KATHMANDU, April 19: Her friends were all fairer than her. In the family, they called her “kali,’ which was her assigned nickname but she didn’t mind as such. While in school, the trend followed and she never complained out loud but deep within it hurt.
Then, when she was in around middle school, grade eight, she saw this advert on television which promised fairer skin in 20 minutes. Everyday while on her way home after school, she took glimpses of the product displayed neatly in one of the beauty parlor windows.
After around a week or so, she mustered the guts to walk in and buy the cream. She felt awkward and nervous, and so walked home as swiftly as her legs could carry her. At home, she hid the cream under her bed so that mom wouldn’t find out, and then at midnight woke up to try it on.
She read the instruction carefully and did exactly what it said. But alas, the cream did not keep its promise. Rajani (name changed) was in no way fairer, instead she had developed rashes all over her face. That night she did all she could, from applying glycerin to ice and cucumber but nothing worked. In the morning her face looked worse, but she managed to hide her face from mom somehow, skipped breakfast and ran off to school. In school not only her friends but also her teacher pointed out her allergies.
“That was the worst day in school,” she shares. Rajani is 23 now and is comfortable with her skin tone. “I think I have a stronger head now, I don’t let these stupid ads affect me that severely anymore,” she giggles, adding, “once in a while I get tempted.”
Everyday hundreds of Rajanis get influenced and inspired by cosmetics ads, beauty supplies, perfumes, personal grooming and toiletries. These adverts not only define beauty and tell women how they should look, they also make women feel less than whole and develop a sense of low self esteem.
Adverts, whether in print, on hoarding boards, in novelties, sponsorships, radio jingles or television acts, have become the quintessential tool for marketing. Add to that the advent of Internet, and there’s hardly a way of escape from these.
Rabi Thapa, 20, recalls his post-SLC period when asked if he had ever made a decision under the influence of an advert.
“There was this motorbike ad. It said something related to impression on the first day of college.” The ad influenced him so much that he was determined to buy that particular bike. Rabi had to work hard to impress his father and he got his bike. Sadly, it wasn’t long before the bike broke down. “They said the whole lot that year had inefficient parts,” shares Rabi. The incident, he claims was the first time an advert really manipulated him, and for the last time, too.
Barun Pradhan, 25, concurs that ads have huge influences on your mindset and even with the “little things you do in your daily life.” Recalling the one ad that excited him, he says it was a soda drink. He was in his school back then and the makers of this particular drink associated the ad with personal attitude. “I could hardly wait for the drink to be launched in Nepal,” he says. As of now, he believes he has outgrown the teenage mind and more or less can resist ads but once in while he does give in. “Each time I see the Cola hoardings I can hardly stop myself from buying a bottle.”
Asked if he thinks the entire concept of advertising is built on false claims, he disagrees. “We have ads with social messages, too,” he says, adding “ad makers need to understand and respect the huge impact ads have on people, especially young minds, and must be careful with the content.”
True to what Barun says, even while most of the time advertisements are condemned for false claims, the fact that these are a strong source of information can’t be overlooked.
Amol Acharya, 25, likes to look up commercials but only to draw information. He likes to compare and contrast various products on the basis of their adverts before putting in his money. But this he learnt only after taking up Media Studies. While at a younger age, he had his moments of being persuaded by attractive ads. As of now, he is receptive to all kinds of ads but is careful to not make “choices under its influence.”
“We can’t reject adverts altogether but we need to be on guard and not allow them to negatively impact our decisions.”