- Seagram’s Imperial Blue has launched the latest edition of its widely popular ‘
Men Will Be Men’ campaign featuring Karan Wahi.
- Over the years, this series of ads has told stories from a male gaze, and has normalised often sexiest behaviour that in real-life situations might have been frowned upon.
- Women from the advertising and marketing world tell us their thoughts.
Seagram’s Imperial Blue, a brand that is known for its 2-liner ghazal and tagline ‘Men Will Be Men,’ has been loved over the years by both men and women. However, a closer look at the ads, and the message it is trying to convey, comes across as problematic at various levels. The ads stereotype men, portraying them as people who don't bat an eyelid while objectifying women.
Over the years, this series has portrayed women as objects of desire and dehumanized men to an extent that they think it is okay for men to be greedy, possessive, full of lust and materialistic. Never have we seen a real human emotion in their protagonists. They never seem to care about others in these ads or even for their own family at times. Today, when there is a worldwide conversation on how men should be held accountable for exactly this kind of problematic behaviour, Imperial Blue continues to normalise it and be the face of it.
Taking its legacy forward, Imperial Blue has launched an advertisement titled ‘Crossing’ featuring Karan Wahi. He spots a conventionally pretty woman walking towards him and helps an old lady cross the street so that he can evoke some empathy and catch the woman’s attention. He then sees another woman behind him and takes the old lady in the opposite direction with him, which implies that men will do anything to grab women's attention -- even make an old woman walk twice and toil for him. The film has been directed by Abhinav Pratiman and creatively helmed by Ogilvy.
The ad series excuses problematic behaviour with one explanation, ‘Men Will Be Men.’ The phrase is a justification, for bad, at times overtly sexist behaviour. As if just because men are the way they are, women should accept it, and look the other way. They don’t say it to celebrate their victories and correct behaviour, they use it to excuse the failings of men, which reminds the audience that men are destined to do these things, just by the virtue of being men. In a patriarchal world, these ads just serve as a reminder that male privilege is real. The ad series has also featured women of one kind, with one body type, shape and age, who are otherwise seen as ‘ideal’ bodies of ‘desirable’ age.
Imperial Blue, however, has found a huge following solely based on these ads. The campaign is told from the male gaze, have objectified women, shown them compete each other to get a woman's attention and even portrayed women as materialistic beings who get impressed every time they see a man with a swanky car (because women can't buy those swanky cars themselves? Really now!)
Now are there men who are as mean and rude as these ads portray? Yes. But why would they choose to advocate problematic behaviour when they can act as an agent of change and help bring equality in the world?
Men in these ads modify their behaviour just to impress women. They modify their behaviour, fake emotions of love and care, just so they can grab a woman’s attention. The narrative idolises men who ogle, engage in infidelity, prioritise their need over anyone else’s and only think about materialistic possessions. Here are a few examples:
Enjoying music over women’s safety:
Other women over the woman you love:
Women are gold-diggers and you can get their attention with a car:
Man who forgets his wife’s name:
So, is it about time we put Imperial Blue’s 'Men Will Be Men' narrative to rest? We reached out to women from the advertising and marketing world to find out what they think about this ad series made from pure male-gaze.
Here is what they said:
Akshara Vasavda, Creative Lead, Schbang:
"Imperial Blue as a brand has been insisting for years that men are thoughtless, driven by lust, and desperate for women's attention. They have certainly created a mark in the ad industry with their mediocre attempt at humour and wit. Now their portrayal of men might not be completely wrong. If that is how men choose to see themselves, that's on them. But what is not okay, is their tagline - men will be men. We are tired, so tired of being told that men are incapable of change and growth. At this point, I pity men who are told that they are lustful, materialistic, greedy beings, and that they will remain that way. I'd like to believe they can be better. We're all begging for them to be better. The woman who gets ogled at in public spaces by the very type of men Imperial Blue shows in their ads - she's tired. The woman who has to deal with weak and desperate flirtatious comments by men while she's working - as a doctor, as a nurse, as a flight attendant, as a CEO, as a colleague - she's tired. The men who believe in better men, they are tired. We're all tired of Imperial Blue telling us that men will be men. It's 2020. If men will be men, they can be so in isolated rooms away from the rest of the society, because we're tired of such men. And we're tired of an alcohol brand telling men to continue being that way, when so many of these men probably hold that half empty whiskey bottle up at the end of the night in their drunk stupor, and damage other people's lives."
