In the world of “Alternative Facts” and viral WhatsApp forwards, propaganda is a powerful political tool. Propaganda and advertising are inextricably linked and are often difficult to identify.

Propaganda is deliberate manipulation and distortion of facts, popularised through mass media, with the intention of convincing the general population something that may not necessarily be the truth. Propaganda may not always be outright lies, sometimes it means stereotyping, projecting a negative image of a particular community based on a sole incident, hate-speech, fear mongering etc. Conversation regarding propaganda, what it represents, and the kind of influence it holds is more relevant today than ever before. Many experts credit Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 United States Presidential elections to propaganda. By discrediting the entire western liberal media, projecting himself as a highly successful businessman, and calling him an ally of the blue-collar working class he won people over despite having no political experience. In truth Trump is far from what a successful business person looks like. He inherited his wealth and has multiple failed ventures under his belt, some of which include Trump University, Trump Magazine, Trump Steak, Trump Casinos, and Trump Vodka. He plans on introducing tax-reforms that would give tax breaks to billionaires, which is the last thing a blue-collar ally should be doing. Closer home propaganda would mean the endless WhatsApp forwards circulated some of which spread lies and hate about certain communities and groups. Messages like “UNESCO has declared the Indian national anthem, flag, Prime Minister, etc. to be the best” are classic examples of propaganda. Their aim is to placate the masses regarding where the country is heading, perhaps distract people from bigger problems.

Two big questions that come to mind are: first, if propaganda is just psychological manipulation, then is advertising not propaganda? And secondarily, is all propaganda bad? While there is a slight distinction between advertisements and propaganda, the former encourages people to consume certain goods while the latter is a way to cause change in the long term thought process of people; propaganda and advertising are co-dependent tools. Propaganda can be spread through advertisements while advertisements can use propaganda in order in influence consumer behaviour. The greatest example of propaganda in advertising is the “Diamonds are Forever” campaign. Diamond company De Beers, had a monopoly on the diamond market and consecutively they wanted to influence the demand as well. Careful marketing, including articles about Hollywood celebrities and their engagement rings, ad-campaigns correlating a man’s love for his sweetheart, even his personal success to the size of the diamond on his fiancés finger made rounds. Marilyn Monroe coquettishly singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends” influenced and underlined the importance of diamonds. Diamonds are far from rare and cannot last forever; they can very well be chipped, shattered, and damaged. But the propaganda and advertising in this campaign was so thorough that even a century later people continue to regard a big diamond as the ultimate token of love. Our spending habits, our voting patterns, and our lifestyles are influenced by advertising and propaganda, more so than we will ever know.

However, propaganda and advertising are not always bad. Anti-smoking, anti-drunk driving campaigns are all forms of propaganda as well. They instil fear in the mind of viewers are can often exaggerate the influence of smoking on one’s health, but their impact on society is positive. This form of propaganda discourages a lot of people from taking up the habit of smoking. During the Second World War the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign that showed a woman in a blue shirt and red bandana flexing her muscles was also a form of propaganda that encouraged women to participate more actively in the war effort by working in factories and industries. The “Dunkirk Spirit” and the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters are also examples of British propaganda that helped boost the morale of the people and contributed to the victory of the Allies and the ultimate defeat of the Nazis and Fascists.

In 2018, the context of propaganda has changed. Propaganda is not an exclusive tool of governments anymore. Media houses, political candidates, and anyone with enough resources can contribute to propaganda and spread hysteria, panic, and hate. Our world is not solely the world of televised advertisements and posters anymore. Alternative facts, viral stories, and a personalised Facebook feed that strategically shows you posts similar to your beliefs is a dangerous combination that makes us all vulnerable of believing in fake news. In order to identify problematic news pieces here are a few steps we can take-

1. Believe news sourced from verified media outlets only– a large number of small websites, blogs, and pages have popped up that share misinformation or deliberately distort facts in order to incite hate or fear. Most of these pages are paid by political parties and their purpose is to advance a particular ideology. Following unbiased and verified media outlets, and believing their stories exclusively would be a good way to not engage with these propaganda tools.

2. Examine financial and familial ties between the media houses you follow– is a particular news channel presenting a biased version of current events? Are you seeing a spike in the number of one-sided stories they are publishing? Doing a small google search on whether that media house is financed by a major politician or their family member would be another good step that could give you additional clarity.

