On the 8th of March 2019, while the entire world celebrated women, their achievements and hoped for more empowerment, the day marked one of the most controversial ones in Pakistan, discussed and criticized widely on social media. What escalated the offense and anger in people was none other than the Aurat March, also called the Azaadi March- an event by women for women to come together in a public space and march on the roads of different cities in Pakistan.
Hate brewed and woke me up, a feminist who had attended the march and didn’t need coffee the next morning. While many women were able to join the march, a lot of working women were confined to their work desks. However, scrolling through repetitive posters meme pages had tweaked and hyped, I came across a few brands that had used the date to attract their female audience. I also came across many posts about how corporations should not bandwagon over Women’s Day. But is it really wrong, if the end result of a CSR or PR activity links to women empowerment? Could these ideas have come from female employees working for the brands, and is that not a way that each person is contributing to the movement positively? From big brands to smaller startups, there was creativity and brain being used to drive a female perspective.
Veet Academy:Veet, the famous hair removal cream, has an academy under it which is separate from the their Miss Veet program- a reality TV show that supports young ambitious girls to achieve their dreams by having them compete in mental and physical challenges to enable their confidence in becoming their best selves. Veet Academy, however, is a virtual school that is mentored by some celebrities, such as Sarwat Gilani and Musarat Misbah, each who talk about one specific attribute “important” in becoming an all-rounded personality. Though debateable on how empowering the platform is, by stereotypically categorising women and attributing them to specific traits, Veet was one of the feminine brands which took on a social initiative on Women’s Day by their #BuildHerUp campaign.
The #BuildHerUp campaign offered 5 girls in Pakistan the opportunity to get mentored by the Veet Academy experts. The girls simply had to use an online portal to explain what their dreams are and how the platform can help them. An argument will arise here, that the campaign is only for women who have access to computers, so the dreams can’t be just any woman’s. A bit unfair to think so, when the brand is considered a luxury personal care brand. The campaign was right for its target audience. The part I liked most about it, was how someone could be nominated. At a time where women are surrounded with hate, it felt good to know that at least we women will keep standing up for each other.
The digital video was nicely made, featured real girls with various dreams and was an entertaining watch. There was an added emotional tone to the message, which shed light on why the girls couldn’t achieve their dreams. Most of the reasons were lack of support or lack of confidence and fear of criticism, which a large number of females face, specially those who want to get out in the world and create an impact.
Her Floor: Scrolling down my monotonous Instagram feed, I came across a post by Her Floor; a digital community which is solely an organisation for ambitious women. I hadn’t heard of this before and a digital post sponsored by them caught my eye. The post featured an illustration of a girl in a dupatta with an old man (assuming her father) placing a hand of support behind her back. The text says “Don’t just run, run the world.” Simple yet effective. It drove me to their website to find out more about this amazing platform which helps female entrepreneurs connect with each other and grow their business by selling their products. A definite check out for any woman starting up a product based business.
Butterfly Breathables: My friends and I are a fan of butterfly breathable pads because they are so much more comfortable than Always. So, their campaign hashtag literally and metaphorically made sense. Their campaign #periodNotPeriod was constantly accompanied with the tagline “The possibilities are endless when you have the right to breathe free.” It highlights their product’s advantages directly, that allow a woman to feel more free even during the time of the month and enable her to do as much as she can with ease, and it also sends a societal message, that if there are no boundaries or limits, a woman can do anything.Their Women’s Day campaign featured several short videos with basic strong messages. Visually, not too great but I do feel that they stand out from other brands by using clever copywriting. My favourite from the series was, “You thought you pushed her to the limit, but her limits cannot be defined.”Pond’s Miracle Journey: The Pond’s Miracle Journey, a platform of Pond’s links young women starting in their careers with already established and successful female entrepreneurs, business women, artists etc. The program in its earlier years used to recognise women’s achievements but changed its goal recently to encouraging a sustainable female community by helping women inspire women rather than just celebrating the ones who have reached their pinnacles of success. Though the program is admirable, there was nothing interesting they did for Women’s Day. A brand that solely focuses on empowerment let down in their advertising completely, by making no effort in creating any sort of message that could inspire change. The brand simply used a hashtag #FirstStepWithPonds to push more entries for their on-going program. Not exciting, and pretty boring.
Gul Ahmed: I was desperately trying to find a fashion brand that did something for Women’s Day. I would’ve been highly disappointed had I not found Gul Ahmed’s ad. It focused on unsung women heroes, who not only take care of their homes but also work to make a living for their entire family. There were shots of them doing house chores, going out in the heat, conducting physical activities and taking care of their loved ones. The ad pays a tribute to the self-made women who tirelessly multitask, almost like an octopus with several arms. The wordings of this tribute were well written and the ad was versatile and real. The only thing missing, was definitely a female factory worker, I was expecting to see.
Fibbi Café: Want to learn how to not do effective marketing? Head on to Fibbi café’s social media page. They literally compared a woman to a tea bag… Did they mean put women in difficult situations to see how strong they are? Did they just compare a woman to a tea bag? Well, here’s an idea for next year’s Aurat March poster: “Aurat hoon, tea bag nahi.” Their social media page later deleted their post and changed the text, but the damage was done.
While some brands did do Women’s Day well, others failed to impress. I believe that if you have to say something, say it well or don’t say it at all. In the previous article, we spoke about sexualising woman and how that has been a culture in Pakistani media. It will take some time to move from that and create smarter ads that resonate with today’s generation of women, who have a voice and an identity of their own. Who are not objects. It’s safe to say Pakistan has a long way to go, in comparison with neigbouring India, where more creative Women’s Day campaigns were launched. Max Fashion’s campaign “Behn kuch bhi pehn” was exciting, catchy, and vibrant and came with an important message.
