Earlier this year, Ariel launched an emotional online film in India challenging the fact that women do more housework. Dads #ShareTheLoad, created by BBDO India, follows on from the Procter and Gamble laundry detergent brand’s 2015 #ShareTheLoad campaign.
In this year’s film, we see a mother racing around her home answering calls, dressing her children and tidying up while her husband sits on the sofa. Her father is watching her and appears to notice the inequality of the situation for the first time.
He writes his daughter a letter of apology, saying, ‘I never helped your mum either and what you saw you learnt…Sorry on behalf of every dad who set the wrong example.’ He then vows to start helping his own wife with the chores.
To find out why Ariel is addressing the gender imbalance in housework, we spoke to Rajat Mendhi, executive vice president – planning, at BBDO India.
What is Ariel’s position in the marketplace?
Ariel is a premium detergent brand in India. It used to lead the category but Surf [the Unilever brand known as Persil or Omo in other markets] came in with its Dirt is Good positioning and it repositioned Ariel, in a way. Ariel was all about performance and removing tough stains. Surf celebrated stains and told a more interesting and emotional story about how mums could help their children learn important values of life through dirt. It led to the eroding of Ariel’s emotional equity.
What were the business objectives behind the Dads #ShareTheLoad campaign?
When we started off last year with #ShareTheLoad, our primary objective was to create a platform that would allow Ariel to become a brand that mattered to the urban Indian woman. Last year’s campaign drove relevance and sales and with this year’s campaign our primary objective was to go deeper. At one level, on the non-business side, it was about the question we’d raised last year: is laundry only a woman’s job? Having raised the issue if gender and equality, it was about trying to get to a solution or a means of trying to stop the cycle of gender inequality. From a more business point of view it was about driving far greater relevance and sales.
Who is your target audience?
Being a premium detergent brand, Ariel’s target is the urban Indian woman. These are women who live in the top ten metros of India. They’re both working and non-working women, but the more important part is the fact that these are women who aren’t defined by the traditional roles within the house. They’re not defined by what role they play in the kitchen, in the house or in making sure the family’s running. These are women who are working in some way or other and involved in other activities that define them much more strongly [than traditional roles].
*Through conversations with women and men, we saw that dads not helping out within the house was a behaviour that both the son and daughter learnt to emulate as they grew up. It turned into a circle of prejudice that continued in generation after generation. *
– Rajat Mendhi, BBDO India
Did you do any research about this audience?
The research we did happened after we came up with the hypothesis that there was gender inequality at home.
There was a 2014 OECD survey that looked at how household labour was distributed between men and women across many countries. India was right at the bottom with women doing over five hours of household work a day, while men did only 19 minutes.
A couple of years ago, the Ministry of Human Resource Development proposed a means of calculating the economic value of women and the household work they did. That created a lot of conversation in terms of whether women should be paid for the household work they do and the value they bring that’s unappreciated.
That led us to our hypothesis of gender inequality at home and we wanted to validate it and see how deep this was running among our target group. We did a study with a third party research agency. We spoke to men and women to understand the roles they play within the household and the various feelings they have towards household chores including laundry.
Almost two-thirds of the women that we spoke to said that men did not help with the laundry and the household chores. Three-quarters of them felt that men preferred relaxing to helping with the household chores. When we spoke to men it was really overpowering: 76% said that they saw laundry as only a woman’s job. That’s what led us to this whole thing of share the load.
This year when we were trying to find a means of creating deeper social change, our research pointed to another fact, that almost 73% of children asked their mothers to do the laundry. When we studied that a little further through conversations with women and men, we saw that dads not helping out within the house was a behaviour that both the son and daughter learnt to emulate as they grew up. It turned into a circle of prejudice that continued in generation after generation.
We saw an opportunity to break that cycle by speaking to dads and shining a light on how they were unknowingly teaching their children the prejudice of inequality at home.
Why did you decide to focus on dads?
When we came out with #ShareTheLoad last year it focused on the condition at home which is inequality. This year we focused on the conditioning. How children learn prejudice from their parents and then pass it on.
In this passing down of prejudice we saw dads playing a pivotal role by teaching their children unknowingly. That’s why we decided to focus more on the role of dad in our campaign this year.
It was about bringing out the vulnerability of dads. When the dad says sorry to his daughter one is able to evoke a sense of vulnerability in parents. The story could help enable dads to make a big change within their family and society, helping to break that cycle.
How are notions of masculinity changing?
The nature of masculinity hangs on the definition of femininity. I think femininity is not considered weak anymore. It is powerful and vocal, it’s a huge change agent out there. That has forced men to change the way they have been. We’re seeing a lot more women in the workforce. They’re influencing power.
I think another big thing is how the internet and social media have connected women together. It’s not just one woman against a whole set of men but it’s many women speaking. It’s almost the combining of their voices that’s changing the notion of masculinity.
Another thing social media is creating is scrutiny. Before men could get away with saying and doing things, but now, because of the transparency of social media and people using it to voice their opinions, there’s far greater scrutiny of what men say and do.
Over what time period have you witnessed this happening?
I think India before the 90s was a very, very different place. It was a closed economy with far fewer influences. After 1991, when it was forced to liberalise, one thing that really changed was exposure. With more media exposure and more companies coming in there were a lot more opportunities coming about. It brought women together in the workforce and in the media. Then the internet and social media got women from different parts of the country together virtually.
How do you think brands should be responding to these changes?
I think there’s two things. One is that there are conversations and whispers around us all the time. I think brands need to suss out the changes that are happening. They need to ask, ‘In which places are changes happening?’
The other one is sensitivity, it is about moving forward. The changes are whispers right now but they will turn into roars in time. If you show your sensitivity right at the very beginning, you can become part of the change and become an instrument of change. The alternative is that brands will get shoved out of conversations and people’s thinking because they are still propagating an older way of thinking. Brands will become irrelevant really, really fast if they stick to the old stories.
How can brands encourage more progressive gender roles?
By showing the progressive gender roles. There have been a lot of brands in India that have started taking on those conversations. Nestle with their new Masala Chai communication and a few other brands. They’re becoming part of it by encouraging the conversation.
I think the second way is to find a place for the product as an action for progressive change. #ShareTheLoad is one example, where a man doing the laundry is a step in the right direction in terms of enabling people to emulate progressive gender roles. It’s all about looking at your products, not through the lens of the old stereotypes, but how can it propagate new gender roles? We knew our product enabled tough stain removal in one wash. Because it’s easy to use, it doesn’t matter if a man or a woman does the wash: they would get the same results. In that sense it becomes a tool or an instrument that can propagate a positive gender role.
What results have you had so far?
Our sales went up 76%. We’ve had a lot more engagement with people. We get phone calls, friends calling up and saying they’ve shared it with their dads, their mums, their brothers, their husbands. One of my cousins presented it at the UN conference as a point about positive gender roles, before she even knew we’d worked on it. It’s more than just the sales and the figures that we’ve achieved.
How do you plan to build on this in the future?
We are working on it, it’s a platform that is here to stay.