dares you to find faults in this utopian frame. And soon we realize our place – who are we to find faults in anyone’s frame from the outside, really?
This is India’s first lesbian ad, by the way, and what were the odds that a new, underdog brand had the courage to break that invisible barrier and challenge that vehement taboo. Not only is this outsider’s perspective golden, it also has a message for our age-old classic brands: that they might be caught in a rut and churning out the same old stereotypes in their ads year after year, and need to keep up with changing times – and maybe even contribute to changing our times – by advertising responsibly.
Let me spell out the lesson “second-wave” advertisers could learn from the sighting of this “third-wave” advertising. With your same old quintessential portrayal of the Indian mis-en-scene – one gullible section of the society is having its old-and-rusty stereotypes reinforced and validated - which is undesirable for the society. And the other more liberal section is feeling more and more of a disconnect with what you’re trying to show and sell, as their idea of a society is years ahead of yours – which is bad for you and your brand as your ad fails at being convincing. Either way, maybe you need to get onto the wagon of change. And maybe, your concepts need to be shaken now, and not just stirred.