03 October 2007

Where have all the men gone?

Where have all the men gone? Suresh Mohankumar, JWT Planning, Chennai

Simple, they have turned into cars; if we were to believe Maruti that is!!
But men have been missing from advertising and sitcoms for a very, very long time now. With the lenses being focused elsewhere, the media has been full of stories of the ‘new woman’. It has been so for quite some time now. Some call her the ‘post modern woman’. She is highly qualified and her economic independence has set in motion social tremors that are bound to have far reaching implications.

She is the new super hero or should we say the super heroine. Most heroes through out the history of popular fiction have had sidekicks. Batman has Robin, Sherlock Holmes has Dr. Watson, Bugs Bunny has the hunter, and even Anil Kapoor has Jackie Shroff. So it should come as no surprise that she too has a sidekick. Thirty minutes of TV gazing will tell you exactly who this sidekick is. But unlike the sidekicks mentioned earlier this one is an absolute no-hoper.

Meet Mr. Buddhu. He is out there putting on his act to help sell cornflakes, cars, financial services products, cooking oil, credit cards, tea and pretty much everything else. More often than not, he also happens to be the significant “other” in our super heroine’s life.

There are certain traits that clearly mark him out

- He displays symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He simply cannot remember anything especially when it comes to dates. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, or even the date for paying the LIC premium; in fact you can safely depend on him to forget any significant date
- He cannot take a decision. Not to save his life. He needs to be pushed and prodded into it. He can’t even decide when and how to propose to his girl
- It is beyond him to resist temptations of any kind. Even when they come in the form of samosas and jalebis.
- He is absolutely and completely insensitive. He would much rather hear cricket commentary than listen to his wife talk during their anniversary dinner
- He is such a complete dud that he can’t even make out that his house is being cleaned out by goons even when he walks right past them as they carry the loot down the stairs.
- He is so way gone that he completely misses it when some really awesome looking women hit on him
- Taking his mind off something is child’s play. Just get him to drive around a little bit and he will even forget that ten out of hundred is really bad even if its in maths
- His interest in cricket does not mean that he knows how to get scores on his mobile; he needs his son’s help for this.
- It is not just advertising that has been running down men so meticulously. A quick check of the major sitcoms is ample proof that this breed is alive and kicking there. Two and a half men, Everybody loves Raymond, Fraser, The Office, Becker, According to Jim- the list is endless and the attributes quite clear
- Men have an exaggerated opinion of their self worth
- They can’t think of anything other than sex
- They are sloppy
- They chase trouble or rather trouble chases them and gets them all the time
- They cannot express themselves emotionally
- They cannot take a complement or give one well enough
- They are pathetic role models to their kids

The less said on the state of male characters in Hindi Television serials the better.
They are either, puppets moved along by the heroine/ the vamp or completely devoid of morals.

The classic time tested method of story telling, that has been practiced by authors since the time of Ramayana, follows a simple logic the goodness of one’s character gets amplified when it is juxtaposed against the evil of the other. The absolute smartness of the woman therefore has to be juxtaposed with the dudness of the man.

Or should it be? Do agencies and marketers need the help of a caricature ‘him’ to appeal to the woman? Do women really feel more perfect and fulfilled when they are communicated to in such a manner? Isn’t it time to break this stereotype? Isn’t it time that the real men stood up?

Why don't you tell us why you think this is happening in Indian advertising?


  1. The article was really a gud one. I feel the times are changing when women were potrayed as servants and men dominating them. Always in advertising as well as in real world women were always considered to be the weaker sex. Now since societies mindsets have been opened up and the underlying truth of sharing and living has been eveident in todays world I feel this is why the change phase of advertising. Moreover it also changes the way people look at women. And to prove this point in a better and appealing way, show the opposite sex dumb. I think this is the simple formula behind this. Gone are those days were only men had fun seeing their counterparts suffer are being made fun off. Its time they say "Why shud men have all the fun.".

