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From Tata Tea to Titan, Indian brands are adopting a new, socially-conscious language

There has been a surge of beautifully crafted, intelligently told Indian advertisements that either prod us to engage in sociopolitical issues with greater furor, or address issues pertaining to gender inequality and same-sex relationships

Written by Radhika Iyengar |
February 21, 2017 6:57:48 pm
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Brands have for long been engaged with the principle preoccupation of selling their product. The ideological landscape of a burgeoning young population in India, however, is altering; developing into a newer, far more progressive self. Brands have realised that merely “selling” a product and highlighting its functionality is not enough. They have to develop unique relationships with their audience. In essence, a stronger, hard-hitting, perhaps even more poetic, connection needs to be established. One that resonates with the potential consumers.

Today’s generation desires to be more socially involved, by keeping abreast with the ongoings of the world. In such a scenario, ad campaigns have adopted a language that is not only socially-engaging, but innovative in its tale-telling. The message alone, however, is not sufficient. Such commercials therefore, are molded in such a manner, that at some point – directly or indirectly – a consumer can relate to it.

Of late there have been a string of advertisements which have a bold, socially-conscious, politically charged bent. Sprawling across a spectrum of issues – from prodding people to abandon their political indifference, to destructing the taboos associated with homosexuality, certain brands and their advertisements have taken on the agenda of being crusaders for social causes.

TATA TEA’s Alarm Bajne Se Pehle Jaago Re!

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A new commercial released by Tata Tea scoffs at our social consciousness—or the lack of it—calling it akin to being in a state of perpetual slumber. In a nutshell,the advertisement is a rude awakening, pulling us by the collar by voicing that we all become temporary activists, fulminating on the streets and social media, only when a brutal incident occurs. When the news dies out, so does our interest and we curl back into sleep-mode.

TITAN’s #MombyChoice

Women empowerment stories too, are finding a platform, told through well-crafted, beautifully shot ad stories. Commercials released by Titan Raga for women are a strong example. Their tag line, “Khudh se naya rishta” (A new relationship with oneself), encourages women not to allow marriage, family life or other patriarchal constructs dominate their life or obstruct their dreams. It’s most recent ad titled #MomByChoice encourages women to address the commitments they’ve made to themselves, before looking after their family or other relationships. At the core of the commercial sits a powerful message: motherhood need not necessarily mean that a woman should sacrifice things she wants to achieve in life.


Unwilling to conform to norms laid down by society, it was Tanishq that introduced the most telling advertisement, challenging the taboos associated with women and remarriage. Unique in its storytelling, it began as a conventional jewellery ad, where the archetypal Indian bride – beautiful, but anxious – is seen sitting before a mirror, dressing up for her wedding. As the story unfolds, a young girl (the viewer assumes that she could probably be the bride’s niece), enters the frame and interacts with the bride. As we journey with the central character, however, we soon realise that the girl is the bride’s daughter, and this wedding is in fact, the protagonist’s second marriage. The advertisement created quite a stir when it was released back in 2013, impressing many for its subtle, but progressive, barrier-breaking message. At the same time, the commercial featured a model who wasn’t conventionally “fair”, thereby trampling over society’s inherent obsession with fairness.

MIA by TANISHQ – #BestAtWork

The ad introduced a new identity for Indian advertisements, one that has been increasingly adopted of late. Since then, Tanishq has released a plethora of other ads, highlighting that women must never cow down to patriarchal norms and even challenge unequal work environments.

ARIEL’S #ShareTheLoad

In similar vein, gender equality is another theme being vigorously woven into the fabric of modern advertising in India. While a majority of food and washing machine brands continue to perpetuate conventional gender roles, some are are working hard at changing the narrative associated with women and domesticity. For instance, Ariel released its Share The Load campaign, that showed the problematic gender dynamics at home. In modern India, while women have begun working like men, at the end of the day, when they return home, they still have to do the household chores, while their husband kick off their shoes, sit back and relax. The #ShareTheLoad campaign questions this lopsided husband-wife/man-woman equation.


Brands are also taking the opportunity to fearlessly demystify taboos associated with homosexuality, by re-tuneing the way romantic relationships are portrayed on television. From Close-Up’s #BreaktheBarrier campaign, which features a same-sex relationship, while also debunking myths relating to age and race when it comes to love; to Myntra’s The Visit (for the clothing line Anouk), which featured a beautifully intimate lesbian couple, meeting the parents for the first time, these ads are thrashing the hetero-normative monoliths with eloquence and grace. While celebrating the beauty in same-sex relationships, The Visit also subliminally conveyed the modern thinking Indian parents should adopt, since it showed that the parents of one woman interested in meeting her partner.

When the ad released in 2015, it was a bold move made by Myntra, since there was a possibility that the ad could have spiraled into a whirlpool of controversies or received twitter backlash, but many showed their appreciation and support for the commercial. Considered to be “India’s first lesbian ad”, it significantly marked how same-sex relationships needed to be recognized, accepted and enter mainstream conversations.

These artfully created, well-thought out advertisements anchored in profound social messages could be recognized as instruments that topple conventional thinking. These ads are the purveyors of a new ideology, one that encourages inclusivity and openness. Thankfully, this is a move in the right direction.

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