Indian Ad-Age: Not just Cadbury, 7 other classic ads that could do with a gender swap

A little radical? Perhaps. But as Bob Dylan sang : 'The times they are a -changin'

Cadbury recently made a lot of headlines with its brilliant re-rendering of one of its classic ads.

While the brand retained the essence of the ad, one person of a couple congratulating the other for hitting a fantastic shot in cricket, it changed genders.

The original had a man hitting the shot and his lady friend dodging security and dancing in delight, becoming a cult hit and helping Cadbury “adult” chocolate, which had for a long time been sensed as, well, “kid stuff”. The new version had a girl hitting the shot and her male friend doing the same dodge and dance routine. It was a brilliant rendition that also reflected the changing times we live in, shattering stereotypes that ironically had been strengthened by ads themselves.

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Which makes us wonder if some other famous ads could also do with a slight change of gender focus. Yes, the brands behind these themselves might have come out with more gender equal campaigns since, but imagine the impact some of these iconic ads would have if women stepped into male shoes. Or men into their sandals.

Here’s a look at seven iconic Indian ads that could do with a gender-oriented makeover:

Surf: From Lalita ji to Lalit ji?

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Few people represented the typical, bargain driving Indian housewife of legend like Lalita ji did for Surf in the eighties (read our analysis of that classic campaign here). She was basically a person who would look for bargains in everything and haggle down prices at every opportunity, but literally drew the line at Surf. Because Surf was beyond bargaining and was not about the price. It was a brilliant strategy to counter the rise of the very price-savvy Nirma, but well, it did conform to the housewife stereotype in many Indian minds.

So perhaps, it is time to have Lalit ji, a super savvy, finance wiz who will not be fooled or scammed by anyone or anything when he goes shopping for his house. But yes, he too draws the line at haggling for Surf. Because it is a good investment you know.

Ericsson: “One Black Coffee” could become a real dinner?

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Oh yes, the legendary ad that highlighted just how small an Ericsson phone could be (hell, it would make the iPhone 12 mini look gigantic). A young lady at a restaurant is looking across at an elderly gentleman and speaking. The elderly gent thinks – after a period of initial disbelief because she is so beautiful and he is definitely thoroughly greying – that she is speaking and cannot believe when she says “Join me for dinner.” He walks up to her table, only to see her remove her hand from under her head. With a phone in it. She looks at the gentleman and says “One black coffee please.” Ouch!

Well, we do not think it would be quite fair to totally flip this (we honestly were not too comfortable with the ad throwing shade at an age group), but perhaps a very young male student and his lady professor would make for a lovely switch. And perhaps they COULD go out for dinner.

Maggi – ‘Bas Do Minute’ is still the answer, but now Daddy gives it!

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Men might have been shown making Maggi but the ties between Maggi and Mummy have been rather strong. In fact, as we remarked in an earlier article, the “made my mother” factor was stressed very heavily to make Maggi acceptable for the Indian audience – after all, would a mother ever serve her kids anything that could even remotely harm them? No, we will not get into a nutritional debate here, but it is perhaps time to have an ad where a girl runs from a playground to her father and says “Daddy, bhookh lagi hai.” And he grins and replies, “Bas, do minute?

Pepsi – Got a Pepsi, my lady?

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Perhaps one of the most-loved ads of the nineties saw Aamir Khan braving nature, locked doors and a whole lot more to get his pretty new neighbour (Mahima Chowdhury) a Pepsi. When he does manage to get her one, the bell rings and she says “that must be Sanju,” making Amir wonder if the girl whose Pepsi he risked life and limb for already has a boyfriend, Sanju turns out to be another stunning young lady. Sanjana (Aishwarya Rai), and of course, she wants a Pepsi too, leaving Aamir with the prospect of running the whole damn gauntlet again. (read more about it in our analysis here.)

The ad remains a classic (it is an adaptation of a US ad on similar lines) and well, it would be super to have a girl doing the knight errant defying the elements for a Pepsi while a pair of gents play the damsel in distress. And it would be uber cool if the lad after getting his Pepsi from his lady rescuer responds to the ringing bell by saying “That must be Ammu,” and as the lady wonders who this girl on the horizon could be, Aamir Khan turns up. Well, we are allowed to be creative, right?

Raymond: Time for ‘The Complete Woman’

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One of the most classy ads of the eighties and nineties was Raymond’s iconic “The Complete Man” ad campaign. Accompanied by gentle music, the campaign showed men of different ages acting like gentlemen in the true sense of the word – reading books to the elderly, playing with puppies, bidding sad farewells to students….and a lot more. It was beautiful and touching, and honestly, challenged the macho man stereotypes of even that day and age.

Raymond does have clothing for women, so how amazing would it be if there could be a similar series around women, showcasing their lesser known strengths. In a gentle manner, and yes, we insist on the same piano-driven music.

Asian Paints: Mera wala cream shade, said the guy!

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Asian Paints’ Mera wala cream shade ad featuring a wife obsessing over a shade of paint and driving her husband batty in the process did drive home the point that Asian Paints had a really wide array of colours. It also strengthened the henpecked husband and “all women do is worry about colours” stereotype. So perhaps it is time to have a man tossing a tantrum over the colour and his lady friend digging it out for the temperamental one. And yes, he totally can blow his top over demanding the perfect cream shade as well — perfectly acceptable. Pink would be even better — it has been yoked to women for far too long. After all, colours matter to men too, you know. After all, it was a man who famously said, “They can have any colour they want as long as it is black.”

Seagram’s Imperial Blue: Men will be men, and thank God, women will be women

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Seagram’s Imperial Blue ad campaign, with its stress on men gazing longingly at women and often putting up false fronts to impress them, has raised many a feminist hackle. And even some male ones, with quite a few men resenting the implication that all men behave similarly (no, we are not getting into a #NotAllMen discussion here). Perhaps a slight change of gender stress would help. But instead of women looking at men with unfulfilled desire (which is simply the other side of a not too pleasant looking coin, in our opinion), it would be more sensible if women were shown just doing their own thing instead of being subjects of the male gaze. Stuff as simple as walking out of a room to feed a dog, sitting with a kitten as a date to watch TV, taking a drive through the hills with just the air for company…if men will be men, thankfully women will be women, even without them.

A little radical? Perhaps. But as Bob Dylan sang: ‘The times they are a -changin‘.

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