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Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

Representation of Woman In Indian Advertisements

National Institute Of Fashion Technology, New Delhi

Vanshali Sanwalka
(Student Mftech-1)
(Department of Fashion Technology)

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

This is an attempt to understand the underlying logic of representing women in Indian
advertisements especially in the electronic media. Media is the buzz word of the era of
globalization; in fact, the rapid expansion of term and the concept of present form of
globalization have been made possible only through the information revolution
throughout the world. It has been widely recognized that media can play a substantial
role in promoting and disseminating information and are key players in the social and
economic development of women. Whether intentional or accidental these portrayals do
not reflect the reality and depths of either woman or man. But exaggerate a selection of
real life circumstances and assumptions. These images are sexist and stereotypical.
Moreover, this electronic media consciously promotes a certain category of women while
avoiding others. This paper interrogates this discrimination of women in advertisements.

When we talk of promoting a product in the market, advertising is the first word that
strikes us, and just after that the questions arises as of how to do it. Here the
advertising agencies are the one that come into picture; these people are responsible
for simulating an environment around the product that is supposed to connect itself with
the target audience. These advertisements are showcased everywhere, be it in the
newspapers, or on televisions, in the middle of a soap opera. Seeing the increasing
frequency of these advertisements, these agency people try coming up with ideas that
are appealing to every individual.
The shortcut that they found was to use the combination of beautiful woman and her
association with specific areas of relationship with the society. These relations range
from the time of being born till she dies. The motive is to exaggerate every detail in a
manner that different genre focuses on the targeted audience.
Womens portrayals are erotic and soft focus because soft focus is feminist. Feminist is
aimed at titillating men. Add open up the whole area up the whole area of sex that has
been under wrap since centuries. Add do not corrupt attitude they in fact open up a
women to her sensuality. It is healthy attitude to sex. Majority of woman is house wife.
Add people are yet to waiting for working women culture to come of age, so that in
future they can latch on to this life style. They show existing life style. Beauty appeal in
India build fair and lovely complex. This is cultural compulsion. Complex is bound to
exist when you have fairness of Aryan in north. Talcum powder is used mostly on face
by south Indian
For example, an advertisement selling mens brief is depicted in such a way that women
go crazy about the man wearing them, and starts lusting for him. The advertisement
targets the male audience and gives me a wrong idea of getting women using the briefs.
Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

The focus of the advertisement shifts from a mans brief to women wearing bikinis and
hovering around like bees. Here the sexuality and the weak nature of women is being
focused upon, whereby, it shows how easy it is for a man to attract a woman towards
him, also simulating a complete different environment for the product.
These advertisements completely depict the fact that even though our world has moved
forward and women are reaching out in space, the representation of women in these
advertisements are not appreciable and that women are depicted as mere objects,
easily controllable by men.

Literature Review:
I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of
-David Ogilvy
Ogilvys famous quote emphasizing on the utility of an advertisement seems redundant
whilst considering the current scenario of the advertising industry. Though Ogilvy
contradicted himself by mentioning many other intricacies of the advertising world but
this quote would be the foundation stone of the article that will ensue.
Over the years, a very extensive volume of literature has taken shape on the subject of
advertising. In last four decades, the expansion in literature on the subject has been so
tremendous that advertising has evolved into a separate full-ledged field of study.
People engaged in different disciplines wrote on the subject. Works on advertising,
treating it exclusively as a commercial or management subject started rather recently.
Authors like Neil Borden, Martin Marshall, Boyd and Newman, and Aaker and Myers,
treated the subject essentially as management and marketing tool.
Advertising, it is said is as old as the Christian era. One of the first known methods was
outdoor signs (painted on walls and eye catching). Even signs in the ruins of Rome and
Pompeii have been found by the archaeologists that advertised travelers to go to a
tavern situated in another town. Around 1440s, printing press was invented which was
moveable type of advertising. In the 16th century, some organizations had a trademark
with 2 or 3 dimensional picture or sign. Mail order and pamphlets appeared around
During late 19th century, many US firms began to market packaged goods under brand
names. The first product that had brand names was soap. In 1880s, a few brands in
USA came out and they were Ivory, Pears, Kirks American Family and packers. It was
once said, the person who saves money by not advertising is like the man who stops
the clock to save time. Advertising is one of the most important and the most expensive
Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

