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Not so hatke

Think HatkeOctober 2009 -- Starting last year, Virgin Mobile India has apparently been broadcasting a "naughty nurse" television ad as part of its "Think hatke" (Think differently) campaign. In the ad, a supposedly immobilized young hospital patient tricks a hot, compliant young nurse in a very short white dress. The patient has a friend call his cell phone, then asks the nurse to find the ringing phone and help him answer; that requires having her reach around in his pockets, that is, in his genital area. Of course, there is also the irony of a "think different" campaign whose central idea is actually swiped from Apple's legendary campaign of the 1980's. The Virgin Mobile ad does not represent anything "different" from the naughty nurse advertising that CEO Richard Branson and Virgin Mobile Canada indulged in several years ago, or from the ubiquitous naughty nurse imagery that has infected the globe for decades, undermining nurses' claims to adequate resources during the global nursing crisis. As for the "thinking" part, we'll leave it to you to compare the ideas of the people who appeared in Apple's original campaign--for example, Mohandas Gandhi--with the idea of tricking a nurse into sticking her hand down your pants for a few seconds. We urge Virgin Mobile to think different.

See the ad in Quicktime at broadband or dialup speed. Or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Think HatkeIn the ad, the nurse appears first to be removing the patient's blood pressure cuff, saying, "OK, you are done," when the patient's cell rings. His right arm is in a cast, though he seems to still be wearing street clothes under the sheet. The patient says politely, "Nurse, I'm sorry, but could you...?", meaning that he is unable to find or answer the ringing cell. At his urging, she searches what appear to be his right and left side pockets under the sheet. Having no success, she gathers up some kind of plastic charting apparatus and heads out of the room. This gives us a great chance to focus on her super-tight, super-short white nurse's dress, and as she exits, the director makes sure to give us a good rear view. Then the giddy patient unhooks his cast and answers the phone. It's his friend, a patient in a nearby room, who we see in a split screen shot. The patient tells his friend the ruse worked. They giggle. The announcer touts the benefits of Virgin Mobile's "yo-yo" calling plan. Last, we see the two friends again, in the split screen. The friend's cell phone rings--the main patient is calling him--but instead of the hot female nurse, we see a male nurse enter the friend's room. This nurse gaily says, "Hi!" The idea seems to be that you have to be careful how you use this powerful tool, or you might end up with unwanted attention.

The main "nurse" is hot, barely dressed, compliant, and dim. We can't say she's trying to seduce the patient, but she did put on that dress, and she could not be unaware that she is presenting as a sex object. In fact, this ad may actually be a bit more credible and insidious than some naughty nurse imagery. Here the "nurse" is not actively seeking to have sex, but instead, seems to be just trying to do her job, as a real nurse might. Of course, this "nurse" is essentially a provocatively dressed model, and easily fooled--although she does not seem to know it, what happens to her is degrading, if not a mild form of sexual assault. Pretty funny, huh? And let's not forget the ad's somewhat more subtle suggestion of another nursing stereotype. The male nurse's appearance is too brief and ambiguous for us to be sure, but it would not be hard to find a suggestion of homosexuality there.

The ideas that nurses are either brainless female bimbos or gay men have been mainstays of popular culture for decades. (See our FAQ on men in nursing.) Some note that such imagery is not meant to be taken literally. But this endless global wave of mocking imagery, even though "just a joke," contributes to an atmosphere of disrespect that demoralizes real nurses and makes it harder for them to get the clinical and educational resources they need to save lives. The overall concept here is juvenile, but the "think hatke" campaign is aimed at the massive youth market for wireless service. We can imagine a viewer wanting to be the patient here--that's the point--but would anyone want to be the nurse?

We urge Mr. Branson and Virgin Mobile to try to reach the global youth market without resorting to tired, harmful stereotypes.

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