Industries like to sell their products. Buyers want to know more about them to make rational decision about purchasing, to ensure value for the money they spend . But can they?? Is the information they gained through adveritising providing them information that is evidence based, safe, complete and accurate. Are the business communities playing responsible roles while promoting their products? These are some of the questions every responsible citizen would like to have answers to.
A 2010 survey by Landor Associates, Burson-Marsteller and Penn Schoen Berland, companies that specialize in brand consulting, public relations and messaging and communications strategy, respectively, found that 77 percent of consumers believe social responsibility should be a priority for companies ( Ref: https://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/social-responsibility-advertising-11622.html) One aspect of CSR is public safety and protection of vulnerable population, specially children and women. World Health Orgnization and The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasize that the amount and types of advertising directed at children and adolescents may promote choices that contribute to obesity, poor nutrition and dangerous habits such as cigarette and alcohol use. The prodcuts that are claimed to enhance beauty in women ( and men) may actually damage the skin due to their harmful side effects.
Some of the strategies adopted by advertizers is to use celebrities for the endorsement of their products, and to target children, in addition to giving inaccurate or incomplete information. We love and respect our senior artists and usually believe what they say. What if the information they give is not accurate? For example- it may be true that the water tank will not break if it falls from a height, but what if someone tries out the prank of throwing the tank with someone inside it ( as shown in TV) and ends up breaking a few bones or sustaining head injuries. This is dangerous and may even be life threatening! The advertisement that promotes the use of soft drinks by children highlights that the daily vitamin requirment is fulfilled by consuming the drink, but it does not give any information on the amount of sugar that will be consumed in the drink and the likelihood of developing obesity. The above are just two examples from the televisions being shown in Nepal currrently but there are multitude of advertisement with fast food, cosmetics, headache medicines, slimming products etc that are very harmful. They use multiple media of communication- radio, print, internet and the likes of it. Non communcable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension are usually related to life style choices that are established through behaviours /tastes for products while one is still a child or an adolescent. A meta analysis of 11 studies showed that people who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks. Risks are even greater in young adults and Asians (Ref: Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010;33:2477-8)
As a doctor, my plea to the businessmen and advertisment industry is to follow ethical practices. It may be ok to make profits, or earn handsome amounts of money by modelling as long as it does not come at the cost of harming an individual and/or having long term negative consequences to the nation. As aware consumers let us try to analyze the advertisement for accuracy and completeness of the information and let us continue to speak out on behaf of our less informed brothers and sisters and above all, our children. This is our social responsibility!