Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Mette Gabler, M.Sc.

Mette Gabler M.Sc.
mette.gabler (at)



Creating Slogans for Social Change.
An Inquiry into Advertising, Gendered Imagery and the Politics of Change in Urban India



This project investigates the production of medialised messages intended to influence audiences' attitudes and behaviour i.e. advertising created for commercial and/or social purposes. In the context of a post-liberalisation India it discusses the ideas and perceptions of change: it's presence, meaning and achievability, put forward by individuals part of the creation processes of campaigns.

The contextual scenario, that is the foundation for the production of these messages, displays a great economic growth alongside grave social disparities. Accordingly, India has seen an increase in consumerist cultures and activities accompanied by a sheer explosion of the advertising industry and commercial messages, as well as continuous efforts of state and non-governmental and other social organisation creating projects and campaigns for social equality. Particularly urban India illustrates the growing presence of medialised messages and imageries that partly can be described as background noise but also function as communicative tools.

The campaigns in question represent the conviction of medialised messages not only mirroring society but also holding the power to influence audiences' choices in life, why marketing strategies are utilised for both commercial and social causes. Thereby, the linkages between media and daily living are embedded in politics and discourses of change i.e. an understanding of how choices are influenced and change is generated.

The imagery of these campaigns are visual results of deliberation and contextualisation between economic, institutional, cultural and social implications. By considering the advertising business as a site of knowledge production campaigns become junctions of discourses and influential components in greater gender discourses.

On this site of medialised communication that is shared by commerce, state and NGO institutions alike, the visual messages and imagery produced are results of ideas, ideologies, rationals and logic.
I consider the formative processes of campaigns to be directed by discourses of change and ultimately ask questions on what tactics, strategies, rhetorics and images are considered effective to influence attitudes and behaviour. The choices made to create a campaign direct the form, design and content that brings forth the message.

In combination with the contextual setting of these debates and deliberation processes i.e. the existing political or commercial agendas, and institutional networks, the understandings of the world fuse into representational, market and discursive politics. This project focusses on the understanding of gender and communicating change that lie behind the final products of campaigns.
I therefore examine creators' attitudes and perceptions in relation to the processes behind the advertisements and the strategies used to influence behaviour.

The creators of advertisements are key in the production process as they are embedded in the sphere of discursive politics that develop the exact message and imagery that is expected to generate change. Depending on their contextual setting e.g. servicing clients, creative processes, social and cultural belonging and their perceptions regarding change, the individuals involved are at the centre of intersections of discourses that develop the messages that are communicated to audiences. As such the creators' personal and occupational life as well as world-view is expressed through campaigns. Therefore, they are crucial to identifying processes of discursive patterns and hence serve as informants for this investigation.

In order to understand the underlying discursive content I intent to analyse ideas, understanding, meanings, perceptions and realities of the creators as well as debates surrounding the creation processes that lie at the basis of creating the messages. An anthropological investigation i.e. semistructured interviews as well as participant and non-participant observations, of perceptions and attitudes of the creators of campaigns serve as a tool for examining discussions of change.



  • 09/2007 – 07/2009 - Lund University, Sweden, M.Sc. International Development and Management with specialisation in Public Health; Thesis: In Search of Sexual Revolutions in New Delhi. Gendering Sex Education: Approaches for Sexual Empowerment (Given grad: A, pass with distinction)
  • 09/2001 – 02/2007 - University of Copenhagen, BA in Indian Studies and elective modules (Anthropology methods and theories, Sociology, Indo-European Language); B.A. project: Mentally Disabled people in India and the role of the NGO 
  • 10/2005 – 07/2006 - Academic year as Sokrates-Erasmus exchange student at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany; Research focus in connection with a course on Indian media system: Homosexuality in Indian media, especially Indian film; Project: Celluloide on Fire. Der  Einfluss des indischen Kinos auf das Verhältnis von Homosexualität und Gesellschaft.
  • 08/2003 – 05/2004 - Academic year abroad at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India; Hindi course for non-Hindi speakers
  • 09/1997 – 06/1999 - Sønderjyllands kunstskole. (Art school). 
  • 08/1996 – 07/1997 - Business school, Aabenraa, Denmark.
  • 08/1989 – 07/1996 - Duborg skolen, High school, Flensburg, Germany.
  • 08/1983 – 07/1989 - Gustav Johannsen skolen, elementary school, Flensburg, Germany.



  • 2017 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Insitute for Asian and African Studies (IAAW). Advertising in India: Perspectives on gender dynamics and creating slogans for social change. Presentation in the framwork of the class "Einführung in das Feld der Transregional Gender and Media Studies, mit dem Fokus: Gender and Media Studies - Methodology and Research", 10th July 2017.
  • 2016 the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS). Creating Slogans for Social Change. An Inquiry into Advertising, Gendered Imagery and the Politics of Change in Urban India. Lunch Talk in connection with NIAS Support Programme for Asian Studies (SUPRA), 26th September - 9th October 2016, Copenhagen.
  • 2016 European Association for South Asian Studies (EASAS). Boundaries or Beyond? Discussing Definitions and Understanding of Advertising in India. 10th European PhD workshop in South Asian Studie, 17th-19th June 2016, Lisbon.

  • 2015 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Asienkunde (DGA) Nachwuchsgruppe Asienforschung. In Panel 1B, Media und Propaganda: Blurring Boundaries - Overlaps and Linkages of Commercial and Social Sectors of Advertising in India. Tagung, 16.-18. Januar 2015, Burg Rothenfels.
  • 2010 Young South Asia Scholars Meet (Y-SASM). in Panel 7: New Media and social identities. The Good Life – Buy 1 Get 1 Free. Messages of Outdoor Advertising for Social Change in Urban India. Conference 14.07.2010 – 16.07.2010 ZMO, Berlin.
  • 2010 Time for Medialisation. Integrating Media and Transcultural Communication within Islamic and Area Studies. Presenting in Panel III: Gender als Kategorie der Medienforschung (Organised by Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin and Querschnittsbereich Medialität & Intermedialität, Insititut für Asien- und Afrika Wissenschaften, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). The Good Life – Buy 1 Get 1 Free. Messages of Outdoor Advertising for Social Change in Urban India. Conference 08.04.2010 – 10.04.2010. Berlin.
  • 2009 Nordic Conference on South Asian Studies for young Scholars. Challenger discussing Output: Networking and Future Research and participant at the conference organised by SASNET (Swedish South Asian Studies Network, Lund University) 17th – 19th of August , Falsterbo, Sweden.
  • 2008 Kvinnor på topp i Indien (“Women on Top”, presentation of women’s conditions in India). in connection with Women day 8th of march 2007.  At ABC- Aktiva indsatser för människar och miljö. Development organisation focusing on education, health and income generating activities in India and Nepal.  Lund, Sweden.


Teaching Experience:

  • 2011 Gender-Repräsentationen im indischen Fernsehen (1980-2010). (Gender representation in Indian television, 1980-2010). B.A. Regional Studies Asia/Africa, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin.