Selling the idea of ‘family’

The ads for Olpers, National Foods and Habib Banaspati all look and feel the same - simply because of their stereotypical portrayal of the family.

Shoaib Qureshi July 29, 2010
If we look around us, we see a lot more working women, some single parent families, many grandparents raising children, but advertising is still shying away from reality.

So why still this fascination with the stereotypical portrayal of family in advertising when the reality is that life is fast changing?

The big question is: does this fascination with old fashioned families in advertising really work?  Women in traditional domestic roles? Joint families? I raise this question in the context of the social break down of the traditional family values, structures and systems that are so visible all around us.  We see modernism creeping into  families all around us.  Even if they have not acquired a modern outlook, they have a modern mind and heart which challenges the old school thought.

This is the question that I want to raise and also try to answer in this piece with the intent to encourage advertising professionals to challenge the norm if a creative breakthrough is to be achieved in Pakistani advertising - even when they want to do their favorite family based ad!

Do ads with old fashioned families work?

I think the question here is who likes to see this stereotypical image of family?  I believe that a “man” (as husband) and his mother (or the mother in law) are the two people who like this image most as that is how they would like the family to be even if this isn’t reality. That’s their ideal outlook for a family.  So this portrayal of family should work best with these target audiences very well and brands that target them should continue with it.

But what about the young woman (18-35 years of age) or housewives - as it is commonly said they are the target audience for most advertising?  Does she find this portrayal fascinating?  I don’t think so.

Women are trying to break through this type cast image of theirs in their everyday life so why would they like it to be reinforced?  Women deep down in their heart are trying to break away from traditions, domestic roles and joint family system even if they persist in reality.  It’s not their ideal.  So in my opinion it should not work with this target audience which is key to brand marketing.

So why do agencies still persist?

Because 90 per cent of all Pakistani advertising is made and approved by men – just like the one whose psyche I have highlighted above. I also believe that most advertising gives women consumers a stamp of approval if they conform to socially correct behavior and attitudes despite the storms that may be hidden beneath her. I also believe that most of our advertising agencies want to think of what will easily be approved rather than bother fighting a case for something that will break the mould.

Why should this stereotypical family mould be broken?

Simply because the business of brands is all about creating a distinct position in the consumers mind and heart.  If every brand does the same...there goes the case for positioning in the dumps. Let me explain this further by taking a specific example.  Just look at  the ads for Olpers, National Foods and Habib Banaspati – 3 different brands with 3 different product categories. But they all look and feel the same.  The differences blur for me.  Simply because of this stereotypical portrayal of the family which does not allow the brand difference to come through.

Which brands are best poised to change this stereotype?

I believe brands are looking ahead and are not being held prisoners by the past.  Brands that are young and modern in their outlook can create change.  Brands that are looking to re-position themselves as they want to create a better future.  They can be in literally any product category.  These are the brands that are best poised to break the stereotypical family mould.
Shoaib Qureshi Chief strategy officer for Bulls-Eye Communications
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Sahar | 13 years ago | Reply A lot of ads use this technique. National, Coca Cola, Banaspati tvcs - but why do the families in these ads seem the same? The only way to seperate between one ad and the other is the color of the drink or the music - everything else is identical. great production quality, semi-famous celebrities, smiles all around - but oops where's the product? where's the idea of the product? All I see is an episode of saas bhi kabhi bahu thi in cheap shalwar qameez. I remember the Shaan mobilink ads - those sold the 'idea of family' but they did it well. I actually got misty eyed when his baby girl was born and the grandfather figure parho-ed azaan in the baby's ear. The difference between the Olpers family and the Mobilik familiy is not that one is nuclear and teh other is joint - its that one is so busy being the 'typical desi family' that they have no soul. There is nothing relatable. The portrayal of women is just another element to this. No one thinks. We assume that people want typical desi homes to be like this. Subservient, overdressed women who slave away in the kitchen for capricious bread-winner males. But family is about mothers cooking - and she doesn't look like a super model doing it! Inndian ads don't look like this. Neither do American ads. They are perfectly fine wih showing a house wife in a ponytail and a tshirt chasing after her kids. Our 'super-mom'/sex-goddess/working girl stereo types will translate in ads because they exist in society. Ads are supposed to sell hapiness - isn't something wrong when the families that represent this hapiness are a joke?
Shoaib Qureshy | 13 years ago | Reply The whole point here is about being different from others. Thats what branding amd communication is all about. Thats where the whole debate about breaking this stereotypical family portrayal stems. For me a great example is Surf Excel. Targetted to the same adult women (18-35) audience but you see a "grand parent/child" execution...which stands out unique from the clutter of family based ads.
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