As per the Indian census of 2001, the literacy rates of women aged 7+ have been steadily increasing, from 29.8% in 1981 to 53.7% in 2001. As per UN statistics, the gender parity index for gross enrolment in tertiary education inched upwards from 0.6 in 1999 to 0.71 in 2006, and the increase in the number of economically active women from 1991 to 2009 was 38 Mn.

Young women, especially those educated and working in cities, now have access to opportunities that their mothers never did, in terms of an education and a career. As a result, in ever increasing numbers, they are standing on their own two feet and are financially independent. Some advertisements for products targeted at young women are mirroring this change, and show independent, assertive, financially-savvy women. Such ads are a welcome sign of the changing times and the evolving roles of women.

There always were a few ads that stood out for being ahead of their times – for instance, a 2004 ad for Ponds Dreamflower Talc which had the Ponds Dreamflower woman deciding not to go through with her marriage when she realised that her would-be in-laws were demanding dowry; or another, practically ancient ‘Fair And Lovely’ ad about a confident woman winning a job as a cricket commentator. But it’s heartening to note that the number of such ads is now increasing.

Have you noticed the ad for Nivea Pearl and Beauty deodorant for women ? And the lady the ad focuses on? No, not just her smooth, beautiful and fragrant under-arms (as the ad claims), but her attitude and what she does. She’s confident and in-control, and the lass is chivalrous too, she gives up her seat in the metro to a man struggling with a load of books. There’s another similar chivalrous lass featured in this Nivea ad, here she helps the mail flight attendant fit bags into the overhead compartment of a plane. The strong lady helping out a man in distress – now that’s what I call equality !

There is also the recent ‘Fair and Lovely’ ad starring Genelia D Souza where she becomes a sports presenter, this one is similar to the ‘Fair and Lovely’ ad mentioned earlier. Or the one I really like, where the young heroine is mocked by her younger brother, but goes on to win a cycling competition and buy a bungalow for her family to live in.

If products marketers are waking up to a changing reality, can services marketers be far behind ? Witness this ICICI insurance ad in which the woman is assertive about making the right decisions for the future of her family and gets her husband to file for life insurance.

Don’t these ladies rock !

And haven’t these companies been savvy about recognising the change in their target audience !


Zenobia Driver