Old and New…..How advertisements exploit our weaknesses

Of late, a company that is world-renowned for its milk products has been under fire for releasing adulterated milk powder into the market .With the initial uproar caused by the expose dying down the Company has adopted a clever ploy by playing an old advertisement, both over radio and television that automatically makes those of us of a generation ago get all nostalgic. Hearing it after so many years made me go back in  time. I had  came to associate it with  perfect mothering , with perfect kids sitting down  and enjoying a hearty meal  with butter made by the same company playing the crucial role of mood lifter of the crowd.

This got me thinking about how advertisements are almost always used to manipulate people, playing to their sensory weaknesses, creating nostalgia and making false promises of making us  big and strong or pretty and fair or intelligent and healthy to name a few miracles promised.

In India recently, the decision by a leading jeweler to show a dusky woman, either a divorcee or widow with a little daughter remarrying, to promote their jewelry has caused quite a sensation. Many including some big names in Indian show business have gone all gaga over it and lauded it. I find the attention rather superficial     given the social taboos not only associated with widows and divorcees remarrying but also the scorn with which dark-skinned people, especially women , are looked down upon in general  in that country.images (2)

I would like to think that people in India who can afford to buy diamonds and gold jewelry    are also enlightened enough not consider remarriage taboo and also be able to look beyond the skin color of people. The reality is this kind of advertisement will have no appeal to millions of Indians who can barely afford to get by with a square meal a day let alone buy diamonds and gold. And for them the shallow ideas inculcated  in their mindset for generations and reinforced by movie actors and cricketers, both male and female,  that you need to have fair skin to succeed ,  will not go away just because they see a dusky women in advertisement remarrying.

The one industry in Indian that can influence people the most is their massive film industry but what most Indian films do is also reinforce stereotypes.They gloat over the fair-skinned dowry laden  bride, the obliging and dutiful wife and daughter-in-law, the domestic goddesses who look perfect after spending hours in the kitchen preparing the perfect meal, the conscientious widow who would never consider remarriage come what may etc. Given the massive appeal Bollywood stars have among the Indian population, it is they who can make the biggest impact in changing  people’s  mindset but such challenges are hardly addressed by the Indian movies except for a few odd ones.images

Now back to the big milk products company. Despite the fallout from negative publicity over the quality of its products, the company is determined to make a comeback and they are using the perfect tool. Many of us who were young adults when we first watched the advertisement and were completely bowled over by it  are now parents and it’s likely that the nostalgia for the time gone by will lure us back into buying the same products again.

The advertising industry survives on fooling and  hood winking  people but then again there are millions of us who want to be fooled and hoodwinked. In a world where reality is often not mundane, they provide us the getaway to a world of make-believe. And we don’t here too many people complaining about it.


Women’s right to choose what they wear:- The long & short of it………….

It’s almost unbelievable but true that it was less than three weeks ago that France overturned a law of more than 200 years that disallowed women from wearing trousers. At almost the same time, female flight attendants working for a South Korean based airline  won their battle to have the airline’s strict dress code rules relaxed which prohibited them from wearing pants. paris-woman_2469661b

The French law required women to ask police for special permission to “dress as men” in Paris, or risk being taken into custody. In 1892 and 1909 the rule was amended to allow women to wear trousers, “if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” The law was abolished on January 31 this year.

Meanwhile in Seoul, 3,400 female flight attendants at Asiana Airlines won their fight to have the carrier’s strict dress code relaxed which included ban on wearing trousers.

Some of us can take wearing clothes of our choice for granted but for many it is not always a free choice.

When a young women was raped on a bus in New Delhi recently which sparked waves of protests in the Indian capital, there were some politicians and officials who   suggested what she was wearing on the fateful night may have contributed to the men’s behavior towards her.  There are some local politicians who think that sexual harassment and violence against women will go away if they are covered from head to toe, another pathetic attempt to justify the animalistic behavior of some men.

But more surprising is the memo put out by CBS network for those attending the recently concluded Grammy awards. The memo reads as follows: –

Date: February 5, 2013, 10:39:56 PM EST

Subject: 55th GRAMMYS: Standard And Practice Wardrobe Advisory

CBS Program Practices advises that all talent appearing on camera please adhere to Network policy concerning wardrobe.


Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic. Please avoid sheer see-through clothing that could possibly expose female breast nipples. Please be sure the genital region is adequately covered so that there is no visible “puffy” bare skin exposure. Please avoid commercial identification of actual brand name products on T-shirts. Foreign language on wardrobe will need to be cleared. OBSCENITY OR PARTIALLY SEEN OBSCENITY ON WARDROBE IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR BROADCAST. This as well, pertains to audience members that appear on camera. Finally, The Network requests that any organized cause visibly spelled out on talent’s wardrobe be avoided. This would include lapel pins or any other form of accessory.

J Lo in 2012
J Lo in 2012
J Lo in 2013
J Lo in 2013

The long and short of it is that  women should decide what they want to wear  while being aware of the sensibilities  that have  to be respected according to where they choose to go while wearing a particular piece of clothing. What women choose to put on their bodies is a personal choice and laws that specify what they should wear is an infringement on their rights. Along with the other rights that people fight for, the right to dress as people choose to do too should be highlighted.

We don’t hear anyone telling men what to wear, do we??


From Pussy Riot to Assange… state controls are getting tighter

I wrote a post recently about how a Somali comedian was shot dead for mocking a radical Islamic group in his country while a newspaper editor in Morocco was threatened with death after he expressed support for pre-marital sex.

In the past week the news that has come from Russia, U.K. and Pakistan are further examples that state authority and laws, instead of protecting individual freedom and rights, are being used against people.

The band members awaiting sentencing

First in Russia, a Moscow court had handed a two-year jail sentence to three feminist punk rockers that infuriated the Kremlin and captured world attention by ridiculing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s main church.The sentencing, as expected, drew criticism from several countries including the USA and UK who said it was “disproportionately” harsh for the offence the women  committed.

But then these same countries while criticizing Russia were busy  gunning for the  founder of Wiki Leaks Julian Assange who is holed up inside the  Ecuador Embassy in London  and has  been forced to seek asylum in the South American nation. He addressed the media from the balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy last Sunday and called on U.S. President Barack Obama to end “a witch-hunt against Wiki Leaks.”

Madonna showed her support for the Russian band when she performed in Moscow recently

“As Wiki leaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.’

“Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?” It’s a very pertinent question he  raised at a time when regimes all over the world are suppressing the right to freedom of expression and speech.

This story is somewhat different but shocking. It comes from Pakistan where using the country’s harsh blasphemy laws,   an 11-year-old Christian girl, who reportedly suffers from Down’s syndrome, had been arrested after being accused of blasphemy for burning pages of the Quran in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. While hurting people’s religious sentiments is unacceptable, how justifiable is it to arrest an 11 year retarded child? That’s the question many sane people will be asking but then more insanity seems to be prevailing in the world today than sanity So the news can only get worse.

As Assange said,” “There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.”