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Add Same-Sex and stir

The new formula for advertising success means tackling gender issues

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I'm sure many of us have the habit of switching television channels during commercial breaks. So perhaps the mark of true creativity in the ad-making world is when we don't do that _ when a commercial grabs our attention and we stick to watching it instead of shunning it. 

In the world of multimedia, advertisements have progressed from a mere product-pushing medium to a means passing on inspirational messages. A number of ads are, admirably, created with a greater purpose than just "selling things". They give society a statement, a challenge, or an idea on various important issues.

But some of the best ads do both: they can make a statement and push a product.

An ad for Amazon's Kindle e-reader caused quite a bit of buzz online recently, since it featured a gay relationship. The title of the ad is Husbands: a man and a woman who seems to be strangers are lounging by the beach, each with a tablet. The man hopelessly tries to read the screen against the sun's glare, while the woman has none of that trouble with her new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Next thing we know, the man has purchased a new Kindle and he suggests to the woman that they should celebrate. The woman points out that her husband is buying her a drink. The man smiles and gives us the hook line: "so is mine", then the camera show another man waving at him from the bar. Cute, isn't it?

An ad can say a lot about where it comes from, a point reinforced to me during a recent visit to Pattaya for the regional advertising festival Adfest 2013. Quite a few of the ads vying for prizes used gender references to drive home their message. There were 56 countries participating at Adfest, and I was impressed by a few from India, a country that faces various issues concerning women and gender inequality.

One of the works that got me was a campaign against a widespread of female foeticide and infanticide in India. Titled "Gender War: How Eunuchs Save The Girl Child", the campaign is commissioned by the Heal Foundation of India and created by McCann World Group India.

In India, a transgender woman, what they call a eunuch, will sing and dance to celebrate the birth of a baby.

This campaign appoints them as messengers and they sing and dance to a specially penned song in support of the girl child.

Also interesting was an ad for Gillette men's shaving products with the title "You Shave, I Shave". Get it? Well, the idea is based on the belief of Indian men that they are more attractive if they let their beard and stubble grow. However, research found 77% of Indian women prefer their men to be cleanly shaved.

So along came a movement called "No Lipstick, No Shave" where Bollywood actresses encouraged women through social media and press conferences not to wear lipstick if their men are not shaved.

According to its creator BBDO India, girl power works its magic: after the ads were aired, razor sales, unlike beards, have grown.

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