Few months ago, Elite Matrimony, the premium service offered by Bharat Matrimony launched a TVC titled ‘My Daughter’s Happiness is Ultimate’. The ad which is currently running on TV highlights the problem of a well-off family, especially the dad who is worried whether his daughter-his most ‘valuable possession’ will be in safe hands after marriage. The ad can be safely categorised as one of the sexist ads, because not only has it taken a very stereotyped outlook, but it should have been way more careful in choosing words like possessions while referring to daughters.
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It is not a new phenomenon, but over the years, matrimony brands have always taken a very narrow creative approach and it has always been about the girl or her father trying to search for the prospective groom. Why do ads show just the same stereotyped positioning in this category?
Commenting on this, Bobby Pawar, Managing Director, CCO, Publicis South Asia said, “The whole matrimony category is bereft of any imagination. On one hand, when relationships are progressing, the communication also needs to be progressive along with it. However, everybody seems to be playing the same card and there is only one Point of View (PoV) in these matrimony ads which is ‘My daughter will die a spinster’. But there are so many different aspects to it, which are hardly covered. Agencies need to come up with different strategies, because brands will always ask them to solve problems, but the trick lies in how differently can you solve them.”
However, Amer Jaleel, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas feels that, though dads are probably right to worry about their daughters more, dads in matrimony ads may not be a fully reflective of a societal trend. “As in the case of OLX where the projected offer was only to sellers but of course buyers came on automatically, these marketers are probably choosing one side of the equation that is more emotionally evocative to them. It probably has a very welcome side-effect. Caring dads and girls who know their own mind, will do good in a different strata where still the stigma of burden plagues the girl child. And maybe a dad worrying about a son's bride could be a subject for 'hawa badlegi,'” he said.
Echoing similar views, Saurabh Dasgupta, Executive Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide explained “The reason, why we see such stereotypes in this category is because of the social ills that are still prevalent in our society. Marrying the daughter off is considered the primal duty of the father and marrying the son off is more of a natural thing. I feel as a strategy, this myopic vision can work in smaller cities, but it won’t work in big cities and towns.”
“The matrimony ads are a strange reflection of the society, gender bias and also the male ego. In this entire matrimony business, till now it is expected that the girl’s family will take the first move. Yes, men are there to advertise, but they will wait for the girl’s family to approach them. As per the stereotype, the girl’s father is the sitting duck or the low hanging fruit and there is always immense pressure on him to marry off his daughter. From the business objective of these sites, they look for maximum subscription and to target the audience who is more nervous and easy to get on. The girl’s father meets all the criteria and this is the reason, why communication in this category hasn’t moved beyond this,” he cited.
Pratap Bose, Chairman and co-founder, The Social Street added, “The stereotype comes because fundamentally in our Indian culture and ethos, a daughter’s marriage is a very touchy and a sensitive issue. This comes more out of protectiveness towards the daughter, a fear whether she will be in safe hands. Advertisers have thus highlighted this sensitivity in the ads, because this is something which comes very naturally. A father would worry more about the well-being of his daughter rather than his son after their marriage, not because he loves his daughter more, but because of certain inherent fears in the minds of every parents. However, if another route is to be taken and if they ever flip it around, it will be really interesting to see the ads as well.”
In the last one year, there have been few progressive matrimony ads as well, those that speak for the rights of the women, their career choices and also highlight the compatibility between the couple even after the arranged marriage. Recently, Shaadi.com has unveiled a new brand identity with a campaign titled ‘My Conditions Apply’, to celebrate the modern women of today-one, who is progressive, career-oriented and one who makes her own life decisions.
Naresh Gupta, CSO, Managing Partner at Bang in the Middle pointed out, "The category of matrimonial is actually stuck in time, though one brand has broken out of it. Bharat Matrimony's new commercials are more about the relationship that exists or may exist between a couple who is compatible and in love. Save for them, the brands have not moved forward. That gap has been filled by the likes of woo and truly madly. There are two facets to the matrimony market, grooms and brides looking for match themselves and parents looking to match make for their child. Both have different motivations, both have different drivers. Today the boys and girls have a different value system. They like to be far more choosy, while they let parents take the lead, they don't give up the entire process. The new reality of parents and children doing it together has not been put into brand narratives. Things may happen I guess."
According to Vishal Chemjong, Senior Creative Director, Cheil India, the Great Indian Arranged Marriage and Matchmaking process is going through a digital transformation. In fact, it’s the ‘marriage’ of technology and matchmaking that has changed the game. While it’s true that most matrimonial ads on TV still show the girl or her father seeking a suitable boy, the dynamics of the interactions and the storyline are going through a sea of change. If one notices, most of the matchmaking ads of 2015 are more a reflection of the empowerment of women in choosing a suitable groom and progressive parents adjusting to the new rituals of matchmaking in the e-age.
He elaborated, “Today, there is much greater ownership of the marriage by the woman since they actively engage in the mate-seeking process. They participate in the process by scanning, shortlisting, checking each other’s social profiles, chatting online or even arranging video calls. It’s Swayamvara in the true sense of the word. But even Swayamvara has to be organised, planned and set up. And who better to do it than the doting father himself. The man who has been planning, preparing and dreaming of the moment since the day his daughter was born. To a great extent the matrimonial commercials are a rightful tribute and a reflection of this parental duty even in the face of change.”