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Advertisements Need To Respect Human Rights

By Anil Gulati

03 January, 2008

In August last year, Intel, the computer chip maker, rightly withdrew an international advertisement, which was criticised as racist. The ad, which was for a new generation of microprocessors, showed six black sprinters crouched in the start position in front of a white man in an office, wearing a shirt and chinos. Above the image was a slogan, which read: "Multiply computer performance and maximise the power of your employees. Blogs resented the racial undertone in the ad and Intel withdrew it.

Back home this year, a TV advertisement concerning Happydent teeth whitening gum represented the worst case of human rights violation; the advertisement is still being run. May be it is a call to act. The ad, shot in Rajasthan's princely environment, depicts an illuminated city the lights of which are energised not by electrical power but by human resource. By the way, if the advisement tells the truth, those with sparkling white teeth only have to smile to light up our houses. In the process, energy will be saved. The ad displayed the worst form of human exploitation. The 80-second ad with 'Muskura le, jagmaga le' begins with a man in a dhoti and turban cycling furiously. The front tyre is washed away by the river and he tries to hitchhike his way home. A car with two 'human headlamps' passes him by. At the palace grounds, he notices lampposts from which men hang instead of the bulbs. Inside the palace, too, the men have replaced the bulbs. The man reaches the balcony from where he latches onto a chandelier. The chandelier is already laden with other men. Right under the chandelier is the dining table and the 'king' is ready to begin his meal. Our man pops a piece of gum into his mouth and smiles; the number "tera dil roshan, tera man roshan" erupts and all the (human) "bulbs" in the ad are alight!

This advertisement may intend to promote an oral dental chewing gum but it also amounts to human rights violation. It eulogises the 'zamindari' system, which exploited the human beings and should be condemned. It promotes discrimination and exploitation. I am not sure what the ad maker wanted to convey through this advertisement but the issue is what it ends up promoting, either inadvertently or intentionally; and what message we are trying to pass on to our young ones about our history. May be this ad is 'out of the box' from the advertising world's perspective but it promotes human rights violation - something which we should be wary of and resent. Companies too have to shoulder social responsibility and they should not promote exploitation of human beings like this.

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