We have a long way to go, yes, but the journey has begun. We are seeing more thoughtful ads run on TV alongside the completely unthoughtful ones. Ads like Colgate’s “Andar Se Strong” features a young girl who is confident that she can play with boys her age, and challenges them when they question her ability because of her sex. Bonanza Satrangi’s “Apni Nazar Main” also comes with a strong message about not caring about the world and loving yourself- which we women often forget to do. Perhaps the criticism that Aurat March received this year will wake up the creatives in the advertising industry to realise how huge a problem patriarchy is in this country, and they will attempt to create more socially aware campaigns that rally for change.
Share your comments below with us and let us know what you feel about these ads, and whether we missed any out that we must see!
Source: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Disclaimer: As we flex our muscles with social discourse we try our best to not be biased on ideas presented hereon, which is precisely why this platform is called ‘The Pitch Deck’- where we meditate on ‘cognitive dissonance’ while hoping to spark dialogue and challenge the status quo.
With ‘selling’ as the primary motive, a lot of content produced by the local Tv Ad industry has become subliminally a tool for the male gaze.
Mass-produced, representation of women in the context of everyday slice of life has become glimpse for the male’s voyeuristic point of view for his mere fantasy.
Photo: Screen grab from Nargis Fakhri’s Jazz & Sadaf Kanwal’s Nurpur Commercial
Many local Tv commercials and shows incorporate the concept of pleasure that is the joy of ‘looking’, in turn feeding the male gaze.
And then there is a rise of new-wave alternate narrative that reflects empowerment of women.
Photo: GulAhmed’s #MeinPerfectHoon Campaign 2017
Many Tv commercials are produced to cater to the male gaze, yet also become arguably what some women may view as self-expression and liberation.
It may be empowering for women in a culture of repressive conditioning and an environment that is dominated by patriarchal ideologies, however it may also possibly end up becoming narcissistic in nature.
Intended for women to ‘look’ at the woman being portrayed, to admire her, be identified with her character and desire to be that woman.
So to speak, to be mesmerised by the image and actively objectify oneself by wanting to be the ‘object’.
However, choosing to do so in itself is a feministic statement of sexual liberation which still ultimately feeds to the male gaze.
The bigger problem is the perversion that is bound to happen in a society, that has oppressed women for decades and served as a foundation for disregarding gender equality.
This perversion is enriched by the very same values and modus operandi- of the culture factory i.e. the ad industry- it is operating in.
Predominantly, women’s portrayal in our media is always directed at men. This gaze one adopts is often assumed to be that of a male, because it is the women being objectified.
Watching women dance in their kitchen as they cook in a private setting, makes the audience’s gaze voyeuristic / fly-on-the-wall in nature.
Given a set of societal roles that are submissive in nature, or made to be the centre of attention as an ‘object’, representation of woman- in the general local content we consume (ads, dramas, tv shows & films)- is often intended to look inducing.
Seriously, what does a girl holding her hair, have to do with Cheese?
Photo: Hardees Print Ad campaign.
If a brand wants to hike their cooking oil product sales, all they can think is to put three women inside the kitchen, let them dance as food magically cooks: And there you go voila!
You have a successful ad campaign!
Photo: Hania Amir’s Dastak Cooking Oil TVC.
How about an ad for a fizzy drink? Doll up a girl, have her gulp down spicy hot food, make her swear and they’ve gotten your attention!
The issue is not bad copy or content or rather lack of better ideas but a mindset that is so wholly fixated on investing in eroticising women, subtly or blatantly entertaining the male gaze.
Rudimentary in this paradigm that is money-driven, anything goes when it comes to the whims of its moral and ethical compass, which has no bounds but a varied spectrum in its shades of grey.
It is no surprise that our culture factory, the media and ad industry produces content that more than occasionally and subliminally, cater to our deepest darkest fetishises and desires.
This male gaze phenomena has in fact contributed to the disproportion of power imbalance which is in coherence with the patriarchal status quo, propagating women’s real life sexual objectification.
Has the media: ad, film and tv industry collectively littered our minds? Step out on the streets, even burqa laden girls are not spared by the male gaze.
Photo Courtesy: Dawn.com
Again, it is really no surprise what a recent anonymous leak of a letter- by a 19 year old girl- shed light on, depicting her horrific experience of being manipulated and then sexually assaulted by a well known music video and tvc director, inside his apartment.
The root cause is our damaged perception of the woman. This conditioning has passed down generation to generation and it’s safe to say that the media has paid its due role in maintaining and validating this power structure.
And with the wave of narratives based on women empowerment there are a handful of campaigns that have started a meaningful dialogue but do we as an industry lack common sense for producing better ads that are value driven and not just attention seeking?
Considering the rise of Aurat March, as women protested against oppression and for equal rights through all kinds of messages (obscene or dignified), challenging the enduring dominance of the masculine and patriarchal structure, the fragile egos of many men seem to be shaken up.
Photo Courtesy: Asif Hassan
Although it sounds dark, but this quote from Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek from the documentary, ‘The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema’, sums up this whole psychosexual dilemma aptly!
There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural about human desire. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire. Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what to desire, it tells you how to desire.- Slavoj Zizek
We reviewed ads that used their marketing from a woman’s perspective, for Woman’s Day.
Read here: Pakistani Brands on Woman’s Day