3. Notice leaders who discredit media outlets that speak against them– If a political candidate speaks against any media house that highlights their problematic behaviour, calls them fake news or tries to question their legitimacy, it is a sign that they are trying to control the narrative around them by discrediting free media. It is an alarming sign that should not be underestimated. By effectively discrediting press, one silences their opponents or at least makes their words redundant- this is a common tool employed by authoritarian leaders, and one we must watch out for.

4. Name calling, generalisation and stereotyping– When people in the public eye try to call their political opponent names, use racial or derogatory slurs for them, try to generalise the behaviour of fringe groups and extremists as that of the whole community, use lone incidents in order to stereotype a group, it is propaganda at its finest. These things when done repeatedly over an extended period of time can make most people hateful and prejudiced. Such irresponsible behaviour should always be called out and discredited immediately, especially if made by people revered and followed in the public eye.

It is impossible to avoid all forms of advertising and propaganda- the two are deeply rooted in modern society. What we can do is keep ourselves alert and informed. By being conscientious, responsible, and considerate we can reduce the negative impact of propaganda.


Feature Image Credits: The Advocate

Kinjal Pandey
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Television and digital media have always been the medium of spreading awareness, knowledge, and opinions. In recent times, advertisements have proven to be the ground-breaking realities of the time. From fighting gender stereotypes to supporting LGBT rights, promoting election voting awareness to what not, advertisements have played a leading role in influencing minds and actions.

Let’s put our eyes on some of the stimulating and inspiration-evoking advertisements of Indian television.

Biba – The change begins from home

Change the Convention,  from Biba’s  Change series that targets the prevalence of  arranged marriage in India, is a fresh spin on the ‘boy’s family coming to see the girl’ scenario. The twist sees the girl’s father questioning the boy’s cooking skills. Making the arranged marriage setup fair to both genders doesn’t take much, does it?

Anouk – The Move

Part of their Bold is Beautiful campaign, the ad reflects what young urban couples face in India. When faced with decisions about relocation, the husband tacitly refuses citing reasons of job elevation. Their conversation reveals that the wife has made a similar move in the past for her husband, but this time since it’s her career on the line, he doesn’t think it’s important enough to leave his work life. Ultimately, she decides to move on in order to pursue her career. It’s time we spoke about a marriage of equals.

Havell – Hawa Badlegi

Breaking the stereotypes of changing surnames after marriages, this advertisement takes a new beginning by encouraging even husbands to dare to change surnames.

Titan Raga – #HerLifeHerChoices

They showed us a strong and independent woman who is capable of making her own life choices. She has aspirations and is not afraid to take control of her life in her hands.

Airtel – Boss

This ad features a modern-day couple. The woman is a multi-tasker who handles her office and juniors at work and then comes back home to prepare food for her husband, who is still at his workplace on his boss’ (in reality, wife’s) orders. 

Whisper – Ab Waqt Hai Badalne Ka

Menstruation has always been a taboo with a load of superstitions attached to it. Banking on the age-old Indian norm that pickles are off limits to a woman who is menstruating, Whisper outright defies this with ‘Touch the Pickle Jar’. It tries to break off from all the norms that restrain women from going about their daily routines when they are on their period. This ad has triggered a huge response from its viewers. According to AdAge, 2.9 million women pledged to go against the odds and “touch the pickle jar”. It also emboldened the dialogue around taboos surrounding menstruation.


Feature Image Credits: YouTube 



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Many advertisements from our childhood had jingles that we still sing from time to time. The ‘Vico Turmeric’ jingle or ‘Washing Powder Nirma’ jingle were so catchy that one could not help but sing when they played on our television or radio set. We still remember their lyrics by heart and sometimes find ourselves humming those tunes.

In the recent times, the whole concept of advertisements has undergone a drastic change. The advertising companies have come to realise that mere jingles are not enough to capture the attention of its audience now. Thus these advertisements are now spun short with interesting stories that are sure to catch the eye. I was recently watching the ‘British Airways: Fuelled by Love’ advertisement in which the air hostess develops an unlikely friendship with an old Indian lady. The air hostess was invited to her house where she learns about the rich Indian culture and gets mesmerised by it and the hospitality provided to her. The advertisement ends with a line – Loving India back since 1924. The advertisement is successful in tugging all the right strings of your heart from the beginning to the very end with its crisp and emotional storyline.

An advertisement by ‘Dabur Vatika’ decided to salute female cancer survivors. The advertisement portrays a cancer survivor who is very conscious about her lost hair due to chemotherapy. However, she soon receives acceptance from her family and colleagues which she feared she won’t receive. The advertisement ends with the statement – ‘Some people don’t need hair to look beautiful’. The entire advertisement is beautifully written and directed. Thus we see that an interesting storyline to an advertisement has become an essential component.

