Titled ‘Word of Moms’, Voltas’ latest advertisement for dishwashers has provoked ire among people online.
The advertisement has come under fire for propagating socially constructed gender roles, and a sexist division of labour.
The ad features a group of four women catching up over a video call. One woman complains about the amount of housework she has to do. Another says that she has enforced a division of household duties in the house. When another complains of dry hands resulting from dishwashing, the fourth friend begins to list the benefits of having a dishwasher, and the other women grow increasingly impressed by the appliance.
The advertisement then ends with the tagline “Tested by Real Moms”.
The Campaign Is Being Called Out For Promoting Gender Biases
The ad has come under fire for various reasons – all stemming from the blatant gender divide it plants in the viewer’s mind.
People are irked by the notion that four women getting on call only means that they complain about “ghar ka kaam” and talk about kitchen appliances in fascination. The video also ends with the women making fun of men, resulting in the ad being accused of token feminism and superficial women empowerment by male bashing.
Netizens on Twitter are calling out the ad for the decision to include just women in the conversation about housework.
Additionally, the title and tagline ensure the ad comes off as catering to “Moms”.
“Men don’t need dishwashers?” Faye Dsouza asked in response to the video.
Why Marketing Household Appliances With Women’s “Seal Of Approval” Is Problematic
Why is “tested by real moms” still a stamp of approval in marketing a kitchen appliance, akin to a toothpaste being “tested by real dentists”? The connotation then is that “real moms” are professionals when it comes to using kitchen appliances.
Not only is the idea ridiculous, but damaging in how, by labelling them the professionals whose approval the appliance seeks, it encourages the confinement of mothers to this space as they have “mastered” it.
Some have defended the decision to cater to women and mothers, citing that the brand cannot help that this group is their target audience. On the contrary, brands – big ones like Voltas especially – can in fact help initiate a change in household gender equality by catering to an inclusive audience.
Everyone, irrespective of gender, marital or parental status, can benefit from a dishwasher if they can afford one, especially during the lockdown. Popular brands marketing household products to an inclusive audience can help translate an expansion in their target audience, to an actual inclusive customer base.
Voltas Has Responded By Insisting The Ad Is “Gender Agnostic”
Recently Scotch-Brite’s brand logo – a woman with a bindi – was called out online. The logo was seen as promoting a patriarchal mindset – the idea that dishwashing scrubs are for women. Scotch-Brite responded within hours, saying the criticism is valid and that a new logo would be launched in the coming months.
However, this progressive approach of accepting their mistake and providing a tangible solution was not followed by Voltas.
The brand, responding to the flak it’s receiving, has denied that the advertisement is problematic.
“As a brand, Voltas Beko has always celebrated the spirit of womanhood in all our campaigns. Likewise in this advertisement, we captured a fun, casual conversation between four independent and spirited friends who got together over a video call during the lockdown. One of the characters in the video refers to how the family has been managing household chores, with her husband taking over the responsibility of washing dishes. This is when the protagonist of the film recommends a dishwasher. Our products have been developed to create convenience and comfort for all our customers, and are gender agnostic,” a Voltas spokesperson said.
A video with only one gender in it, talking about an appliance that is used in a historically gendered job, with a tagline that targets only that gender, however, cannot be gender agnostic.
Brand advertising and marketing can spread gender equality, even when the advertisement is not explicitly about gendered issues. The bar is low. With the history of discriminatory ad campaigns the country has in its arsenal, inclusivity and equality can be ensured in ad messaging at this point, by its simply not being sexist. This latest campaign, however, fails to be even that.
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