functions of marketing. According to Mike T. Bendixen (1993), advertising represents an
important means by which organizations communicate with their customers, both
current and potential. It is meant that advertising helps the companies to send message
regarding the product to the target market.
The continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in media
communications - electronic, print, visual and audio - must be changed. Print and
electronic media in most countries do not provide a balanced picture of women's diverse
lives and contributions to society in a changing world. In addition, violent and degrading
or pornographic media products are also negatively affecting women and their
participation in society. Programming that reinforces women's traditional roles can be
equally limiting. The world- wide trend towards consumerism has created a climate in
which advertisements and commercial messages often portray women primarily as
consumers and target girls and women of all ages inappropriately.
Women should be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to
information technology. This will strengthen their ability to combat negative portrayals of
women internationally and to challenge instances of abuse of the power of an
increasingly important industry. Self-regulatory mechanisms for the media need to be
created and strengthened and approaches developed to eliminate gender-based
programming. Most women, especially in developing countries, are not able to access
effectively the expanding electronic information highways and therefore cannot establish
networks that will provide them with alternative sources of information. Women
therefore need to be involved in decision-making regarding the development of the new
technologies in order to participate fully in their growth and impact. In addressing the
issue of the mobilization of the media, Governments and other actors should promote
an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in policies and
If going purely by the statistics, the Television industry at 38.3% is the most dominant
means of communicating advertisements followed by Print media at 28.0%. Radio, the
harbinger of the communication revolution in India has staggered to a mere 4.4%
remarkably lower than Outdoor advertising which is pitched at 6.9%. Online media, a
new entrant into the realm of advertising is as fast growing commodity with 3.4% of the
total market share. The remaining revenue of the industry is generated through
screenings at Movie theatres.
The ability of online media to cap the attention of consumers and the subsequent
growth it has exhibited is no less than phenomenal. Hardly two decades into functioning
for the common man, today almost all major and minor players have attempted to utilize
this effective, efficient and relatively inexpensive means of promoting products. Due to
the free hand that the advertisers and consumers enjoy on this medium misleading and

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

vulgar advertisements are aplenty and exaggerating the capabilities of a product to lure
users to procurement is an established fact.
It is not that the misleading commercials have restricted themselves to the virtual
domain, television media has been consistently targeting for airing the most dubious
advertisements regardless of their repercussions. Respectable newspapers and the age
old radio have been exempted from the muddle of misleading consumers
but vulgarity seems to run amuck in print media too.

Research Questions:
1) Is the main objective of Indian advertisement to portray women as objects and
materialistic things?
2) Has the focus of Indian ads shifted from selling products to selling faces?
3) Are advertisements reaching height of vulgarity so as to appeal the society?
4) Is targeting a set of consumers by using fit and slim models of their age group an
ethical way of selling them the products?

1) To study the status of women in Indian advertisements and to look upon the
perspective of people as to what they think about the portrayal of women as mere
objects to look upon.
2) To analyze the perspective of viewers in terms of the advertisements they see and
what they want to see. And whether they see the quality of the product or just go with
the face selling it.

Research Methodology:
The type of research followed here is both a quantitative and a qualitative research. For
a better perspective of the scenario an in-depth analysis of several
advertisements have been done, and also to see the real life impact upon the people,
sampling of data obtained from a survey have been added to this research. A
questionnaire was prepared to obtain an optimum amount of relevant information for the
A survey based on the questionnaire was conducted among 71 people, 35 males while
the rest women. The majority of surveyed were found to be of age above 25. These set
of people were given a set of questions, both open ended and close ended, and were