Looking at it from a creative point of view, this undoubtedly produces a lot of creative and interesting short stories which are able to leave a mark in just two or three minutes. This is definitely something that needs to be praised. But, there is a darker and more complex side to this too that needs to be discussed and that is how these advertisements have started to capitalise human emotions. These advertisements try to connect to you on a deeper, personal level and connect these emotions to the product they are trying to sell. Its success in connecting to you on a personal level and arousing emotions will ensure a higher sale of these products. This raises a question about the world where we are living which is willing to exploit your emotional attachments in order to market a product. Something as sensitive and personal emotions become a selling point of an object. Thus one cannot help but wonder at the growing insensitiveness of the world where we are living in.

Feature Image Credits: Pinterest


Anukriti Mishra

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Advertising, the one word that reminds us of the ads on YouTube that cannot be skipped, the reason why we need to spend more money to buy HD packs, or the reason why we think it’s okay to enter the movies a little. Though, it is true that we may try to avoid advertisements as much as we can, but we see companies and organisations spending lakhs of money and assimilating a perfect workforce that’ll devise such a marketing campaign for their product that their approach gets imprinted in the minds of people. And, in the modern times we see such varied and innovative ways adopted by the companies to achieve this goal. Let’s take a look at few of the examples here:

1.) Remarketing


Have you ever been to an online shopping portal and fiddled through some products without really buying anything (more or less like window shopping) and saw the advertisements of the same products popping up on the right, left, upper or every part of your screen whenever you visit any other website? Yes, that’s called remarketing which lets the shopping websites like Jabong and others to display ads to people who have previously visited their site as they browse anywhere else. This is an example of finding a target audience and customising the marketing strategy as per their interests.

2.) Zomato deciding to advertise on porn sites

It was found that porn is the most searched item at 1 am, a time which is also ideal for ordering late night food. And Zomato, the rapidly growing Indian start up, wasn’t afraid of using the former to market the latter.

Zomato wanted to tap into the already buzzing late night delivery space with an innovative marketing strategy. This is when they decided to cash on the idea of turning to porn sites for advertising as they are fairly busy at night and even the cost of advertising is significantly lower than other platforms. The result was that the campaign generated large number of clicks on the ads and great number of app installations. This sure makes you understand to not pass off any idea as frivolous or funny, without realising its true capacity.

3.) Metros getting colourful with advertisements

Metro Advertisement

We had all seen hoardings in and around metro stations of different mobile phones and insurance policies and what not. We even saw the inside of metros being used to advertise the promises of AAP or the win of BJP but only recently we saw metros covered in advertisements, quite literally. Our grey-silverish metros are turning colourful with huge advertisements of different products enveloping them. This is an example of companies making use of the huge foot-fall that is seen in the metros of our country to make the people aware of their products.

4.) Companies taking up social messages to connect with the people

What is the easiest way to leave an impression on people or to make them remember what you have to say? It is when you become their voice and start taking up social issues which need to be talked about and tackled. This is what is done by various brands that have used their resources and market value to bring to light various issues or do away with taboos prevalent in the society. Some of the examples could be the “Touch the pickle jar” campaign by Whisper which worked on eradicating taboos regarding menstruation and encouraging women to continue doing everyday activities. Also, series of advertisements by Myntra’s exclusive ethnic wear brand ANOUK are making round these days which highlight the discrimination a woman faces in the workplace just because of her sex, features a lesbian couple shedding light on LGBT rights and talks about being a single mother.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=anouk” width=”500″ height=”300″]

5.) Unconventional casting

Gone are the days when one witnessed companies running behind the top actors of the industry to endorse their products so as to connect with the masses more. Only recently, brands have started approaching personalities which maybe famous with the youth like stand-up comedians and YouTubers. For instance, the YouTube channel Old Delhi Films made a humorous and quirky advertisement for Myntra listing out the hassles of offline shopping and why it’s better to switch to the online mode. Even Micromax approached the famous comedians, Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath for advertising their mobiles in a twisted yet funny way.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvzl_KwpG6Q” width=”500″ height=”300″]

And Motorola did the same by approaching the group of comics, The Improvisers.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr49VOT4fOM” width=”500″ height=”300″]

With the growing popularity of YouTube and an increase in dependency on Internet, we can only predict this trend to thrive.

Image Credits: Google Images