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Seeta and Geeta

Yesterday I saw an ad commercial of a car which bothered me a bit. It was not a great piece of communication, either in strategic intent or in execution. But that was not the reason for my dismay. It was the stereotyping that goes on in Indian advertising even to this day that alarmed me.

The story line, if it indeed can be called that, went something like this – A cool dude is shown driving the car in question. He sees a girl waiting by the kerb for a lift and veers to offer her one. She comes forward when suddenly he swerves away, and takes a violent u-turn. Why? Because he has just spotted a girl on the other side; who we presume he is more attracted to, and turns to offer her a lift instead.

To showcase that the second girl is more attractive than the first, she is shown wearing a short dress versus the salwar suit the first girl is dressed in, and has smartly bobbed hair versus long hair and so on.

This typifying continues to be prevalent in ad commercials, ad nauseam. So if you wear a sari you are an aunty or a mummy, if you wear a salwar suit, you are a behenji, and if you wear a dress, you are hot and happening and thus attractive to men.

It reminds me of one of our management trainees who came back from doing a survey in a small town, and was very shocked to see women in saris driving two wheelers there! To this day I haven’t been able to figure out what shocked him more; that women were driving two wheelers or that women wearing saris were driving two wheelers. And in case it was the later, what then should be the ideal dress code for women if they do want to drive?

Thankfully unlike advertising commercials, real life is neither linear nor typical. It has interesting people like Usha Uthup. If she had been living in the imaginations of our advertising buddies, she would have been wearing short black dresses, to go with the western songs she sings, you see. But look at her – kanjeevarams, gajras and Adidas keds redecorated to match her saris. Wow!

Although in the confines of our creative friends’ minds; I am sure she only materializes to sing classical bhajans!