Tuesday January 16, 2018

Advertising in India, challenging societal attitude towards homosexuality

image courtesy- india.com

By NewsGram Staff Writer

As India is still ailing with strong prejudices against homosexuality, the brand Anouk has recently come up with an advertisement, featuring a lesbian couple. The ad challenges the prejudiced Indian society, which obliges all men and women to have relationship with members of the opposite sex.

The Anouk ad, is titled as ‘The Visit’ and is a part of the brand’s ‘Bold is Beautiful’ series.  It shows the anxiety of a lesbian couple before meeting the parents of one of the partners.

The ad gives a strong message of coming to terms with one’s identity and embracing it, despite the shackles of regressive societal norms.

“We tried to avoid the stereotypes associated with gay people. There was no one woman looking more masculine or feminine in the film. We tried to give it a candid feel like it is any other couple being apprehensive about meeting the parents,” says Avishek Ghosh, co-partner of Hectic Content, the production house that made the film, told Times of India.

The ad has gone viral and might influence the Indian society to finally acknowledge gay couples in the mainstream media.

In a society where homosexuality is criminalized, the gay couples don’t really get to be part of the mainstream media especially in commercial advertisements. There has never been ample depiction or support to the LGBT rights in Indian commercials.

Ads supporting LGBT community in the past

However in December 2013, when the Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexuality and ruled that gay sex was illegal, the commercial world showed their support to the LGBT community. They came up with innovative advertisements, which were widely appreciated.

Here are some of them:

The Amul girl was seen giving farewell to the ‘Freedom of Choice’.

freedom of choice
image cortesy- huffingpost.com








Earlier in 2009, Amul celebrated the decriminalization of gay sex by Delhi High Court through this ad:

out of closet
image courtesy- deccanchronicle.com

In 2011, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Health Minister at that time, had described homosexuality as a disease. Once again Amul, which never deters from commenting on social issues, came up with this ad:

health minster

Tanishq showed its support to gay rights through this ad:

image courtesy- dnaindia.com

Fastrack took the phrase ‘coming out of closet’ too literally and showed in its ad, two women stumbling out of a pink cupboard, zipping pants and skirts and walking off in opposite directions.

download (6)
image courtesy- elle.in

The ad was a part of Fastrack’s ‘Move On’ campaign.

move on
image courtesy- firstpost.com

Usually in India the commercial brands cringe away from even mentioning this sensitive issue, lest they get entrapped into some controversy.

It’s really appreciative that the big brands these days are blazing the trail to pinpoint the issue of homosexuality. Earlier hardly any commercials committed themselves to the LGBT community.

It’s essential that the advertisements voicing the issue of homosexuality, without stirring any controversy, should pave a way for the often ‘shunned’ homosexual community, into the popular culture.


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Amul: Setting new standards in Indian advertising

While Amul’s topicals ads were very popular, they also posed a challenge – they needed to be released quickly or else, they would lose much of their impact.

Amul is a farmers' cooperation whose ad campaigns have helped it compete with big private giants. Wikimedia Commons
Amul is a farmers' cooperation whose ad campaigns have helped it compete with big private giants. Wikimedia Commons

Amul was the result of a cooperative movement in 1946, against Polson, which allegedly procured milk at low rates from farmers in Gujarat to it sell to the Bombay government.

Today jointly owned by 3.6 million milk producers in Gujarat, it is a brand managed by a cooperative body the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), which was formed in 1948.

Amul is worth 5 billion today. However, how come a farmers’ cooperative was successful in creating a brand name that would compete with its private competitors?

The story started nine years after the brand name Amul was registered, the story of ‘Amul girl’.

Amul's topical ads helped Amul gain its footing.
Amul’s topical ads helped Amul gain its footing.

An advertising agency comes in

In 1957, Dr. Verghese Kurien, founding-chairman, decided to advertise the products and hired an advertising agency called Advertising and Sales Promotion (ASP).

Their team was headed by Sylvester daCunha and Eustace Fernandes. They came up with the line ‘Utterly Butterly Delicious’ in 1966. Fernandes, who was an art director, designed the Amul girl.

The agency opted for outdoor hoardings, as advertising in television or print was not as simple as it is today. ASP’s team knew, if they wanted this to be a long-term campaign, with the Amul girl being the face of the brand, they needed to look beyond her association with food.

The Amul girl went topical for the first time when she addressed the Naxalite movement in Bengal. The movement was a major at that time and ‘Cholbe na, cholbe na’ was their slogan. That’s when daCunha came up with an idea for a hoarding in Kolkata- Bread without Amul Butter, cholbe na cholbe na.

Apparently, that indeed was the first topical but even the first unintentionally controversial Amul hoarding. It was treated as a success, and the Amul girl began her journey to being an opinion leader on current issues.

Amul's ads are often on the current issues.
Amul’s ads are often on the current issues.

While Amul’s topicals ads were very popular, they also posed a challenge – they needed to be released quickly or else, they would lose much of their impact.

Realizing that the protocol and logistics of approving and releasing an ad took a lot of time, Dr. Varghese Kurien gave DaCunha the freedom to run the campaign without waiting to take permission from the company.

By 1969, Fernandes moved on to form Raedeus Advertising while Sylvester founded daCunha Communications, which continued with the Amul campaign.

How the ad campaign works now

  • Choose one issue that has been trending for the week.
  • Choose a witty punch-line.
  • Make a ‘hand-painted’ visual (the unique part).

And that’s the perfect recipe for an Amul topical.

The sketch is then posted on Amul’s social media handles, while some make their way into newspapers and on hoardings. A ‘topical’ is churned out almost five days a week across multiple platforms—200 hoardings across the country, leading national and regional newspapers, as well as on social media platforms.

The relevance of Amul girl today

Amul girl is a mascot. Mascots were necessary for earlier days for brands because of the lack of literacy. It was a form of trade-marking at a time when people could not read and identification was done visually i.e. it was image led and brands would trade-mark the image. However, eventually, mascots became irrelevant.

For example, the Maharaja created for Airlines, in 1946 by SK Kooka and Umesh Rao of advertising agency J Walter Thompson. Earlier, aviation services were limited to a few rich people. Hence, they had chosen a Maharaja. Though after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India in 2006, he was changed to slim from fat and was made stand straight instead of bent forward. Also, with the changing profile of the Indian flyer, and with the airline connecting smaller cities and not just metros, the Maharaja donned new clothes.

Eventually, celebrities came into the picture, as they were a short-cut to brand recognition. In contrast to mascots which require time, investment, and a danger of becoming irrelevant, celebrities gave quick results.

But through the downfall and makeovers of her major counterparts, from Maharaja to Gattu, from the shortcuts to celebrities and several controversies, the wide-eyed Amul girl has been and survived it all.