The Times they are a-changin’ – Part 1

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




  1. Phyllis Stone March 1, 2011 at 5:27 am - Reply

    As an observant outsider from the west (US), I concurr. Another TV ad is the one from Reliance where an obviously busy woman in business attire rushes to get off an airplane only to plug in her Reliance device once she gets into the back of her taxi. Totally new disposition of Indian women in society. Refreshing to say the least and certainly the basis of a rapid shift in culture!!!

    • escapevelocityblog March 1, 2011 at 5:39 am - Reply

      Hi Phyllis,
      Welcome to the blog.

      Thanks for reminding us about the Reliance datacard ad, it describes so well a woman in a corporate job rushing to her work. And uses a really apt situation to talk about the need for speed.

      Am going to wait a bit and see if anyone else points us to any more interesting ads, putting these together would make a really interesting ‘reader’s contribution’ post later this week.


  2. srgntpepper March 2, 2011 at 5:25 am - Reply

    the proof lies in eating the pudding. so is there any data that the strong girl positioning strategy is paying off?

    • escapevelocityblog March 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Hi N,
      Good to see you visiting the blog. Hope to see you here more often. Will reply to your question soon, keep reading.

    • escapevelocityblog March 4, 2011 at 6:02 am - Reply

      Hi N,
      Some data about the effectiveness of the Hero Honda Pleasure ads (note – from secondary info only) :

      1. The agency’s brief was to drive sales to the 90,000 mark and help capture market share of close to 9%. Within a year of its launch, Pleasure touched the sales figure of 92,000 and captured a market share of 7.5%. It was also termed the fastest growing scooter in the 75-125cc category by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) India.
      2. The brand is now at a 14% market share and average monthly sales of 25,000 units.
      3. This campaign won the “Effie” award in the consumer durables category in 2007. Effie award (by the Ad club of Bombay) is given to recognize effectiveness in advertising.
      4. Hero Honda Pleasure is currently #3 in market share, behind Honda range of Activa & Dio (50% mkt share) & TVS Scooty range (20% mkt share)
      5. HH Pleasure grew at 50% as compared to market leader Honda (27% growth) and TVS (42% growth). The overall scooter/ scooterette segment grew at 44%. (growth basis sales from H1’09 and ’10)

      Seems like the positioning worked for Hero Honda Pleasure.


  3. Updates « January 2, 2012 at 6:55 am - Reply

    […] about how some ads now reflected the changing socioeconomic status of women in India (link to posts here and here). This article by Shailaja Bajpai (titled Exit Role Model, Enter Girl Next Door) from last […]

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.