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.