Ads we don’t buy. Our health and self esteem is important to us !

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.


17 thoughts on “Ads we don’t buy. Our health and self esteem is important to us !

  1. It was heartening to see #adswedontbuy trending for a full day cycle…this means CHANGE is possible..atleast people are agreeing so. Thanks for taking up a worthy cause. Long way to go… 🙂

  2. What you say is so true. Why can’t we have the best of commercials to address the issues of our country…why can’t we address issues like tobacco spitting, throwing garbage on the roads (and then having the audacity to complain about it grumpily while calling other cities of the world clean and beautiful), female infanticide, and so many more that are just lying ignored somewhere waiting to be discussed and die a much awaited death. These commercials (the ones that are currently running on TV), I believe, are just making people of our country mentally and emotionally complex, they are just getting entangled and unnecessarily involved in things that have to be stayed away from.

  3. Shekhar Saab,

    Thanks a lot for above post. I am re-sharing it on all social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

    I have been also preaching about this subject in my own capacity and to the best of my knowledge & tools available.

    Sincerely I remain,

    Phadke S. N.

  4. Aum

    …blessings to raising the vibrational energy of awareness to this experience,

    that we may take responsibility for the betterment of earth’s species…


  5. Shekharji people have become crazy for junk foods and soft drinks..if they want to dig on their own no one can stop them..:)

    Alas everyone understands that Our health and self esteem is important to us !


  6. recently my grandmother was in delhi from my village in uttrakhand to see us. one day my cousin is sitting with me and suddenly ask “what is that smell?”. i replied”dadi BOROPLUS laga rahi hai” then he said”boroplus dadiyon ki favorite cream hoti hai”. i asked dadi “aap boroplus kyon laga rahi ho” so she said that her hands were withering. i asked why only boroplus? she replyed in GARHWALI “humon te ton ya hi pata cha baba” means they only know boroplus in the village.
    the point of this is that in the far rural areas old people are still following the old patterns even if the alternatives are available because they trust them. but the younger generation is more exposed to TV and advertisement can easily be misguided. and they are actually following brands without any beneficial knowledge about it what-so-ever.
    but the good thing is that computer and social media is slowly trending is those areas. so with the help of awareness groups and hash-tags like #adwedontbuy at-least the people who have access to the technology can get aware and share their awareness with the others who aren’t privileged by social media.
    in the coming time with the increase in reach of internet and social media tags like #adwedontbuy will play very important roll in informing people about the reality and shared media will expose the Hippocratic self-centered agenda of big brands like it had started doing in the urban areas.

    that means it will cure the covert hypnosis(which is the symptom) led by TV and ads before it fester the rural mass also.
    again thanks Mr. kapur for #adwedontbuy

  7. Perhaps not entirely #adswedontbuy ‘able, however I often wonder if the brand ambassadors actually use and believe in the products they advertise. Does Katrina (randomly picked example) use Lux body wash? Yes she can perhaps afford a product in an entirely different segment but does she at least has researched and built faith in that product?

  8. Dear Shekhar,

    This article found in “” may be of interest to you and the readers.

    Since 1986, P Abdul Kareem lives inside a 32-acre forest, which is host to hundreds of bee-hives, snake pits and nests. Point out any wild tree to him and he comes out with its local and botanical name instantly. Of course, it’s not something one needs to be surprised about. For, Kareem is not just the owner of the forest but also its creator.

    Kerala’s Forest Research Institute sends scientists to study the trees planted by him and the state’s textbook committee has introduced a chapter on this ‘man-made forest’ in the sixth standard textbook. Agricultural scientist, M S Swaminathan, who once stopped by, has been a frequent visitor ever since. And Kareem was one of the 20 persons honoured in 2009 by Limca Book of Records as “People of the Year”.

    In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation released a full-page newspaper ad in its ‘India Inspired’ series, extolling Kareem’s efforts, and followed it up by gifting him a fuel station to sustain his conservation efforts. However, behind Kareem’s success lies a strong will and years of hard work, propelled by a dream. When Kareem first set his eyes on the lateritic hillside during his weekend getaways at his wife’s house in Puliyankulam, the entire stretch was barren. In 1977, he bought five acres of land with an almost non-functional well for Rs 3,750.

    Next year, he planted mature saplings of wild trees, but all of them withered soon. The second attempt too was unsuccessful. However, in the third attempt, several saplings survived and started growing. In those days, Kareem used to fetch water in cans on his motorbike from a source a kilometre away – several times a day. He cared for passing birds too. He put small water-filled pots around the land to attract them. They brought in more diversity to his land, discharging varied seeds through droppings.

