Major change in portrayal of women in ads: IAA-Hansa study

11 Dec,2014


By A Correspondent


While 57 per cent of professionals in three metros still believe that advertisements have not been able to portray the actually status of women in the country, there is a strong sentiment that education, financial independence and decision-making power have helped bring about a change in the portrayal of women in advertising in the country.


This has been determined by a special study conducted by the India chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA India) and Hansa Research. The study was conducted amongst 94 top A&M professionals from three cities.



Senior industryfolk speak at IAA Seminar


The IAA Hansa research study has predicted India’s victory over the war on gender equality. It notes that about 91 per cent men and women say that ‘Women are shouldering equal responsibilities with men in the family’. The research was done across three metros of Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai amongst senior Marketing Managers and Creative Directors of advertising agencies, the people involved in the final outcome of much of the advertising we see in media today


The research further suggests that this is the outcome of women’s education, financial independence, becoming a bread earner, self-realisation of her rights and emergence of women as many role models.


The IAA India Chapter had commissioned this research study and Hansa Research came forward to do this study at cost. The study was unveiled at the IAA Seminar on Changing Trends in Portrayal of Women in Indian Advertising released at a seminar on Wednesday, December 10 in Mumbai.


The Seminar was conducted in association with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), well-known NGO Laadli and the Advertising Council of India (ACI).


Srinivasan K Swamy

Said Srinivasan K. Swamy, President, IAA India Chapter & Vice President – Development, Asia Pacific, IAA and Chairman & Managing Director, R K SWAMY HANSA Group: “IAA has been conducting a host of activities for the benefit of the industry and society. This was yet another initiative which clearly underlines our commitment to the philosophy that what is good, is good for business.”


Added Monica Tata, Managing Director HBO India Pvt Ltd and Chairperson of “Changing Gender Frames” “I am delighted with the findings of the study. While the sentiment around the messaging a few years ago was that it was reinforcing the stereotypes, India is clearly showing signs of moving towards a more progressive society where women are perceived as equals.”


The seminar was addressed by senior marketers, advertising leaders and amongst others. These being: Colvyn Harris (JWT, ACI), Dr AL Sharada (Laadli), Dr Sonya Mehta (Psychologist), Sanjay Tripathy (HDFC Life), Sam Balsara (MadisonWorld, ASCI), Sonal Dabral (DDB Mudra), Geetu Verma (Unilever), K V Sridhar (Sapient Nitro) and Rajat Ray (UNFPA).  The last session saw an engaging discussion with actors Dia Mirza, Richa Chadda along with Anuja Gulati and Monica Tata.


The following are the highlights of the study:

:: Women today have come out of their closet and are proving their worth. Almost all professionals are of the view that the women of today are ambitious and are shouldering equal responsibilities with men (91%)

:: But as we delve deeper, things are not that rosy. High association scores on statements like  Marriage is more a  social necessity for women as compared to men (53%), women empowerment is restricted to upmarket households (44%), men normally judge a woman on the basis of beauty and sex appeal (56%) suggest that there exists a difference in the intended versus actual status of women in the society

:: Though women (especially educated women) have come a long way in proving their mettle at the workplace (96%), objectification of women is still prevalent. The views expressed by the professionals about the statement – Men normally judge a woman on the basis of beauty and sex appeal (56%) substantiates this.

:: But the winds of change have started blowing. 80% professionals believe that there has been a steady awareness towards giving women their due and not mistreating them, which is reassuring

:: The refreshing change in the attitude is that people are challenging the age old beliefs and believe in giving women due respect they deserve in the society. With more and more women joining the workforce and not being restricted to the four walls of their home, it’s important for other family members to be supportive of her. Almost all professionals disapprove of the statement that Housekeeping is women’s work (85% disagreeing), Men who do household chores are effeminate (90% disagreeing) and women should give up their jobs if family needs are more (84% disagreeing). This is indeed encouraging.

:: One of the other gender stereotypes is that for a women being independent and doing things on her own is sometimes perceived as way too modern and not respecting the cultural values. With only 18% agreeing with the statement that Women today are losing a sense of their culture and becoming too modern suggest that there has been a change in the mindset of people towards providing women their own space.

:: The portrayal of women is no more synonymous with merely homely (69%), individualistic (64%) or just being provocative (49%). Today’s women are being portrayed much more than these. They are shown as multi taskers (93%),  energetic (94%), self confident (86%) and modern (87%) in advertising.

:: Considerable proportion of professionals (52%) feel that advertisements have not been able to portray the actual status of women in society; particularly those in advertising (57%)

:: However, half of the professionals are of the opinion that there has been a significant change in the way women are being portrayed in advertising

:: Education (90%),  Financial independence(82%) and decision-making power (76%) are the key factors which have brought about a change in the portrayal of women

:: While most professionals feel that the trend is sustainable, it rests on the fact that marketers now look at women as a potential segment which will facilitate growth; thereby making it important to tap the potential of this segment which is now experiencing independence on the financial as well as decision making front.

:: Some of the advertisements cited as the flag bearer of this change are Airtel (Wife as a Boss ad), Tanishq (remarriage ad) and Bournvita (Mother training her kid). These advertisements are able to challenge the gender stereotypes and confront head-on issues, which were hitherto considered taboo. The key tak-away is that advertising, where the gender stereotypes are challenged, are received well and people are noticing the change.

:: While there seems to be a change in the portrayal of women in advertising due to her newer roles, there still seems to be a lot of opportunity to explore various facets of women and showcase them in advertising




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