The ad world was always cut off from reality. But must the gap be so wide? While educated urban women in Mumbai, Shanghai, Bangkok and Singapore are now feeling 'smarter', more discerning, and more confident individuals, TV ads are still pushing the dinosaur images of pretty bimbettes waiting for Prince Charming and 'stupid' wife-mum-daughter needing some help with her household-diet-complexion-crises.
New research finds that this disconnect is alienating women viewers, thus failing to communicate the product message.
According to a recent study, 'Communicating with modern urban women in Asia', by leading market research agency, Research International, brand owners are failing to engage female consumers with their communications.
Research International met with 80 female consumers in Mumbai, Shanghai, Bangkok and Singapore in addition to 15 'experts' - educated women drawn from a range of professional fields.
The aim of the study was to determine what worked or didn't work when communicating with women in order to help marketers find fresh perspectives when engaging with this important consumer group.
Advertising which shows women celebrating their newly found identity in images that are optimistic, confident and energetic appeals to modern Asian women. Women in China spoke positively of the Nike ad that portrays a modern, confident and successful woman.
In India women in the survey highlighted advertising that presents a positive spirit of independence within the domain of a housewife's life.
The “Whirlpool mum” in Whirlpool advertising is regarded very positively: “The Whirlpool mum gives you the feeling, don't worry, I am there…She is bubbly and has a bag of answers for all problems.”
'Communicating with women' shows how women's attitudes towards femininity and how their aspirations and personal ambitions are changing, particularly in the case of women under 35 (both married and unmarried) who have an above average level of education.
Of the markets included in the study, Singapore takes the lead as the least 'traditional' and hierarchical and as a place in which women believe they have been very successful. Women in Thailand and India also spoke about a strong desire for greater independence and individual expression.
The study also shows how there has been a rise in women's self-confidence that has influenced their view of femininity. Femininity is now about self-expression, happiness and a sense of purposefulness.
Their feminine ideal is based on strong character and achievement rather than obedience and sacrifice. There is a common trend across the markets of women rejecting past icons as being relatively superficial.
Women today look towards female role models who display a different kind of beauty based more on intelligence, real accomplishment and a strong sense of individuality.
With women seeing themselves more as freethinking, modern individuals who will make their own decisions, they are turning away from communications that patronise them and feature male authority figures.
While some advertisers are aware of the shifts in attitude and are attempting to make real connections with women, many are not.
Consumers in Thailand talked about the contrast between advertising that tries to treat them as 'stupid' and that which appeals to a smart discerning woman.
Women across Asia appear to reject being portrayed as being unable to solve problems or ads which over claim their benefits, for example ads for household cleaning or beauty products.
One respondent said, “A soap cannot help you to become a better daughter, mother or wife…only you yourself can help you become all of those.”