THE rescheduling of timings of a male contraceptive advertisement recently kicked off a controversy. A school of opinion pooh-poohed the decision while another supported it. The row reminded me of an incident from my college days. Our class was about to commence. A mischievous student brought an empty condom carton in the class, and for fun, kept it on the dais before the teacher’s arrival. When the teacher arrived, he simply picked up the carton and uttered thoughtfully, ‘Nirodh ka virodh nahin kiya ja sakta, yeh desh hit main nahin’ (opposition to Nirodh is not in the interest of the nation). He then delivered a powerful lecture on the significance of population control. That day, I, along with my classmates, understood the real worth of the ad that used to run twice on the national channel with the tagline — ‘Bachon mein antar rakne ka saral upae’ (an easy way to space out kids).
The ads of yesteryear were both entertaining and informative. But, the present ads lack both the punch and sensitiveness of commercials of the bygone era. The face of modern ads is smeared with the slush of profit and, often, cross all levels of decency to achieve their target. They do not care a fig about the impact on the audience, assigning moral obligation to the bin. Poor logic is another hallmark. The innerwear of men are marketed by women. And, men feature in ads of kitchen aids and edible oils. The promotion of certain ‘magic’ medicines to increase height, build up a muscular body and rejuvenate hair on a bald head takes medical science for a ride. Some ads display absurdity of the highest level when they offer a cure for a bulging tummy sans exercise and diet management!
Modern ads also promote bias against women. Washing powder and toilet cleaner is specifically reserved for the fair sex. In one ad, a girl with a pimple on her face is so traumatised that she prefers to stay at home, fearing that her ‘ugly’ face may break her relationship with her boyfriend. The ad offers a remedy. The girl is ‘told’ to apply a particular cream to keep her friendship intact.
Cultural sensitivities associated with Karvachauth are derided in another ad. A husband who gets late on the auspicious day, takes his starving wife on a long drive in his newly purchased car and makes her see the moon by opening the roof of the car. Both ads demean and lower the status of women.
Social values are often blown to smithereens in many advertisements. In one, a father, who otherwise gets disturbed by the entry of his daughter’s boyfriend to her room when she is alone at home, forgives the boy for ‘moral trespassing’ when he lures the former with his high-end smartphone! In another, the sacred teacher-taught relation takes a hit when the principal of a school eggs on his students to bunk classes to taste a candy of a particular brand!
These ads come wrapped in a golden cover, but are hollow from inside. It is important to see through their motives before embracing them.
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