By Maya Palit
That sex in advertising and headlines sells is an old, old platitude. But a new study appears to be deflating that notion.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, people do tend to remember ads with sexual appeal or half-naked models. But that does not necessarily translate into loyalty and interest in the brand, or more people buying the product. And sometimes, it even put people off the products.
With the Indian ad industry heavily sexualising every female celebrity from Katrina Kaif drinking mango juice to Deepika Padukone licking Dairy Milk off herself, will this market study give advertisers writers’ block forever?
Maybe another trend will jump to its rescue. ‘Femvertising’ is getting pretty big in India, as every kind of product from shampoo to washing machines are using that very slippery phrase ‘female empowerment’ to sell their wares. So Dove India has a campaign which rails against Indian standards of beauty by featuring a montage of women with different skin complexions and body types.
And on Women’s Day this March, Oriflame’s ad highlighted the difficulties faced by women (or to be more precise, Superwomen) juggling a career and all the housework. You could accuse some ads of latching onto the women empowerment bandwagon, and the UN ‘unbeatable woman’ ad last year is a prime example of how that works. But others, as a recent study in The Conversation concludes, have at least begun to provoke conversations that needed to happen — Biba’s Change is Beautiful campaign, for instance, talks about arranged marriage or dowry and men’s complicity in it.
Will the new shifts in consumer reactions to ‘sexy’ ads give us a future in which ads that do not hyper-sexualise women is a real possibility? Or will the new ‘female empowerment’ ad brigade replace them, and is that something to celebrate?