By Divya Vijayakumar
Like every other watch company, Titan Sonata is wondering how to make watches relevant again. Even the dude who thinks asking you the time is still a good pick-up line now expects you to whip out your smartphone.
Titan’s new line of ACT (Application-enabled Coordinates Tracker) watches isn’t following other wearable gadgets which do useful but unexciting things like measure your heartbeat and synchronize your e-mails. Instead the high-tech devices will… yes, you guessed it right, keep women safe with a panic button. You can’t put a price on women’s safety, but if you tried, you couldn’t get better than the Rs 2999 (approximately) which the watches retail for. Press the button twice and it’ll connect to your phone, sending a text message with your exact location to ten pre-chosen contacts.
Titan Sonata’s Chief Marketing Officer reassured potential consumers that the watch is nevertheless stylish and not clunky. See, this way when you’re in trouble and you raise your arms in the air helplessly, it won’t injure your fragile lady wrists.
What is not stylish and determinedly clunky is the Sonata ad.
It begins thus: two sportswomen in a derelict bus stand at night. Their duffel bags are printed all over with the state’s name – Haryana. The tubelights flicker ominously, but one of the women warns the other that the “real drama” will begin if she doesn’t plug in the names into her phone soon. Together, they list out all the men they want as their emergency contacts, their brothers, their fathers, their “Coach Sir”.
A married couple, with a toddler in tow, walk in and take the seats opposite the girls. The manly man dumps the sleeping daughter with his wife, cracks his knuckles and flees to fill the water bottle – presumably because he is afraid that all the estrogen in the room is contagious. The wife asks the girls what sports they play, injecting some false hope that this commercial will let its women be people. Smitha is into shotput and Mitali does long jump is the answer. Smiling genially, she introduces herself as Agni. She used to be a throwball captain but obviously only in high school. In fact, she has a master’s degree in literature. While the two girls ooh and aah about how Agni is more educated than most of their families put together, they don’t ask her whether she is using her degree in any way. The child in her arms is answer enough.
The husband returns and chugs his water. When his wife tells them that the girls are state-level players, he retorts that he is a national-level water boy. All the women laugh indulgently. Now that he has sufficiently undermined the girls’ hard work and achievements, he deigns to offer the bottle to his wife. But she has more important things to do than hydrate. Agni wonders what the two of them are doing out so late at night, that too alone. Nobody need worry about her of course, she was smart enough to leave the house with a man and a mangalsutra. Smitha smirks that they’re not alone, there’s two of them. (Silly Smitha, don’t you see that you don’t count as fully formed individuals.) Mitali explains that they’re travelling to the selections in Rohtak. There isn’t anybody to receive them, it’s not like they’re the cricket team she quips. (Good one, Mitz) Husband aka jack-in-the-box pops up again and walks away.
“Aren’t you afraid?” No, there’s always karate is Mitali’s answer. Agni breathes a sigh of relief that she knows self-defense. Mitali responds that she doesn’t, but her older brother is an expert. Agni looks suitably confused. The girls proudly show off their time-telling, safety-making wrist handcuffs. Their families are looking out for them, they chorus. The bus thankfully arrives like clockwork, and the two leave.
Once they’re gone, the newly-returned husband proudly tells Agni that he snuck out to tell the conductor to take care of them, cognizant of the fact that in the world Sonata has created, it’s the men and not the watches that’ll protect you.
Fade to black and the tagline informs you “ACT from Sonata, so that your eyes can remain on your goals.” And so that your brothers and fathers can keep an eye on you. The makers of this advertisement, and seemingly of the watch, are treating the very women they want as consumers as mythical creatures. Their commercial targets a conflicting hodge-podge in human female form. Or more likely their superior male relatives, who are the ones with the money and purchasing power. This fictitious entity plays sports and goes out at night but only for “legitimate” reasons and only because all the men in her life are watching. Never mind the fact she’s boarding a bus that is transporting her a few hundred kilometres away, she is still protected by the mere specters of these men.
What Sonata is offering is a placebo at best, and a tired sexist damsel-in-distress trope at worst. Perhaps what they need to do is actually listen to what female consumers want – a detail that manufacturers of wearable tech should be spending time and money on. Until then, the only feature they need is an alarm that automatically rings at 9 PM warning all the “good girls” to retreat into the safety of their homes.
I, for one, would consider supporting them if their fancy GPS arm-choker would send my Ola app the accurate location so that the autos didn’t always end up in the adjacent country. Why did the feminist cross the street? She didn’t, her watch sent the autowala the right details.