  2. Well, the wheel seems to have come a full circle, going by your article. I'm not sure if women were shown as forgetful but they certainly had a limited role, supporting the man's great intelligence in choosing a particular brand of bike or detergent with beaming smiles. And the only thing that drove them into raptures was a beautifully washed, white shirt. Let the women have their days in the sun. And all of us know men who exhibit some or all of the qualities you've mentioned here.

  3. ya we have created caricatures out of women in advertising in the past; that does not mean that we need to do the same with men. we dont need to pull men down to make women feel good about themselves.
    the point is if we spend time in mining for insights on men we can do work as interesting as the jwt paris ad

  4. A point well made ..It Does make one think on how much of "out of the box" thinking really gets done, not just in Ad's but in all forms of creative endeavor.

  5. There's no doubt that the " Power Puff girl" is calling all the shots today - making major decisions in & out of home. Was talking to a leading retail marketeer recently, who said " customer is queen" . The shift has happened after decades of subjugation. Imagine how irrelevant this song is today " aap ki nazron ne samjha, pyar ke kaabil mujhe..."

    It's quite sad though to see the guys as losers. They r losers in real life; advertising can atleast show them in better light.

    But why fret ? U still find cool dudes in cola commericals and suave corpo types in ads for niche brands... Our 6 pack men manage to make armies of girls swoon with one look or a spray from a deo,...

    All in the game friends....

  6. There is no doubt about growing influence of achievers and performer among women. But then achievers have always been there. A peek into the indian history throws up 'larger and powerful' achievers among women that it is today. The difference is the media. The growth of media and awareness is aiding more and more stories to be brought to the forefront than what was few decades ago. But if we are to scale the achievers and their achievement, women of yesteryears would be in the forefront, than those being shown in today's media, given the situation they were against. Yes it's worth celebrating the new success, but there is more that can be done women given the opportunities they have.

  7. we were stupid in the way we potrayed women; does not mean we should now be stupid in the way we potray men
    this is not about female emancipation; this is about creating better advertising

  8. Actually, a recent JWT study on the Global Indian (see label/archive)shows that there is a sense of rediscovery of masculinity - as a result of the new surge of confidence arising out of India finding its place on the map as it were, men finding success abroad, returning to live unexpectedly better lives, ability to earn much at younger ages, ability to enjoy technology and the huge pride and fulfillment arising out of a "work is worship" approach to life. It's just that brands don't seem to have picked up on these in a big way as yet.

  9. I completely agree on the above arguments, its all about making a great advertising and not to prove a point that who is great and who is not. There are more Insights which can be picked up and taken across in a big way. Its a creative license anybody would take to make it more appealing and humourous.

  10. Just felt a contrarian take might be needed on this (of course I don't have the luxury of a study to quote, a la Mythili).

    Most of the comments made in the article seemed to source their references from TV ads & soap operas. But then who watches TV the most, especially during the day - kids & women. And who advertises most on these mass channels - brands that target them, of course! So, why won't they portray women & kids in more flattering light than men? Doesn't that serve the brand's & their target's interests? Isn't it like 'let's have some fun at the guy's expense, hee-hee'?

    Any takers?

  11. Agree! Your contrarian take can come if we analyse movies! They are still celebrating the Male. Yenjoy while it lasts!
    It's also true that audiences expect and accept different things form TV serials, from ads and from movies... isn't it?

  12. Can it be simple that if you are talking to women, portray men as dumb asses and if you are talking to men, portray them as macho studs! People love to see the opposition being ridiculed. The good thing with men is that they can take such ridicule without a dent on their confidence.

  13. Well if this is the reality Mam then why do they need reservation in Parliament?why do they have a seperate sitting arrangement in Buses......Can't they fight for their right of their own?

  14. Well for one, I don't think the men mind at all. If playing dumb gets the woman to do all the so called "man jobs", its a smart deal. Men are just plain lazy and have finally figured out that all they need to do to "avoid working" is to play dumb.

    Its time the real woman stands up rather than asking the real man to stand up. He stood up saw the world and now decided to laze around and get shown, and he does'nt mind one bit; in fact he enjoys it.