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Advertising In India – Adapting, Innovating, While Old Trends Intact

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By Rijuta Gupta:

Advertising is about striking the right note on those chords of the brain that most often are in sync with the heart. When this happens, a need is generated and brain directs to buy, be it a product or a service or an idea. Indian advertising too follows this rule but here age-old advertising trends are still thriving along with the latest innovative trends.

Advertising started with the need to sell, and word-of-mouth advertising was the oldest mode to advertise; with the advent of social media it again has become a focal point of advertising. Social media has also altered the trend of one-way flow of information to interactive sessions where consumers have also become a part of the process. So instead of being force-fed advertisements, users are now getting empowered to choose.

Internet has revolutionized the advertisement world. It has introduced international trends and made them more acceptable, especially in urban centres. Also, it is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise. Though internet accessibility is increasing in India but a vast percentage of population is not yet exposed to it. Newer technologies have shifted focus from mass promotions to target marketing. Use of plastic money provides information on spending habits of consumers. Internet helps in tracking individuals’ interests. Opinion polls, television rating techniques and audience profiling leads to specific targeting of niche customers. This precision marketing is cost-effective and consumer is getting proactively involved due to importance given to his feedbacks.

Today we don’t like giving a single minute from our time to advertisements whenever we have a choice to do so. We surf channels while watching television or listening to radio. We don’t waste time in opening unwanted emails. “Do not call registry” has given us option to stay away from telemarketers. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t like advertisements. With increasing spending power and more available options advertisement industry has much to provide. They simply have to remain on their toes to constantly satiate consumers’ changing sensibilities and sensitivities. Embedded ads during programs, some of which are woven in stories itself is one such example of changing times. Shorter, smarter, and wittier advertisements, which are believable and specific, are replacing exaggerated advertisements.

But nothing could replace jingles from Indian ads! Occasion-based advertisements have been introduced in big way for which new occasions are created and older ones are reinvented. When we were kids we used to celebrate Republic Day and Independence Day but we never had merchandisers to come up with so many products to sell. Dhanteras and Akshaya Tritiya are well utilized by marketers. Present generation is more aware of these festivals than the previous one and no one is complaining! Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Daughter’s Day and all such days were never heard of a decade back. Even days to put across social messages are included in this long list and advertised on vast scale. If we put cynicism aside for a while and separate consumerism from this, it has reintroduced celebrations in our lives.

With the changing times – there are noticeable cultural changes in our advertisements. Not all of these changes are progressive. Advertisements are commoditizing every emotion and confusing young minds that fail to segregate information. Kids are more often targeted these days for all kinds of products, which reflect changing social scenario. Kids are not only influencing spending patterns but are getting more demanding with increased consumerism.

Everyone is confused on what they really need. Some insurance companies still portrays that insurance is needed for son’s education and daughter’s marriage and nobody notices. Though not all ads projects our society but few such ads make us see the real picture of ourselves. We still have miles to go before we can actually say that ours is a progressive society. Instead of reacting when a female sitting judge of Supreme Court listed her daughter’s marriage as liability, we need to convey right message constantly. There are undoubtedly many barriers which have been broken in recent times. Gender divide has softened in our advertisements. Though traditions haven’t lost their place but new values too are welcomed. Here special mention to Government advertisements is very important. These ads have most of the times struck the balanced note in conveying their messages in a convincing manner without having overzealous tones.

In India, television, radio, newspapers, pamphlets and billboards are still a good bet. Viral marketing and direct mailers too are registering their presence. Youth may choose newer modes and there could be a rural-urban divide, but majority population in India still look for traditional modes of advertisements. Not just billboards but advertisements on walls while travelling on highways is a common sight. Along with all these exists our good old bhopu i.e. loudspeaker, which city dwellers do not miss but they play an important role in many canvassing in rural areas.

Whether it is a celebrity who is promoting or a mere mortal, Indians want value for their money. Some of them might have learnt to spend without analysis but majority of them want ads to convey whether the product is worth their attention. Serve them well and reap the rewards.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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