Advertising is powerful enough to give society cause for concern. While making a critical assessment of advertising’s role the critics focus more on its social role, while defenders present economic argument. Economists see advertising as inflating the price, religious leaders blaming it for materialism, sociologists blaming it for lowering values of society, and politicians think of it as waste of scarce resources.
Nielsen’s annual ‘Trust in Advertising’ study shows that consumer trust in advertising is not 100%. Public discussion of advertising tends to focus on its alleged contribution to societal problems. Nielsen conducted a survey that covered 25,000 consumers across 50 countries in 2007 to provide a better understanding of consumer perceptions of the benefits of advertising.
The study reveals that a vast majority of consumers see advertising as playing a key role in the economy: 80% of the world’s consumers believe that advertising helps create jobs and 72% say advertising contributes to economic growth. About 68% of the respondents believe it helps to reduce prices by stimulating competition. A clear majority of consumers across all markets also understand the importance of advertising and sponsorship as a critical source of funding for sports, the arts and the media.
It is just that much advertising gets lost in the noise of competing brands, and some advertising merely adds to the noise.
It creates the desire and taste for new products which are not actually necessities of life and income of consumers will not let them enjoy. It encourages people to buy things they do not need. It widens the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Obesity among children and allegations that unrestricted consumption of fast food and beverages are the factors leading to it is because of materialism. Industry says that it is basically an argument against capitalist approach to marketing.
Children cannot make informed choice or cannot differentiate between real life and the life portrayed in the world of ad. Industry says that they target the appropriate audiences and they do not encourage irresponsible behaviour. Ads targeting children are released even before the claims are verified like complain.
About some years back, a young man had jumped from a building attempting to imitate Akshay Kumar’s dare-devilry stunts shown in Thums Up’s ad. In September, 2010, an eleven year old child killed himself allegedly under the influence of an ad done by a Heinz India drink, ‘Complan’, claimed to make children ‘taller’.
It reduces people or objects into classes based on inferences that are made from an individual or social context, like “all professors are absent-minded”, “all blonds are dumb”, etc. Industry says that they merely reflect society’s attitudes. Evidence suggests that advertising generally lags behind social trends rather than shaping them. The depiction of working woman has been shown too late.
The new Series of 13 TV ads promoting Tata Docomo’s network connectivity with a tagline ‘no getting away’ – released across national channels – is being criticized for “showing class bias”, “cozying up to harmful social prejudices”and being indecent. A mad finds a mobile phone while cleaning the house and hides it inside her blouse. But just as she is about to exit, the phone rings and her employer gets to know.
According to K V Thomas, Minister, Govt of India, Piramal Healthcare ad – ‘getting complete energy in 8 days or moneyback’ , Airtel Digital TV on ‘Free Regional Pack for life’ and ‘fair skin’ by FMCG producers were misleading. Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act and the Cable Television Network Regulation Act have failed to prevent misleading ads.
Similarly, the Food & Drug Administration of Maharashtra Government had chargsheeted seven officials of Henz India Pvt Ltd in its petition dated May 3, 2010, clearly stating the offence as “an exaggerated ad on TV channels about food article ‘Complan’.”Complan had claimed in its ad that it can add two inches to Children’s height.
It works at subconscious level and persuades people to purchase goods that they would otherwise not buy – Drink Coke and Eat Popcorn in a cinema hall, Gilbey’s London Dry Gin which embedded the word “SEX” into the ice cubes to arouse feelings of sexuality, romance and excitement among the ad’s readers.
The Food Safety Agency of UK, specifies that anything more than 12.5 grams of sugar for every 100 grams of an item is unhealthy. The Kellogg’s Choco label claims to contain nearly double that amount, at 23.3 grams per 100 grams of cereal. And according to Ahmadabad based Consumer Education & Research Centre, chocolates contains even more than that: 32.8 grams. But who informs the customers in ads?
Critics say that ad increases the cost and inferior quality of goods is introduced in the market to deceive the consumers. Price is set by the market forces of which advertising is one, but often not a significant one. The study made by Office of Fair Trading, 1983, came to the finding that prices declined when advertising was introduced in U.K. Opticals market.
Ads that provide information about longitudinal cuts or lower competitive prices may well help to lower the prices among competitive brands or increase consumers’ price elasticity. Mass advertising of new products could encourage mass adoptions by consumers and enable firms to exploit economies of scale and lower costs. Manufacturer advertising could trigger inter-retailer competition as retailers compete to advertise and promote the brand.
Often miracle products that claim they can cure overnight everything from baldness to bad breath to incontinence are heavily advertised. Consumer’s choice is greatly injured by the advertisement. Advertisement restricts the competition among the products. Big industrialists and manufacturers may exercise their monopolistic control over the market with the help of advertisement technique which is always against the public interest.
It is accused of corrupting media, leading them to make editorials that favour the advertisers rather than the public – case of tobacco or oil companies are clear pointers. The media denies any type of self-censorship.
In electronic advertising, the viewers are forced to see number of ads to which they can’t save themselves. Although this clutter from ads is less offensive in the print media as the reader may easily ignore the ads. The media says without ads they would be very costly to customers. At times consumers may want to see ads for an informed decision-making.
Our moral values are being degraded by the bombardment of impropriety by the media. Adler would be quick in pointing out the reason why these messages have such a negative effect on people. There are two main tactics advertisers use to sell their product: either imply that their product will bring about the achievement of a particular (usually real) good, or make their product the object of desire, therefore making it an apparent good to people.
Some firms present immoral program and features and crime stories in Television and Radio for advertising their products which have a very bad influence upon new generation. So advertising results in creating social evils in the society and wasting of economy.