‘Glocal’ Advertising: How To Re-claim Your ‘Miracle’ Husband

My assignment for Media, Culture and Globalization (Prof. Radha Hegde, NYU) right here- this later was re-published at Youth ki Awaaz on Nov, 18 2011! 

Here is the Link ::


 Five years ago, a popular advertisement found its way into over a million Indian hearts. (This advertisement can be viewed at at http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=mTX_wOqP_HQ_).

It evoked empathy and provoked a reaction hence was extremely effective, having tapped into the Indian psyche. Was it a ‘patriotic’ theme? Did it popularise an ‘all-Indian’ brand making a global impact? Did it have Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan endorsing the secret of one’s success? No to all of the above. Rather it was of the multi-national cosmetic giant Ponds unveiling its ‘revolutionary’ product called Ponds Age Miracle which, launched with an ambitious campaign that promised ‘Younger looking skin in 7 days or Your Money back Guarantee.’ (www.ponds.in)

The disturbing premise of the ad was that the 21st century urban or peri-urban, educated and affluent Indian woman is far from being ‘emancipated’ from the age-old ideal of being the ‘good wife who must satisfy her husband’s needs’ in every possible way. The ad artfully implied that regular usage is the one-stop solution to all marital problems, priced at a mere Rs. 120-549 in a package of moisturers, facewash, scrubs, under-eye treatments and masks !

The advertisement pre-supposed that every Indian woman touching thirty is either just married or has been married a couple of years to her ‘ideal’ husband. A reasonable assumption as a single woman in her 30s is still heavily frowned upon in her country. As the beauty of her youth diminishes with age, so does her husband’s constant loving attention – so what can she do to reclaim the workaholic or disinterested man she is married to, other than pine for the man he used to be ? The answer: Make her skin look younger in 7 days. And then, as the ad promises, she can celebrate with him when he remembers their 8th wedding anniversary after having forgotten their 2nd one or be showered with flowers, kisses, jewellery, a home-cooked meal, or in short every form of attention a woman could possible crave for!

The ad had capitalised on every Indian woman’s fears – that in the globalised world of a thousand distractions for the married man, and where no amount of professional success or wealth can restore a ‘good Indian marriage’, an anti-ageing cream certainly can! It was a stupendous success as a marketing strategy, unlike that of its competitor, Olay Total Effects which released its anti-ageing cream way back in 1999 in an ad with the very single, overtly sensuous former Ms. Universe who celebrates conquering age and manages to stay ‘beautiful’ without surgical treatments. (The old advert for Olay Total Effects can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqtuO6ldprs) Ponds, in contrast, took a ‘local’ ad strategy after having understood the evolving, but heavily patriarchal society that is India and South Asia. It was ‘Glocal’ at its best, and that worked!

Sadly, the ‘age of beauty’ has penetrated India. Ageing in India for women was once a natural process – to become a ‘behen’ or ‘Ma’ figure that commands more respect with time rather than succumb to the tremendous pressure of moulding one’s body and skin to be sexually interesting for men. (Kishwar, Madhu “When India missed the Universe”) Nowadays, a number of ads, writings and media have their central focus on age or the culture of beauty. Beauty as a sense is being homogenised to one colour, shape and size for women of all ages. E.g. the August 2011 edition of Vogue, India calls itself ‘the Age Issue’ where the editor writes “Is ageing a toss-up between nature and nurture? Should you be inspecting your genes or your gels? Are you on a quest to freeze time or flaunt your wrinkles? You can tinker with the package, debate, discuss and make unrelenting efforts to delay the process, but the inevitable truth is this: we are all going to get older and our faces and bodies will age.” After writing in detail about ageing being an approach to life, good habits and also nothing to worry about she adds “Thankfully, there are tools at hand to ensure that you thrive, and that the Age issue, {rich in detail with every product lined up in the market to combat ageing} shall rid you of any apprehensions you have about your birthdays to come.” (Editor’s note – Priya Tanna, Vogue India, August 2011)

I am twenty-four now – Will I begin buying this range of products soon, as their dermatologist claims that, at twenty-five is the ideal age to begin ‘the battle against skin ageing’? Will my career graph or success in India and abroad be reduced to the time until my ‘skin glows’, hair stays ‘sleek and shiny’ and my body continues to stay in the ‘hourglass’ shape that it acquired upon turning eighteen? Will ageing become unacceptable?

Madhu Kishwar writes “As the culture of beauty … takes root in India, it will erode some of the areas of strength traditionally available to women in India. It brings in vicious forms of competitiveness among women and makes them self-hating …and begin to look upon other women as rivals and competitors, desperate for a certain kind of male attention. It makes them more and more uni-dimensional creatures who are more easily manipulated by men because they see themselves mostly through the eyes of men.” It is indeed a healthy fear stemming from a concern – by just another aggressive advertisement and campaign for one of the many products available in this Globalised world.



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