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Taboo in IndianIn a country that has historically and sometimes notoriously held onto customs that shun divorced and widowed women, one jewelry manufacturer and a single advertising campaign have taken a stand in support of second marriages. Indian audiences leapt to attention when jeweler Tanishq ran an ad in which a woman joyously participates in a second wedding with her admiring groom and spirited daughter. She is, of course, wearing a stunning necklace by the designer.

Bold Statement

At the opening of the ad, it is possible to mistake the young girl for a baby sister of the bride, or perhaps a niece. Once the two are at the ceremony, however, their relationship becomes crystal clear. At one point, the little one says something that sounds in tone like "Mama." The bride looks a bit anxious until her groom welcomes the child into their circle and hoists her up into his arms. The bride wears an expression on her exquisite face of both joy and relief. They will be a happy family, the ad seems to promise. By American standards, the Indian ad may not appear as revolutionary as it has been in India. For Indians, however, it is seen as a bold public statement in opposition to traditional and entrenched mores. Industry magazine AdWeek reports that India is nearly obsessed with the ad. Arun Iyer, national creative director of the ad agency Lowe Lintas said, "[Viewers] may not be going through the same thing in their life, but the ad makes a bold, progressive, statement and people like to be associated with brands that make such statements."

More than One Milestone Met

Another facet of the breakthrough ad is that the model who portrays the bride has skin that is darker in tone than is typically seen in ads of this nature. The ad has resonated in all kinds of circles, talked about by people in the street as well as members of Parliament. Filmmaker and ad collaborator Gauri Shinde said the actors were chosen carefully to avoid the assumption that the groom might be marrying the woman out of pity. They endeavored to find a female model who appeared to easily be the grooms' social equal. The ad flies in the face of the general accusation that all advertisement is solely in pursuit of soulless financial gain. Of course, the ad is for a jeweler who fashions fabulous and no doubt expensive baubles for weddings and other occasions. Presumably, the jeweler is hoping to sell a few necklaces based on the ad. A complex discussion could address the power of spending to change social situations. As one bit of commentary offered, there are wealthy progressives, and they are likely to spend their considerable money at those businesses that align with their progressive ideals. It may perhaps be more commonplace today in the United States than in India to further a philosophical or political agenda through the marketplace. The Tanishq ad seems to be changing all that.

Social Taboos for Women Still Prevalent

The jewelry ad is now a famous, or infamous, example of a possible turn in the tide of opinion about social and cultural rules for Indian women. The ad comes at a time when other long-standing ideas and practices are being challenged. Men and women alike are working against societal situations involving:

  • Opposition to the use of sanitary products for menstruation
  • The sexual objectification of women, particularly in public
  • Taboos associated with family issues such as remarriage and adoption

International Attention

The Tanishq ad produced a tidal wave of reaction in India, and has rippled out across the globe. It may be another example of how media, social media and mass media, can affect change that makes Indians and non-Indians alike sit up and take notice.

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