Vick Vaporub: Come and visit “the coldest house in Lima”: a controversial campaign recreates the hardships of a peasant cabin | International

The actress Gianella Neyra, inside the replica of the house they built for the Vick Vaporub advertising campaign in a shopping center in Lima.
The actress Gianella Neyra, inside the replica of the house they built for the Vick Vaporub advertising campaign in a shopping center in Lima.RR H.H.

Come and feel what “the coldest house in Lima” is like. Peruvian advertisers and advertisers have launched a controversial campaign that recreates the cabin of a poor rural family in a shopping center in Lima. The idea is that the inhabitants of the capital feel the cold – from three degrees Celsius to six, artificially generated – as if they were in the Andes. The experience aims to obtain donations to shelter those affected by the frosts in the Puno region, mostly peasants who deal with poverty. Every year, between June and August, thousands of inhabitants of the highest towns fall ill with acute respiratory infections and some die due to lack of medical care.

The bell The touch of union, a collaboration between a shopping center in the east of the capital and Vick Vaporub, began last week, but it went viral this Wednesday, when the television and theater actress Gianella Neyra uploaded a video paid for by the brand to her Instagram account. medicine. She shows her visit to the precarious shack, where she put on headphones, looked at belongings similar to those of a peasant family, and touched a poncho hanging on a wall.

This was the video that the actress uploaded to her Instagram account.Video: RR H.H.

“We all know that frost affects many families in Puno every year, but not all of us know what such intense cold feels like. That’s why my friends from @vickperu invite us to visit the coldest house in Lima as part of their new campaign,” Neyra commented on Instagram. Nearly 24 hours later, the video had more than 220,000 views. The actress later deleted the post.

One of the first to question the initiative was the playwright and scriptwriter of series and soap operas Eduardo Adrianzén, due to the use of poverty for the visibility of a brand. “Charity and compassion are part of the imaginary of the urban middle and upper classes in Peru. It is like his quota of social sensitivity that never looks at the contexts and the causes, but rather the surface from a vertical position, never from equality as citizens”, explained the also theater director to this newspaper.

Eland Vera, professor of Communications at the National University of the Altiplano located in Puno, rejected that advertising takes advantage of the misery of the Puno highlands. “From the indigenists who spoke on behalf of the indigenous peoples, to the NGOs, politicians and professionals who set up projects using the tragic life in the mountains as a pretext, today in advertising and marketing mode, the story has a renewed twist. Our great and serious inequalities as a country never cease to show all that we lack to achieve an inclusive and genuinely supportive us”, commented Vera, researcher of cultural identity in the region of Aymara population, border with Bolivia.

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Indigenous rights activist and former congresswoman Tania Pariona maintains that the campaign “not only stereotypes (the affected rural population) as incapable poor people who live on support: it also reproduces the paternalistic view as subjects incapable of leaving this reality, without agency.”

The website of the controversial Vick Vaporub campaign in Peru, "Extreme cold experience".
The website of Vick Vaporub’s controversial campaign in Peru, “Experience of extreme cold”.RR H.H.

Pariona, a social worker and indigenous Quechua, recalls that families in the southern Andes have looked for 1,000 ways to face the cold with their own resources, knowledge and materials. “We need the State to take this issue as part of public policy, with sustainable programs and considering the residents as actors of change and development, and with the adaptation or construction of more ‘hot houses,'” says the Ayacuchana leader. “Staging the situation of our brothers to ‘raise awareness’ and get people to donate is unwise and even unacceptable,” she noted.

For the lawyer and university professor Miriam Larco, technical secretary of the Radio and Television Council, a state entity that watches over good practices in the media, the campaign is contrary to the dignity of the person.

“Can the experience of cold be lived so that people show solidarity? No. It’s like a beating ointment doing an activation where they beat people so they feel the violence. It is an advertisement that seeks to sell its product and for this it goes against the principles of social adaptation -by presenting situations against the dignity of the person- with the aim of improving its reputation as a company. Poverty and cold weather are just an excuse to sell,” explains Larco.

Other influencer invited to visit “the coldest house in Lima” and then help those affected by the cold is the singer and host of television programs Maricarmen Marín. The video that she uploaded to her Instagram wall had more than 100,000 views the day after it was posted.

“Replicating a house in Puno, Vick has brought it here so that we can all experience the intense cold: how important it is to put yourself in another’s shoes. Come and experience this feeling that I am sure will make you donate”, says the artist in the video that she recorded during her visit.

However, winter temperatures in districts on the outskirts of Lima are as low as those simulated by the shack in the advertising campaign in the shopping mall. A couple of weeks ago, the national meteorology service registered six degrees Celsius in a human settlement in Villa María del Triunfo and announced that it would continue like this during the winter, although the wind chill could reach up to two degrees due to humidity and winds.

The campaign involves the NGO Juguete Pendiente, which since before this advertising initiative has been collecting funds with an electronic wallet to buy and send warm clothes to the regions most affected by the frosts, such as Puno, Cusco, Moquegua and Ayacucho, in the south of the country. Andean. The organization declined to comment on the controversy as the campaign went “viral on social media.”

EL PAÍS sought out Gianella Neyra and the responsible advertising agency to record their version in the face of the criticism they have received, especially on Twitter, but they did not respond to the request.

University professor Mónica Núñez, with a master’s degree in environmental management, harshly criticized the initiative because it reduces adaptation and mitigation strategies against frost to charity. “This campaign is absolutely immoral, offensive and counterproductive: it creates the feeling that the high Andean region is condemned to vulnerability and nothing can be done but send blankets.”

Núñez points out that if the company wanted to make a serious commitment, it would have to coordinate in the long term with the National Center for Disaster Prevention and regional governments. “Climate change will bring many more disasters: it is not an opportunity to sell,” added the lawyer.

On the campaign’s website, Vick reports that the donations are destined for two population centers in Puno: and they intend to give each person a jacket, a shirt, high socks, a blanket and a knitted hat. According to the National Center for Epidemiology, Prevention and Control of Diseases of Peru, in 2021 6,160 people died from pneumonia, the highest number since 2010. This year, until the second week of June, 1,383 have died from this cause.

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