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Why Do We Provide Free Advertising To Brands On Social Media?


Social Media and digital advertising is a crucial marketing tool for any enterprise. Whether selling goods or offering services, brands run to market themselves where people are found. And people are found on social media these days all the time. However, this very article is my perspective on how people advertise for brands free.

Representational Image. The showing off of en-vogue brands like Apple on social media by social media users helps its marketing.

People are the base of society – the very foundational blocks. No matter how much we debate on consumerism or capitalists hunting for markets, in the end, it’s always people who get to decide for themselves. It has been testified on and off by various incidents. The fact that a global phenomenon, McDonald’s, has to shut its stores in countries like Iran and Jamaica is only one example. People “cancel” anything that goes against their larger collective sense of belonging. But, it is these very people who create that ‘belongingness’. The catch is that the power structure works here just like it does for any other social practice.

So, in the cliched traditionally accepted top-down fashion, the ‘modern’ lifestyle flows from elites to commons. The hierarchy of high and low cultures follows the existing class distributions. Now, if you are wondering how is all of this related to Social Media and advertising, I am just coming there in a moment.

When Television brought TV programs and cinema to people’s everyday lives, it revolutionized the ways they conducted themselves. Part of the reason being the subtle engineering of lifestyle and aspirations inspired by the daily soap operas. Cinema was already a factor affecting all styles of living. But TV catapulted this subconscious psychological programming. Whoever held the power to mass media, controlled the public narrative. Now all of this must be sounding a bit too much out of the topic.

Let’s jump right into social media. While TV and cinema could only popularize what those creating that content want, Social Media has given this power to the hands of people. Quite literally. Earlier, FOMO was not such a big deal as it is today. To put it into perspective – we were not as much bothered about expensive or exclusive lavish clothes, high-end fashion, lucrative cafes, adventurous locations, and commodities our peers had as we are today. Surrounded by people’s “performances” on Social Media makes us vulnerable to wanting “more“. The capacity to determine what qualifies as “more” rests with those “having” it already. I hope I am making sense here.

Bringing the power structure concept back, people who “own” high fashion inspire (rather threaten) those who do not. When we come across pictures of our colleagues or friends wearing a certain brand, brandishing that exclusive bag, enjoying a special meal, visiting a renowned place, or flaunting a new gadget, we become susceptible to longing. This happens regardless of fact whether we want it or not because Social Media surrounds us with such visual spectacles 24X7.

It feels useless to visit a popular eatery if we do not share its pictures on our Snapchat and Instagram. Any achievement does not worth it until it is announced on Facebook. BMW’s logo must be visible in the picture you post on Instagram. The glass of red wine is a status symbol, hence, must go on Social Media. Not to mention, a vlog of your trip to Kasauli. So on and so forth.

All of this has got nothing to do with marketing advertising per se. Power rests with people who “approve” and “appropriate” what should or should not be “high culture“. This exponentially helps well-established brands without spending a penny.

Imagine a person wanting to buy an iPhone after seeing all his connections on Instagram sharing a mirror-selfie with Apple’s logo vividly visible. How does it happen? It is the mental conditioning which social media facilitates, promotes, and does to us without our agency or control. This stimulation of “desire” is always happening as we are always on social media.

You may ask who’s the culprit?

The brands? The people on the top of the hierarchy? Social Media? High-speed Internet? Cultural elites?

None! It is us who need to take control and fight the “stimulation“. This does not imply that we should not have aspirations or desires, because these things do give us a sense of purpose. But, to know and ardently follow your genuine ambitions must always be the priority. It is high time to take control and own agency of our desires.

Ask yourself, why have western clothes and fancy cafes become a symbol of modernity?

Feature image is for representational purposes only.
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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’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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