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

designed in such a way that their perspective on the representation of women in Indian
advertisement gets revealed.
Data was sampled by categorizing as to what status women holds in todays advertising
era, and are they getting the right form of attention they actually require. Also the impact
that these advertisements have on the civilians or society and the change of attitude
with the changing genre of advertisement is studied.
As far as the analysis of the advertisements is concerned, 09 advertisements were
considered, these advertisements have different genre and were analyzed following the
semiotic analysis approach and their impact on the society and the changing trends was
studied. The face of women these advertisements show directly or indirectly impacted
the society and people as whole.
Qualitative approach:
Taking into account todays changing environment, be it the people or their behavior
towards each other, media has come too far in playing a vital role as a deciding and
driving factor towards this change. When talked about media, advertisements are one of
the mediums that help organizations to reach out to people, subdue their minds and sell
their products. For subduing the minds of mob, what all the agencies do is target the
weak points of their consumers and raising such issues that appeal to them the most.
Taking example of the analysis done, mostly on the advertisements where womens
body is used as a medium to see the product:
1) Wildstone Deodorant ad shows a housewife throwing herself up and trying to
seduce a stranger from neighborhood, just because of the fact that he smells
2) Levis ad An advertisement for a womens bottom, which on one hand shows
girls to have become independent, but on the other hand, focuses just on the
specific areas of their body parts.
3) Any household appliance ad The ads for these products are made to
showcase the status of women in our society is just of a perfect housewife or a
perfect mother and they are best at that.
4) Some random car commercial A recent advertisement that shows a women
giving birth to a baby, while the father is busy driving car, sets perfect example of
how women are neglected in the society and that driving a car is more precious
than the birth of your baby.

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

5) Amul Macho ad The advertisement features a women washing the underwear
of his husband, and while doing so, is shown to imagine him wearing it, bringing
out complete sexual and obscene behavior of a women and also adding humour
to it, making it look worse. Also it is derogatory as it brings out the stereotype
image of a woman.
6) Condoms ad Any advertisement featuring condoms is supposed to create
awareness among people, and not just feature any model in bikini or a sensual
night dress, trying to arouse people to buy it for pleasure. This is totally an
unacceptable situation that too in a country like India where cases of rape and
molestations are registered every 10 seconds.
7) Beverage ad (Slice) An advertisement that linked fruit to sex, an unforgettable
stain on the advertising industry that focuses a women, behaving sensually with
the beverage in her hand, making seductive moves, as if it was a lover.
8) JK cement ad Showing a women in bikini, coming out of the sea. What? Is
there a relation between a bag of cement and woman?
9) Bourbon Advertisers havent even left eatables from their list; a recent bourbon
advertisement showcases a girl, who has come to her boyfriends place, feeling
and acting sensually in front of his friends watching a match on television. The
boyfriend gets rid of his friends out of embarrassment and the girl seems to be
unaware of whats happening in the room.

These advertisements clearly show the stereotypical nature of the advertising agencies
towards women. The industry considers women as an object of appeal to the audience,
not thinking about the outcome that these advertisements directly or indirectly leave an
impact upon the people living in the society. Studies have shown that these
advertisements hit upon the subconscious mind of people so even if a person is not
paying attention to the advertisements, he/she is deliberately to remember it as the
data get stored somewhere in the subconscious mind, making the situation worse.

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

Quantitative approach:
Survey research has been conducted, and findings are analyzed based on the data
obtained. The analysis sample consisted of 71 members in total, out of which maximum
respondents were male of age above 25. The data is tabulated on the basis of
responses obtained and based on the questions respondents were fired with.
Considering the response given by people, in case of males, only 10 percent think that
the role of women in advertising is limited while the rest 30 percent disagree on this fact.
On the other hand, females have almost equal opinions about the scope of women in

(Graph for question 01)

When asked about portrayal of woman as objects in advertising industry, 83 percent of
the people agreed to the fact of woman being objectified for sale of products. This
obtained data was free from gender biasing, as both males and females equally agreed
to it.

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

Are woman portrayed as mere objects in advertisements?



