THE THREE SINS OF ADVERTISING
THE THREE SINS OF ADVERTISING
“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements” wrote Norman Douglas in his work “SOUTH WIND”. Advertisements in fact not only reflects social values, but also influences it. Being a powerful tool it must be used prudently, but are we above reproach? The fact is in our desperation to lure the consumer, we are prepared do anything and make any compromise. The common transgressions are:
· Projecting women as mere showpieces
· Promising instant ‘nirvana’
· Making exaggerated or tall claims.
Getting the attention of the consumer is the greatest challenge and what could be a better attention catcher than sex appeal. It is to this temptation that most advertisers and advertising agencies succumb. The sensuous charm of a supple model is used to promote a wide range of products ranging from motor cycles to stabilizers. Even children who have not lost their milk tooth are made to perform like adults using a body language that can only be described as repulsive. The reason for this is because all advertising campaigns are based on a simple principle enshrined in the acronym AIDA, which stands for ATTENTION – INTEREST – DESIRE – ACTION. Getting attention is the most challenging part of conceiving an advertising campaign. Our senses are so much bombarded by external stimuli that we desensitize ourselves by ignoring that which is irrelevant. Just consider a downtown rush hour traffic scenario. We are so engrossed in driving that we try to shut out from our conscious mind all other thoughts. This is what we do most of the time, so getting the attention of such a consumer is the primary challenge of an advertiser. What could be more effective than using sex appeal? When advertisers try to outdo one another, at one point we transgress the limits of acceptable behavior. This is where we must remember that how something is said is as important as what is being said.
The second sin of advertising is its promise of instant gratification. On reading some ads, one gets the feeling that, the panacea to all problems would be by buying that brand. In fact the very foundation of materialism is based on the promise of instant gratification which any mature and reasonable person knows is just not true. If all the products available in the American of Western market could satiate all our desires, the developed countries must indeed be the happiest nations in the world. Is it really so? Then why is this illusory promise being made? Here it is the economic factor which answers this question. Imagine for a moment if people begin to lead a life of ‘simple living and high thinking’ what would be the result? Demand for goods is bound to decline. When demand decline corporations flounder, resulting in its closure, unemployment and resultant social problems. If such a thing is not to happen consumers must keep buying until they become shopaholics. Advertising ensures that you continue to buy, even if it is not something that you really need. The underlying principle being “what is good for General Motors is good for America” and by implication the world.
The third sin happens to be making tall and exaggerated claims that amount to befooling people. Words have the wonderful capacity of not only being meaningful but also deceitful. One commonly used copy is the refrain “a million Americans cannot be wrong” kind of logic. This kind of logic goes by different names like argumentum ad populum ("appeal to the people") argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number") and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans"). This logic is most commonly used in advertising and religion. This is really a fallacy which hinges on the statement "If many believe so, it is so." Another technique used by ad agencies is exaggeration which is known as ‘hyperbole’, in fact the word ‘hype’ is derived from this word. Tags and phrases like “Impossible is Nothing” (Adidas swimwear), “For extra strong, extra long nails”, (Nivea calcium power nail polish) are all examples of hype.
Advertising no doubt is a useful and powerful tool. It is due to its intrinsic power that it needs to be regulated. Advertising standards are in place, but more than external control it is self-regulation that needs to be sincerely followed.