Bruises, chess queens and awkward questions – how Indian brands tackled International Women’s Day

As India’s fight against gender-based violence and inequality continues to drive the media landscape, a number of brands took up the cause to mark International Women’s Day yesterday.

Leading the pack was Reebok, whose hard-hitting online social experiment ‘Bruises can be good’ took a thought-provoking look at domestic violence and female empowerment.

In a three-minute film, made by Isobar India, a female mixed-martial arts fighter is placed bruised in a clear box, while onlookers are asked how she got her marks. Many concur she is a victim of domestic violence, abuse or self-harm. 

The film then takes an unexpected twist when she stands up, takes a fighter’s stance and delivers a kick.

Coming as part of Reebok’s over-arching #FitToFight campaign, the film follows efforts by Nike to tap into the Indian female sports market through an empowering message. 

Speaking about the campaign, Silvia Tallon, senior marketing director, Reebok India, said: “Our idea behind ‘Bruises Can Be Good’ was to showcase the skewed lens with which our society views bruises and women. The ingrained perceptions of bruises being violence inflicted, shadows the inner strength of the woman and allows us to undermine them.

“Since combat training is in our brand gene, Reebok honours these bruises as a mark of physical strength and mental toughness that can face any challenge. On International Women’s Day, we salute women who beat the odds and are “fit to fight” physically, mentally and socially.”

Another brand fighting for female empowerment yesterday was women’s NGO Project Nanhi Kali, which tapped one of India’s biggest chess stars Tania Sachdev to uncover why ‘Queens’ still stand powerless and violated in 21st century India.  

WATConsult, the digital and social media agency from Dentsu Aegis Network India, created the social media campaign, which saw the hashtag #PowerlessQueen trending on Twitter in India overnight.

To develop the campaign beyond just a commercial, the agency also created an updated digital chess game, whereby first player’s ‘Queen’ is designed to be ‘powerless’ and does not move at all while the second player’s ‘Queen’ has all her powers. The game is designed to make the first player realise how difficult it is to win a game with the ‘Powerless Queen’. 

Rajiv Dingra, founder and CEO of WATConsult, explained: “As an agency we are very proud of this campaign. Chess is a game of power and we thought of utilising this game to let people realise how in the 6th century we made the Queen the most powerful and yet in the 21st century we fail to empower women.”

Elsewhere, fashion brand Biba took a more subtle approach to the global event, aiming to take down the classic ‘why educate girls’ argument through an awkward conversation.

Created by Brandmovers India, the film shows a young man arguing with his sisters about exams, when an older member of the family joins them.

He asks the man what his future plans are and what he will do by studying so much when in the end, he has to settle down and take care of his family.

The commercial ends with the question: “Why ask a woman what you wouldn’t ask a man?”, followed by the hashtag  #ChangeForProgress.


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