The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ad leaders bristle at survey snub about women

Mumbai, Nov. 4: An Asia-wide survey conducted by market research agency Research International says advertisers are out of sync with the attitudes and aspirations of the modern urban woman, a finding leaders of the Indian ad world dismiss.

The survey says the modern Asian woman is smarter, more discerning and more confident, but advertising has been slow to respond to her needs.

‘‘Brand owners are failing to engage female consumers with their communication,’’ says the survey.

“This is sheer rubbish. If it is about India, it is very na've indeed and may I say the people who are saying this are a bunch of idiots,” says a livid Piyush Pandey, group president and national creative director, Ogilvy and Mather.

“Indian ad communications are some of the most effective and very best compared to what we see in other Asian countries. People find them insipid compared to our work. Our markets are booming and our communications are having a tremendous impact in boosting sales, we are certainly not out of sync,” adds Pandey.

But what about the women' Are the ads reflecting their aspirations'

“India is a huge country. Our ads are not urban or rural specific for most products and have a well-thought-out balance that appeals to women cutting across boundaries. That’s how it works here. We don’t function in straitjacketed niches,” says Pandey.

Called ‘Communicating with modern urban women in Asia’, the survey is based on interviews with respondents in cities like Mumbai, Shanghai, Bangkok and Singapore.

It says modern urban Asian women resent the fact that advertisers continue to portray them in traditional and regressive modes.

“This is a stilted way of looking at the whole issue. India functions differently. I don’t know what has been the methodology of collecting responses in this survey. But there is no single yardstick to judge the responses of modern urban woman in India,” says Prasoon Joshi, regional creative director, South and Southeast Asia, McCann.

“Our experience has shown that a free-willed and independent thinking woman can respond very traditionally in family situations and vice versa. The responses are varied even within the group that you call ‘modern urban woman’,” says Joshi.

So how important or relevant are the modern Indian urban woman’s views in making decisions when it comes to buying a product or driving advertisement communication' “To be frank, she is part of a very small and niche circle. In the case of products aimed at her, advertisements do communicate accordingly. But for a country like India, an ad has to have larger appeal that straddles all the diverse opinions, responses and attitudes,” says Joshi.

The survey says: ‘‘Marketers are continuing to present women in traditional roles and focus on old cliches, resulting in the alienation of many female consumers.’’

Joshi trashes the contention. “Advertisement generates an individual choice with a public image and spendings are still not so much an individual decision, at least in women’s case. At the end of the day, it is still a male-dominated society and spendings or brand preferences in India are largely a collective family decision,” he adds.

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