    He planted 800 species of forest trees and 300 medicinal plants. He has never weeded his land, never cut a tree, never swept or set on fire the leaves ever since. “The most important revelation for me was the impact of humus on the hard rock. The fallen leaves form a thick layer on the rocky surface and get decomposed over the years. This accelerated the disintegration of laterite into small gravel and slowly to fine soil which in turn helps seeds spread by the insects and birds to grow roots and germinate,” he says. He kept away all fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. He dug rainwater catch pits and raised walls with boulders across the slopes in order to capture soil carried by run-off water.

    Soon, the ground water rose to a comfortable level. He stepped up his efforts. Weeds grew amidst the rare herbs and medicinal plants – many not chosen by Kareem. In 1982, he bought another 27 acres of rocky land and today, “you dig five metres and you’ll get water here,” says Kareem.

    With hare, fowl and other small game appearing in the forests and sack-sized beehives emerging, Kareem built his house inside the forest in 1986. From a tank in the forest, he can now pump 100,000 litres at one go and the level will bounce back in a few minutes. Today, Kareem supplies drinking water to the 100-odd families from the two wells and four ponds in his forest, situated in Puliyankulam.


  9. Dear Shekhar,

    Recently there was outrage on twitter against advertisements of skin whiteners. Tweeples expressed their shock and resentment towards these whitening products. But then there were a few voices that spoke for these advertisements citing that they should have the freedom to choose. Then there were others who pointed out that moral policing should be avoided, even arguing why application of cream whiteners were any different from women using accessories to enhance their beauty. I want to highlight here why a sustained campaign against such products are necessary.

    Let me begin by reminding the readers that in the 1970s, infant formula makers (Nestle being one of them) began an aggressive campaign to promote the nutritional value of formula. The soul of this promotion was in creating an illusion or even false claims that infant formula was superior to mother’s milk and that liberated women can now shun breast feeding. In essence they were brain washing mothers to spend their hard earned money into something that nature has already gifted every female mammal with, the ability to nurse their newborns. The reckless pushing for infant formula not only dented household income but also denied babies mother’s milk. Aware citizens fought hard and forced the governments to step in. The govt of India made a policy change that mandated formula makers to label their products with “mother’s milk is best for your baby”. The advantages of mother’s milk is well established and I would not go into its details. I do not grudge women who may choose infant formula because of health or other circumstances. However, I do grudge companies trying to sell formula by manipulating women’s psyche, artificially generating a need that forces people to depart from their natural lifestyle, a need whose very origin is based on myths and lies.

    You could easily draw parallels between skin whitening cream campaigns and advocacy of infant formulas. The skin whitening products contain bleaches and other harmful chemicals and work by lightening skin pigments. These chemicals have dangerous side effects that are often undisclosed on these products. Worse still, the advertisement of these products involve shaming Indians who choose to celebrate their natural brown skin color . Skin whitening promotions emotionally blackmail people to apply skin whitening almost suggesting that those who don’t, deserve to lose! Do we now see who is moral policing? Perpetuating this kind of mindset is particularly worrisome and perhaps even criminal for India that is known to have a colonial hangover. Yes, people who choose to use above products may still do so but promotions of above cannot be at the expense of the self esteem of those who seek natural ways of living.

    Celebrities who endorse above products also share some responsibility. I do not want to take names but I am disappointed when I see Indian celebrities vouching for Indian beauty in International beauty contests amidst thundering applause only to make a U-turn at home by endorsing skin whiteners.
    As a mother, I also need to do my homework so as to not make my daughter servile to artificial benchmarks of beauty. I do not want to prejudice my child’s perception of good looks and women liberation by encouraging stereotypical blonde and blue eyed dolls. Nor would I show her size zero dreams.

    I want to conclude with some digression. Do we now see a commonality between the promotion styles of infant formula and bottled water? Is the latter a need? Is it better than filtered water at home? Are we being plundered by bottled water makers when much cheaper natural alternatives are available, not to mention the environmental hazards of bottled water. Interestingly Nestle is a maker of both, infant formula and bottled water. Would leave the rest for the readers to judge.


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  11. Pranaam Shekhar ji,

    Love to read your articles. It is always a beautiful feeling to write here. Like you, I am a concerned parent, yes, it’s a question of our kids’ health. What you say is absolutely right. People are now more aware and have started refusing to allow their kids…. recently we have seen that with Maggi. Yes, advertising in India needs to get a lot more responsible.
    For spreading such awareness, thanks to people like You – responsible & concern and Social Media.
    I truly respect and praise.
    Yesterday I was reading about the Sugary drinks, so sharing


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