A few days ago I started a hashtag on my twitter account shekharkapur@twitter. It was #adswedontbuy. I was basically pointing out :
a. Cola’s that are draining India’s ground water to bottle and sell the water either as fizzy drinks or as bottled water. In the process farmers, to whom the ground water resources have traditionally belonged, have found their farms, and so themselves starved of water. Communities have been destroyed. Farmers have had to give up farming to become laborers on stone crushing quarries. Farms are sold. And farm produce goes down.
b. Packaged foods targeted at kids that contains chemicals that are bad for growth, transfats that can cause diabetes. And salt content so high that it is sure to cause you high blood pressure. India has now the highest rising incidence of juvenile diabetes. Doctors are throwing out alarming statistics on the number of kids developing diabetes at such a young age. And they are putting the blame squarely on high sugar content of fizzy drinks and colas, and high salt and transfats content on packaged foods like chips etc for kids.
Everyone knows my concerns about water issues and how we are running out of the worlds most precious resource. But as a parent too, I fight a running battle to stop irresponsible advertising influencing my 11 year old daughter. As every parent does. On issues of eating high transfat/sugar/salt content food. I want her to grow up to be a healthy and happy person. Like every parent does.
So I did a hashtag on #adswedontbuy. What happened was amazing. Within an hour it was no 1 trending topic in India and stayed there for 24 hours. Concerned people came out in millions and blasted the ads. At the top was ads designed to make you lose your self worth. Like Skin fairness creams that said you could not get a job if you were not fair, or get married if you were not fair. A close second were food ads that targeted kids.
I have no issue with commercials. In fact I have long held that some of the most creative work and edgy film making was done in commercials, especially in Europe. I have no issue with advertising. But I do feel that advertising in India needs to get a lot more responsible.
I was targeted by the Media. I was targeted by my friends, actors, film makers, senior executives Advertising firms and Brand Managers. But I said why are they not looking at the millions of people telling them that they were upset by their ads ? Why not ?
It then struck me ! These millions were mostly urban and those that had access to twitter. They were not the real target.
The long term target is not urban but the rural areas. Where the soft focus glamor commercials , or star driven commercials are hugely aspirational. If Sharukh Khan uses skin fairness cream as a weapon of success, then surely (they think) there must be some value to that ?
Rural India is the real target. Thats the mass consumption every brand is going for. Potentially creating a population of young people that are diabetic and diseased at a very early age, and that lack self worth because of their skin color (for no skin fairness cream lasts a long time)
And what is the Government doing as they stand by and watch big brands effecting the psyche and health of our people ? And what are the stars and cricketers doing joining in this mass exploitation ?
TV is controlled by advertising. Advertising is controlled by big brands. Many of which are targeting the health and self esteem of our kids for their profit.
Thank God for Social Media. At least we can have a common voice and have concerted action by refusing to allow our kids or friends participating in those brands.