A balanced representation of the genders in advertising is an incomplete conversation if we only look at how women are represented. Men in ads are held up to similar (but not equal) standards and more often than not, they tend to be slotted in stereotypical silos. Shinmin Bali of BrandWagon analyses the usual men we find in advertising
They are majorly seen in ads from players in the BFSI category. They are responsible fathers; mostly shown sacrificing their today to make their family’s tomorrow better. Finance is his thing. Also if he is one of the progressive ones and we do see his wife in the ad, he will be seen training her on how to drive or manage finances — basically prepare her for a life after him in case he passes away. K V Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer, HyperCollective, says a brand needs to define when it wants to portray responsibility. “Even the ads that show the ‘responsible’ father, don’t say what makes that particular character responsible or what the term means for the brand,” he says. “Is a father in the ad responsible because he bears a wooden stick or is a stickler for rules like homework at 5pm, come rain or shine?”
The dad in Ariel’s Share the Load ad who could have used the ‘I am set in my ways and it is too late for me to change’ argument but did not, and even the father-in-law in the recent All Out campaign #StandByToughMoms are a welcome break in the portrayal of men in advertising.
The dumb husband
He is work in progress, usually someone who needs intermittent herding towards the right direction of either action or thought. Take Lloyd’s washing machine ad for example, it was the literal portrayal of a man oblivious to the extent where he hasn’t ever questioned why the use of a washing machine should only be a woman’s domain, but is sure in his biases that washing is by default a woman’s job. Sometimes, he is also the 40-something man whose wife is his chaperone at parties waiting to swat his hands off desserts if he so dares to grab one.
The chic magnet
This is the space of the charmer, the stud and sometimes, also the everyday wannabe looking to become the hot property in his college, office, etc. He knows it is his time to arrive and he needs to act, dress, smell and talk the part. He is the charmer in the Set Wet Sada Sexy Raho campaigns. Lately, it has also come to be ‘Kunal’ from the Wild Stone ads, where one shot of deo is enough. Also, it includes the man we see diving off into the azure waters in Davidoff Cool Water commercials. This segment also lends itself to outlandish scenarios, as previously observed in Axe commercials and can wander away from reality. Madhu Dutta, head — marketing, Raymond points out that bringing the aspect that deos can be gifted to friends and family is a natural function of the product versus the other version of deo advertising which has women falling all over you. She adds, “In today’s context, a lot of brands are choosing to be as real as they can. The more real you are as a brand, the more attractive the proposition to tell a story or to weave an idea.”
The everyday guy
He is the man in the much loved Imperial Blue Men Will Be Men ads. He is also Nescafé’s stammering stand-up man. He is the one in the motorbike ads who remembers to wear the helmet and brakes at the right moment, irrespective of whether it is a Honda or a Harley. They are stereotypical but their portrayal as such is harmless. Navonil Chatterjee, chief strategy officer, Rediffusion Y&R, points out, “While I am not for a moment in favour of stereotyping, let us also not forget that there is always an element of truth in stereotyping. In advertising, we so often put insights on such a lofty pedestal. Well, stereotypes too are born out of observing patterns and commonalities in the thinking, and behaviour of a certain group of people.”
The power magnate
The crisp-cut suit wearers, self-assured, centre of attention at parties, somebody that could impress the elegant-looking fair lady at the said party. His actions, style and products he endorses say more about him than he himself ever will.
He can be typically seen in ads for auto, premium apparel, alcobev, perfumes, etc. One example is the 2017 Mahindra TUV300 ad where the man saves a damsel in distress from the paparazzi. He usually does not talk much with the exception of that one or two confidently delivered lines at the end of the ad. Yes, he gets the girl, recognition and respect. If creative liberties being taken in the ad are at their peak, we may also be able to see a chateau in the background because he is just that rich!