Advertisements today either objectify women or play by the outdated handbook of stereotypes when it comes to female characterisation. But a certain ad has taken this portrayal one (mis)step further, projecting women as unethical. We have been consuming this commercial for Voltas Beko refrigerators mindlessly, not realising how problematic this seemingly funny advertisement actually is. The ad not only further stereotypes women as unreliable, but also tells the audience that conning is acceptable.
- Most Indian advertisements still fail to get female characterisation right.
- A refrigerator commercial has gone a step ahead to project women as unethical.
- By giving the act of conning the face of someone as naive as a mother, the ad makers are normalising risque behaviour.
- We’ve got to stop making lying and fooling others look cool or acceptable.
The ad not only further stereotypes women as unreliable, it also tells the audience that conning is acceptable.
The fridge, which proudly boasts being “Tested by Real Moms” shows a “Ma” investigating the appliance’s claim of keeping vegetables fresh for 30 days. And how does she do that? By conning an unsuspecting shopkeeper into buying back 30-day-old tomatoes, by passing them off as just a day old. While it hurts my head to apply logic here, but no, the lady doesn’t test the appliance using one or just a handful of tomatoes, she tests it by the bucket load. Next, she doesn’t reveal it to the pleasant-looking shopkeeper that the tomatoes are old, even in the end.
This is a rather surprising piece of communication from Voltas Beko. I missed it when it was launched first late last year (though I remember seeing the front-page ads in The Times of India and the chatter around the 'tested by real moms' positioning. JWT (the agency) takes 1/5 pic.twitter.com/VXF8SlGST4— Karthik (@beastoftraal) April 3, 2019
Is this ad trying to say that women con gullible shopkeepers on a whim? Had any woman tried this trick in real life, would we have marvelled at her or be put off by her trickery? The makers of this ad subconsciously reinforce the stereotype that women aren’t trustworthy. That they are conniving shrewd creatures out to manipulate naïve men. We have seen this stereotype being fed to the common public loud and clear in corny 90s films. While the portrayal may have become subtle over decades, the logic behind this ad isn’t any different.
By putting a mother’s face on a lie the makers are trying to pass off unacceptable behaviour as harmless.
Besides, what are we trying to tell kids with such advertisements? That it is okay to be dishonest, since even mommy resorts to trickery sometimes? By putting a mother’s face on a lie the makers are trying to pass off unacceptable behaviour as harmless. But we’ve got to stop making lying and fooling others look cool or acceptable. The normalisation of cheating is what has led to the rise of unethical behaviour. Now we proudly endorse our immorality and wear it on our sleeves like a quality.
It is beyond me how this advertisement made it past the creative team's desk. Did no one find the concept wrong or off-putting? Did no one think that it projected women as untrustworthy? Or that it normalised conning of shopkeepers and vegetable sellers, who have to struggle so much to keep their businesses afloat. It is not cool to fool people who place their trust in you.
Most of the consumers do not find anything wrong with such advertisements, which is why they do not raise an objection.
Advertisements with a misplaced sense of morality and stereotyping constantly find their way to media even today. While we must question why ad makers refuse to mend their ways, we must also ask ourselves, what are we doing to enable such advertising. Perhaps we are not giving enough criticism or feedback to ad makers, so that they know where they are going wrong. And this is happening in times when social media has evolved into an opinionated beast, which feasts on everything in its sight. So it seems that our own outrage lacks proper direction. Most of the consumers do not find anything wrong with such advertisements, which is why they do not object. So before we do question brands and ad makers, perhaps we need to question our own sensibilities first.
Picture Credit : YouTube/Voltas Beko
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.