Advertisements: Some socially sensitive, many insensitive

Advertisements: Some socially sensitive, many insensitive


KATHMANDU, Jan 28 - Black suit perfectly suits the lady playing the mother's role in a popular television commercial of Dabur Chawanprash.

Complementing her in delivering a social message is the role of the man playing her husband. The exhaustion painted on his face when she returns home one evening from work aptly reflects the workload that housewives shoulder every day.

Unlike many socially insensitive advertisements, this particular Indian commercial dubbed into Nepali has in some ways imparted a social message to stakeholders and viewers.

Another commercial that cuts through gender stereotypes is the television advertisement of 2 pm noodles that was broadcast about a year back. It showed a husband feeding noodles to his pregnant wife.

"The commercial proved that consumers do accept even situations that are not so common in society," writes Deepa Gautam, chief producer of Nepal Television in her book 'Kanch Ko Parda, Women in Nepai Television', published by Martin Chautari. 

"The advertisement garnered a positive response due to changed gender roles," Gautam writes. The book is based on analysis of several advertisements broadcast by Nepali television channels.

The two television commercials, however, are not typical of the Nepalese advertisement scenario. There are too many socially insensitive advertisements appearing on Nepalese television.

The advertisement of a Jewelry Shop, which is seen frequently on our idiot boxes these days, is a case in point.

"Ka baiman ! Sun ta nakkali paryo jasto cha ni?" (Cheat! This looks like fake gold.)

This is what the groom tells his father-in-law while accepting gold jewelry from the bride in a marriage ceremony.

The father-in-law save that the gold cannot be fake as he bought it from a reliable jeweller. The father-in-law adds, "Jwainsab, chori pani sakkali sun pani sakkali (Son-in-law, the gold is original and so is the daughter)."

Sociologists say this particular advertisement has two problems. The first is it encourages the dowry system and the second's it reinforces the value our society puts on purity or chastity of brides.

Sociologist Youba Raj Luintel says that despite lack of clarity on what the advertisement means by "chori pani sakkali", the commercial indirectly endorses the value society places on purity of brides. "However, the advertisement does not question whether the groom is pure," he said.

"Such advertisements are also likely to encourage the dowry system," Luintel adds.

Interestingly, the commercial went through censorship for a different reason after being broadcast a few times.

A part of the commercial which showed the father-in-law pulling the ear of the son-in-law punitively was removed after complaints from the public.

The government's Audio-Visual and Broadcast Division under the Ministry of Information and Communication censors advertisements on the basis of Film Production, Exhibition and Distribution Regulations.

Luintel said that while advertisements are for commercial purposes, they should nonetheless uphold ethics. "A well-functioning mechanism should be established, which should have experts to analyze the commercials and make sure that they are ethical," he says.

According to Prabha Pandey, joint secretary of the Broadcast Division, generally commercials that have harmful impact on a particular caste, class or religion are censored. "But deeper and finer analysis is lacking," she adds.

Pandey said there is no special committee for censorship. The chairperson of the Film Development Board decides what to censor.

In his thesis "Male gaze and ideological formation in NTV commercials", Kamal Raj Sigdel says, "Most of the advertisements, at least Nepali advertisements, are created by male designers. It is obvious that most of the advertisements produced are influenced by the conscious/unconscious desire of the designer."

The thesis that is based on interviews with viewers and analysis of advertisements and advertisement literatures said that though there are a few female designers, they follow what the majority does.

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