What’s your happy family like?

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani | Updated on September 05, 2013

Striking a chord: Tata Tea’s Jaago Re! campaigns have exhorted people to stand up and be counted. (Above) A concert organised as part of theJaago Re! One Billion Votes campaign at IIT Madras in 2009. - K. Pichumani   -  The Hindu

People look for brands that are positive, share their values and move with the times. Next time, your ideal family could have just daughters instead of the obligatory girl and boy.

Right in the middle of your favourite programme, the channel cuts into a commercial break and you see a happy family sitting at the dinner table eating the most ideal and convenient breakfast or a meal enhanced by the perfect choice of the perfect masala. The happy family in most such advertisements is ‘perfect’ too: there’s a mom, a dad, a girl and boy, maybe two boys. But rarely does the ideal family have two girls. Are ideal families only made up of a male and female child; can’t there be two young girls laughing and spreading the sunshine at the breakfast table?

K. V. ‘Pops’ Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett - India and Subcontinent, says his next mission is to ensure ad campaigns show two girls, for he fears that brands are increasingly enshrining the “ideal family” tag to a family with a girl and a boy. He fears such representation is shaping the future generations. Considering Indians spend a large chunk of their TV viewing times watching advertisements, chances are the stereotyping of the ideal family in hundreds of minutes of ads has a subliminal impact.

Sridhar was talking to BrandLine on the sidelines of the recently concluded Kyoorius Designyatra 2013 which this year aptly focused on “Creating Change”.

As brands strive to form deeper connections with their consumers, they are increasingly embracing socially responsible messaging and positive representation in their campaigns. Whether it’s Tata Tea’s Jaago Re! campaign which has focused on sensitising young consumers to wake up and cast their votes, or Procter & Gamble’s ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign, brands want to prove they care. And the campaign makers increasingly believe they can contribute.

Sridhar believes that as everything is getting more and more commoditised brands are looking for ways to form a deeper connection with their consumers.

“People make friends with other people who have shared value. Every brand wants to form a bond with its consumers. People buy a brand for the values they have,” he says.

Sridhar has been working on positive representation of the girl child for the past ten years. The first couple of years, he just subtly swapped a boy with a girl in campaigns for his clients and, he says, brands embraced the positive imagery. For instance, the HDFC campaigns showed a daughter going abroad instead of a son, and the concept of savings and self-respect. For the past six years he has been propagating the concept among other agencies and has been working with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) to promote it.

Talking about the creative process behind the campaign, he says, “The simple point for a brand is to find a purpose and find a way to make it come alive. It might not work for every brand and not for every campaign. But once you have a clear purpose everything else falls in place.”

For someone who has worked with nearly a dozen brands which show positive representation of the girl child in various campaigns, from Kaun Banega Crorepati to HDFC and Tata Capital, he believes the creative fraternity has a responsibility too.

“It’s a blank piece of paper, you can write a story about a boy or a story about a girl or about two girls or sisters giggling away and making the world a happier place.”

Santosh Desai, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Future Brands says as consumers are evolving in India they will increasingly want to buy brands that are socially responsible and care for communities. He added that brands are almost considered citizens of the community.

But do brands campaigns actually manage to create change? Can they backfire? Desai believes that while some brands focus and invest in social change and succeed, others just come up with a campaign idea simply to stand out.

At the Kyoorius Designyatra 2013, audiences saw mesmerising campaigns from Malaysia. Tan Yew Long, Founder of The Storytellers, who has worked for many years in Leo Burnett, talked about the signature campaigns his late wife Yasmin Ahmad and he created for the national oil and gas company Petronas.

The signature Petronas festive ads debuted in 1996 and since then, have managed to make an impression on viewers, so much so that TV viewers wait for these ads every single year. Whether it’s about promoting unity in the multicultural Malaysian society or not being afraid to discuss sensitive subjects, the ads always touched a chord.

Long said, “Once in a while if you are lucky where the client believes in what you are doing, can something like that be created. But the brand has to be honest about the message. What price can be put on something that we could create for Petronas all the years?” He added that brands need to sell products all the time, but having a purpose strengthens their relationship with the consumer.

Brand analysts believe in the social media age, companies will need to be more careful about their claims and will need to be more responsible. Brand domain expert Harish Bijoor believes that with corporate social responsibility now mandated by law, brands may invest more and more in socially responsible messaging.

Published on September 05, 2013

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