Vani Gupta Dandia, Founder, CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners- a marketing led business consultancy:
I love this series of ads. This particular one is not the best they've done... But it's in the same vein. Same idea, consistently taken forward. Let me talk about three aspects:
The insight: Is spot on. Of course men do silly things to impress the opposite sex. Of course men have plenty sex on their minds - and it's proven that men spend ample time ogling at women. Alcohol gives further wings to such fantasies so the insight is very real and very relevant to the category.
The execution: They have stayed true to the brand idea for years. It's the best form of branding. You can't miss this series as any other than men will be men by Imperial Blue. The humour is understated and subtle. Thoroughly enjoyable. Done in a tongue in cheek fashion without being offensive. I look out for the next and the next - and thanks to this campaign I know there is an alcohol brand by this name.
The controversy: I can't understand why this should offend anyone. The ads don't portray women badly. They simply magnify how men behave around women. It's biological that men are attracted to women and women to men. Women too want to ogle at good looking men. And sadly our social conditioning doesn't allow most of us to admit it.
A while ago, there was a lot of outrage against the international KFC ad where young boys were staring at a woman's exposed breasts - that I understand. That ad one could argue, perpetuated the stereotype that women are no more than big boobs. But the men will be men series doesn't show women in poor light. The women are dignified everyday women. The men are everyday men - many times slobbish and piggish and foolish - if anything I'd say the controversy should be around creating negative men stereotypes. But then we'll lose the ability to laugh at ourselves. Let's just chill and enjoy the mating game... well done, Imperial Blue! Keep going!
Srishty Chawla, Founding Partner, One Source:
"Men will be men is such an old and overused trope, and it is not okay - it never was. In a day and age when the struggle for gender equality is a very real issue, this kind of advertisement completely dismisses the fight for equality. Today when we need to stop objectifying women and teach one gender to respect the other, the thought process that Imperial Blue is trying to perpetuate - it doesn't matter what men do, it is excusable because men will be men - is harmful not for women, but equally unfair towards men. Portraying women solely as objects of desire, and portraying men as people who will do a good deed only to impress or 'get' a woman and are otherwise selfish and don't care about things that matter, is in poor taste towards both genders.
Today, brands are working towards communication that empowers. In such a scenario, Imperial Blue as a brand has a huge opportunity to explore and play with their positioning. It is time to let old habits and adverts die, and create new stories - positive ones! Funny doesn't need to be offensive or demeaning. I only hope that the adfolk at the brand and their consultancy realise this sooner rather than later!"
Alpa Dedhia- Business Director, VMLY&R India:
“The definition of machismo has changed in this day and age. Here a man is desperately trying to impress a woman (and failing miserably at that!) and expressing how cool he is, is something that needs to be decried. It is degrading and disrespectful not only to the woman but also to the man. He is reduced to a lust machine, where he does not think twice even going to the extent of harassing the old woman!”
Upasana Naithani- Business Head, Digital, Infectious Advertising:
I think we have let a lot get away under the garb of “men will be men” including the ad series. we should stop and we should hold accountable the people who have it in their hands, the power to change the narrative.' I have three problems with this ad series irrespective of how funny it may be:
- How come everything under “men will be men” comes down to the man lusting after a woman in the ad and trying to impress her? Is there really no other narrative to this insight? Or are we not willing to look for it since it’s easier to sell this? While at one side, we fight for a #MeToo, we allow ourselves to applaud this ad without seeing the bigger problem that they flaunt. The ads have shown men as creatures who only think from their genital area. And let’s be clear, they are not. Men are smart, intelligent, compassionate human beings and deserve a better portrayal.
- In this particular ad, the man is almost using the old woman as bait. That’s downright inhuman and how are we ok to see a guy doing this and laugh at it. I understand creative liberty but this honestly should get the men raging. All the men fighting to disassociate themselves with “Not All Men” need to have a look here.
- Can we stop with showcasing women as objects of desire? And only that? It’s downright unintelligent now.