I am currently analyzing soap/cleaning detergents television adverts in Kenya. I have been looking at adverts from the 1990s to present. 1990 is particularly significant in Kenyan television because that is when the first privately owned television stations like KTN, begun to operate. The government owned television KBC had been in operation since 1962. The coming of KTN brought a significant change in tv content. The two stations begun to compete for viewership and this then meant an improvement in tv content.
The nature of the tv adverts I have been studying is an interesting thing to study. Apart from them being used to lure consumers to buying the products, several other themes emerge. These themes are just a confirmation of the issues that emerged during interviews I conducted with media producers and media consumers.
In most of the analyzed tv soap adverts, women are the main characters. In African context, women are meant to play the role of home keeping where they perform duties such as taking care of the children, cooking and cleaning. Their professional nature and status in society does not matter. Cleaning seems to be a reserve of the women. This is the reason why they become significant in tv adverts for cleaning agents.
In the adverts, women are captured washing clothes, cooking, taking care of their children or simply watching over them. The setting of most of these tv adverts is at home where women are seen engaging in their daily chores. In instances where men are captured in the adverts, they are seen in their workplaces as engineers/mechanics, where their clothes get soiled and their wives have to clean them to remove the toughest stains using the soap detergents. The women’s role in taking care of their children is also revealed in the videos. They clean their dirty clothes using the detergents.
One other notable thing in most of the adverts is the silence of the women characters. Their voices are hardly heard. They are only seen but not heard. The voice over in most of the adverts are done by men with very deep voices. This advances the idea that women in African context are discriminated, suppressed, and are not meant to speak but to be seen. The silence of the women means that they are not supposed to make any decisions. Women in African context are discriminated and silenced.
The soap adverts have also been used to advance the dominance of men in the Kenyan society. Beginning with boys, the adverts reveal that they men are meant to be bold and strong. The young boys in most of these adverts are seen in the playfield playing without minding if they would get dirty or not. They have this idea that the women will clean their soiled garments. The same applies to men. In the adverts, they are characterized by boldness, energy, power and working. They are not home makers but they are providers. Boys and men do not involve themselves in homemaking and cleaning activities.
There are other several themes emerging from the tv soap adverts which are relevant to Dirtpol project. The overriding theme is that women are homemakers and cleaning is a reserve of women in the society.