Roz Khao Ande: Yes, Ads Can Help You Eat More Nutritious Food
Ads that aim the message at the parents, driving attention to the product’s nutritional value have a larger impact.
It was sometime in the early 1980s that I tried my first egg. I came from a traditional South Indian vegetarian joint family, where even onion and garlic were not consumed, let alone eggs or meat. Then one day, the revolutionary ‘Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande’ jingle hit our television screens. It was nutritional advice at its best, and brilliantly tapped into the aspirations of the middle-class family, bringing along the promise of cognitive development – and the undying hope that I would turn into a genius at mathematics. The advertisement successfully brought about behaviour change in my father. To the amazement of several, and displeasure of some in the family, he decided that his daughter must not be deprived of the nutritious values of eggs.
In the old-fashioned household with a courtyard in the centre and over four families sharing a kitchen, the winds were changing, as nutrition was being given precedence over tradition. The memorable advertisement from the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) turned out to be my first lesson in the power of communication.
So, What is the Formula for Communicating Behaviour Change?
A careful review of advertisements in the foregoing decades will demonstrate that several have struck the right chord. These are the ones that have largely aimed the messaging at the parent, driving attention to the product’s nutritional benefits, and how it is likely to have a positive impact on the physical and mental development of the child. In doing so, they tap into the family’s aspirations that are embedded in the potential opportunities and future prosperity of its members, particularly children.
When a mother is shown to cheer for her child who overcomes failures to emerge victorious in a sport, or when an ageing couple is shown to enjoy newfound strength and a healthy life, advertisements seek to change behaviours through the most influential catalyst – personal goals.
Health is an underlying motivator, and it forms the bedrock of almost all other goals in life, be it educational excellence or economic opportunities and financial achievements.
Whose Behaviour is it that Needs to be Changed?
The urban folk has access to information on what is and isn’t good for their health, and each individual may be empowered to make informed choices to a significant extent. Among the rural populace, however, it is largely the mother-in-law or the husband who may be the decision-maker in the household. In such circumstances, one must seek to communicate about the ramifications of malnutrition on the well-being and growth of the child affecting their ability to earn sufficiently, thereby impinging on their economic security in the long term.
The child’s nutrition must be linked to the need for access to good nutrition for young mothers which should be further linked back to better nutritional interventions for adolescent girls.
At a recently held Nutrition Workshop by an international donor organization, there were discussions around the indispensability of communication on nutrition being crisp, lucid and relatable, and targeted at the right audience. Educating the consumer on nutritional values is important, but equally important is the need to understand their larger aspirations and emotions, and demonstrate the opportunities that the nutritious food presents to achieve their life goals. Establishing the link between nutrition and personal/ familial aspirations is essential insofar as it acts as a key motivator and drives behaviour change in food intake patterns.
Around the same time as the NECC singalong jingle created ripples in every household, Dabur Chyawanprash came out with an advertisement that invoked nostalgia while highlighting the significance of traditional herbs, and showcased its immunity- and strength- building properties that allowed an ageing man and his little grandson to actively play badminton.
Promoting better nutrition, therefore, has always been linked to the aspirations of individuals and families. While those in the upper middle-class have been driven to choose certain foods that are associated with an elevated status, those from poorer backgrounds have leaned towards foods that are affordable and come with the promise of better health today leading to better economic outcomes in the future. The benefits of nutrition, especially for young mothers and children cannot be overstated, and it is crucial for this to be recognized universally. The point to be driven home is simple: good nutrition for women at adolescence and early motherhood will ensure good nutrition for newborns, and the cycle goes on.
Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said,
Nutrition is both a maker and a marker of development. Improved nutrition is the platform for progress in health, education, employment, empowerment of women and the reduction of poverty and inequality, and can lay the foundation for peaceful, secure and stable societies
It brilliantly captures the interlinkages between nutrition and each of the sustainable development goals, reaffirming that powerful nutritional interventions are likely to create better outcomes for the overall health and well-being, education and economy of the society. It is about time we start communicating right, and encouraging the right nutritional behaviour.
(The author Bhavani Giddu works on advocacy communications in the public health and development sector and tweets as @bgiddu)
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