Agree to an extent


Totally agree



(Graph for question 02)

Questioning the surveyed about the shifted focus of companies from selling products to
selling faces, almost all the people, without gender bias, agreed upon the statement to
be apt and some of them even had their own opinions regarding this change.

Advertisements have shifted focus from selling products to selling faces.Is it apt?
Yes, using famous actresses as brand ambassadors to products is there, but if it's presented in good way, answer is not much. 1%
depends on the type of products being sold as more the people advertising it are famous more the products opted for. 1%
Never thought about it
Not much
Very Apt


(Graph for question 03)

And as far as the vulgarity is concerned, agencies these days are purposely making use
of womens sexual side for attracting their targeted customers. And our surveyors do
agree to the fact that yes, the level vulgarity has increased in recent years. Not only is
the women shown to attract men sensually but also are shown to fall for them with no
good reason. Also they are shown throwing themselves over to strangers.
Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements








Here we can easily see with the help of bar graph that there are very less people who
think that the advertisements these days are not vulgar, while most of them agree to the
fact that yes, some of form of vulgarity do exist in the advertising market and people are
selling their products making full use of this concept for marketing.

To what extent are advertisements exploiting the reputation of women by using vulgarity?







The above graph clearly depicts that almost everyone agreed on the fact that yes,
women are being exposed and shown in advertisements with added vulgarity. Their
reputation is exploited and the respect they should be getting in the society goes
missing. The bell shaped curve depicts that most of the people considers and agree
upon the scenario where they find that most of the advertisements these days show
women as an object to gain pure pleasure.

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

Whom would you prefer selling products, a fit and slim model or rather a regular looking "not Photoshop" model?





Slim model

Depends upon the add/product

Female Male

This graph clearly depicts the most important question as to what people really want to
see, and whom would they prefer selling products to them. Approximately 59 percent of
the respondents (including both male and female) wanted a regular model or a
neighborhood face to sell them the products, while 28 percent of surveyed, wanted slim
models, with Photoshop face to sell products to them. A very few of them expressed
their view that the modeling criteria depends upon the product being talked about.

Majority of the advertisements running on media these days are purely focused on
selling products to its users. The worst of products, having neither an ethical value nor
any functional value are sold to customers by making use of pretty faces and sexy
bodies. Gone are the days when the objective of advertisement was to create
awareness about the product and its benefit to the society. Today, major focus is on
selling beautiful faces to customers who die hard to achieve what they see on screen.
The analysis shows that most of the advertisers are making use of women sexuality to
sell off their product in the market. Not only that but they are making use of women as
an object to enhance the beauty of the advertisement. Creating an impact to the user,
not thinking whether the impact is positive or negative, has become the motto of each
and every advertising agency. They come up with ideas that can even make an
auspicious product, mere symbol of love and joy, going totally against the rules of Indian
culture. People who have always been attracted to the American culture, gets highly
influenced by these advertisements and try imitating and following them.
Thus, it can be rightly said, that on one hand, media is talking about enhancing role of
women in todays society but on the other hand, they are completely shattering the soul
Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)

Representation of women in Indian Advertisements

of a woman by treating her as an attractive and beautifying factor without any major
objective in life and also giving out wrong messages to the society.

5.Semiotic Aanalysis By Berger
6.Beauty...and the Beast of Advertising By Jean Kilbourne
7.Mass Media: The Image, Role, and Social Conditions of Women A collection and
analysis of research materials bY Mieke Ceulemans Guido Fauconnier of the
Department of Communication Science Catholic University of Leuven ,Journal of
Education & Social Policy Vol. 1 No. 1; June 2014 84
8.Busby, L. J., & Leichty, G. (1993). Feminism and advertising in traditional and
nontraditional womens magazines 1950s-1980s. Journalism Quarterly, 7, 247-64.
9.Courtney, A., & Whipple, T. (1983). Sex stereotyping in advertising. Health: Lexington,
10.Courtney, A., & Lockeretz (1971). A womans place: An analysis of the roles
portrayed by women in magazine advertisements. Journal of Marketing, 8, 92-95.

Vanshali Sanwalka(MFT-1)