The Role of Commercial Culture in Promoting Social Change


The commercial advertisements shown in the different media arecaptured in people’s minds to show different lifestyles. Most ofthe multinational companies run expensive advertisements thatinfluence people’s behavior and culture. Product Red is a globalcampaign that exploits the power of marketing and partnering withrenowned consumer brands to raise funds for combating AIDs in Africa.The project works towards sensitizing people about AIDs and triggertheir interests combating it. Helen Epstein’s AIDs Inc outlines thesuccess and shortcomings of the prevention programs in Africaincluding the flashy Red Program that topped in commercial adverts.Commercial culture promotes social change by getting people involvedin AIDs prevention campaign raise enough money to provide medicineand other supportive education.

Commercial culture promotes social change. Commercial advertisementsare repeated repeatedly in the various media. With time, the productsdescribed in the adverts become part of the community. As Epstein(2007) notes, the HIV pandemic had been the source of intense stigmain the society with those having the disease-fearing to disclosetheir status for fear of discrimination. Product Red popularized thedisease to make people perceive it as a normal issue facing theirsociety. It targeted the young people who were mostly affected by HIVand AIDS. The project’s approach to discourage sex among the youth,using open and direct information, became effective. As Epsteinnotes, the LoveLife media campaign on the other hand was positive and cheerful and resembled the bright , persuasive modern method ofadvertisement campaigns that many South African kids were attractedto” (Epstein, 2007, p.33). With time, the topic that most people inthe community approached width a lot of caution became part of thecommunity. The African culture as Epstein noted is that sex mattersare not discussed openly especially in a group of people in differentage groups. However, the commercial adverts funded by Epstein brokethe ice leading to social change. Epstein notes that, “There is adirect correlation between young people’s sexual behavior and theirsense of confidence in the future” (Epstein, 2007 p.155). Theapproach used in South Africa of popularizing behavior change wasextended to Uganda and Epstein widened the approach to include directdiscussions with the young people. The population was receptive ofthe information faster accessing it from the advertisements ran inthe different media (Epstein, 2007). The stigma that people had onthe victims reduced significantly. Interestingly, it appeared thatthe lack of the right information regarding AIDs was the primaryfactor contributing to people’s attitude. The Red campaign changedthe society’s attitude towards the disease.

Commercial culture also promotes social change by introducing a newissue to the community by using the marketing approach. A new productdoes not penetrate the market unless it becomes popular throughcommercial advertisements and other promotional methods. Theobjective of the adverts and promotional methods is to change thesociety. In the same way, commercial culture demystified AIDs andpeople become receptive to the prevention programs. On the same note,the red campaign reached out to partners who contributed to creatingAIDs programs. The commercial campaign partly serves the needs of thepartners. Were it not for the commercial, campaigns the partnerscould not have joined in the fight against AIDS. Therefore, thecommercial culture creates awareness not only to the affectedcommunity but also to the partners, and they realize their mostappropriate role while at the same time serving their business needs.The Red Product raised money by partnering with major corporationsincluding Nike, American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, andArmani among others. The companies would put a red Logo on theirproducts and donate 50% of all the sales from the products towardsthe AIDs Campaign. The perception that the community, as well as thepartners, had towards AIDs changed courtesy of the Red product.

Commercial culture leads to raising funds that are instrumentals inrunning campaigns and implementing projects. As mentioned, most ofthe potential partners want a popularized campaign so that they donot participate in the campaigns on a purely philanthropic basis. Themoney raised from the sales was used to fund the television, radioand print anti-stigma campaigns in South Africa and Uganda. Also, thestigma that people had towards AIDs curtailed their efforts ofseeking medication. Also, the nature of the African governments ofoperating on stringent budgets failed to avail the drugs on a regularbasis. As Epstein notes, “H.I.V. mutates and it becomes resistantto one or all of the common drugs. Therefore, patients will have toswitch eventually to a new cocktail” (Epstein, 2007, p.156). Thefunds raised from the commercial nature of Product Red were used toprovide drugs and run campaigns sensitizing people on where to getthe drugs.

In conclusion, Commercial culture contributes to social change and italso leads to raising funds to support programs. Product Red educatedthe community on HIV-AIDs through the campaigns and funded awarenesscampaigns. Educating people about HIV and AIDS in South Africa andUganda required the contracting of professionals in the field. AsEpstein notes, it would be difficult to reach a big number of peoplewithout the necessary funds. As Epstein notes, “Prevalence andtransmission rates are extremely high, the health care infrastructureis fragile, there are too many other opportunistic diseases, and thecosts are impossible (Epstein, 2007). The money from foreign donorsalso funded the education of children from families affected by AIDSas most of them were left in vulnerable conditions. Also, othernon-governmental organizations joined to offer expertise and otherin-kind donations. Therefore, were it not for its commercial nature,Product Red could not have achieved most of its goals.


Epstein, H. (2007).The invisible cure: Africa, the West, and the fight against AIDS.London: Macmillan.