Do you pledge to play more often with Leo? Do you pledge to use the treadmill? Do you? Your heart and its well-being are not only an advertiser’s paradise, but they are used to convey the wide disparity that exists between the social classes.
The Times of India has started the Billion Hearts Beating campaign together with Apollo Hospital. The ads refer to an audience that will have access to the good things of life. The assumption is that heart diseases affect only the urban individual, that only their health is of any consequence.
You might say that readers of the TOI are not living in villages, so it is perfectly fine to address this group. Here is the problem: It creates a closed group that begins to believe that only certain sections suffer; the rest are peripheral.
Some of you might recall that a while ago Quaker Oats had joined in. I had written then about what a sad trend it is of marrying concern with consumerism and blatantly plugging products. While Apollo Hospital does have facilities for such care and is directly involved, what do oats and newspapers have to do with it? You’d quibble that this is sponsorship and support, and the corporate sector can help in educating. I’d have gone along with that if it were only about you and me.
Of the millions who will suffer from heart diseases, how many eat oats or are amenable to the idea? How many even know what oats are? Quaker is not an Indian company; it is a multinational that wants to make a dent in the Indian market. Is there any proven study that shows oats reduce the risk of heart problems or reading a particular newspaper will educate you more?
I called it a trend. It is worse. This is a money-making racket through fear.
We already have false images of people in white coats telling you that your toothpaste has been certified by them so little children can eat as many chocolates and ice-cream as they want. There is one absolutely ridiculous ad where a kid is complaining of a tummy ache and the ‘doctor’ model says it is not the stomach to blame but the germs that find their way into the hands. You get the right soap and all is well. While the germs-on-hands theory is true, the stomach does have a mechanism of its own. No one bothers to ask or tell us that children or adults do not walk around with soap.
If these heart waalas are concerned, and there has got to be more education here, then they could have added some simple message of eating daliya, which is porridge, which is what oats amount to. The minute you want to ride on the salesman’s gravy cart, there is a chance of credibility going under the horse’s hooves.