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Ignore advertising or hate it…but you can’t deny that you need it!

January 7, 2008

We all love to hate advertising but advertising is as necessary as the air we breathe! O.K. That’s an exaggeration, but well, in a modern world, perhaps it’s not.

The good side
The advertising industry (alongwith its corporate master) has done some things really wrong and as a result a lot of people distrust all advertising..but there is a good side, its useful side. Most of us already know the importance of advertising I guess, but it’s not on the top of our minds. So here’s a reminder. Just a few brief points:

1. All business activity needs advertising to inform people about products and services. It’s important to keep in mind that consumers become aware of the choices available to them.
2. Advertising helps improve quality of the product. Brands compete and try to outdo each other in order to be first with the consumer and this can spur innovation.
3. A democratic government needs advertising. This is the only way that the candidate can reach out to his/her voters.
4. In fact, whether it’s a brand, a government, a community event…all require advertising. NGO’s use advertising to spread educational messages and organisations collect donations through advertising. And let’s not forget the importance of classifieds and appointment ads.
5. In most countries the media cannot survive without advertising. Whether it’s television, radio or newspapers, advertising is their life-blood. Government sponsorship of media does not always work and may lead to consumer dissatisfaction. How many of us watch Doordarshan more than we watch a private television channel? And believe me DD is far better now, and that’s because of private competition. If DD was the only TV channel, we are likely to get below average fare as anyone who remembers what DD was like before the advent of cable knows.
6. Consumers pay less for their tv, newspapers and magazines. Without advertising a private tv channel or newspaper or magazine will cost a lot. Nothing will be free or almost free anymore. Instead of shelling out Rs 2/- for one’s daily newspaper you might have to shell out Rs 100/- and forget about enjoying it with your daily cuppa. Most of us will head for either the library or wait until we get to the office. Only the rich benefit in this case. The benefits of the media reaching all citizens at a nominal price are vast.
7. And ofcourse the advertising industry also creates a huge number of jobs! It was estimated that (according to an economic study for 2005) $278 billion of company advertising would drive $5.2 trillion in sales and contribute to 21 million jobs in the United States.

Yet we hate advertising!
Despite our rational mind telling us all of this, we hate advertising. As soon as the commercial onslaught starts on television we switch channels. Either it’s plain boredom or distress at seeing so many ads.

The ad world’s greatest problem
The fact is that the advertising industry’s biggest problem today is the anti-advertising feelings amongst people. These feelings aren’t new, and nor are they restricted to one part of the world. Whether it’s a developed market or an underdeveloped one the rage against advertising seems to be building up.

A gallup poll in the United States said that advertising tends to be treated like a “dirty word’ and the poll said that only about 10 percent of those polled thought that the advertising industry was ethical. And 75 percent of Europeans believe there is too much advertising. A recent study revealed that more consumers have “wholly negative” feelings (36 percent) about advertising than “wholly positive” (28 percent). Sixty percent are more negative about advertising than they were a few years ago; and a whopping 69 percent want tools that block advertising completely.

Lies, all lies!
The problem with advertising is that it doesn’t just inform people…it tries to persuade, entice, lure and influence. This may be necessary for a brand’s growth and business growth, but therein lies the pitfall. Companies and brands are tempted to cross the line and blatantly lie and/or find loopholes in the law to promote their products. The ad on the right is a surrogate ad promoting alcohol although alcohol advertising is banned in India. Brand managers have targets to meet and if misleading advertising does the trick, there are no qualms.

Packaging and positioning of a product can also be misleading (marketing) and a case in point is Maggi ‘Atta‘ (whole wheat) noodles. Unless the marketer clearly mentions (on the pack) how much atta used in the mix, such positioning is misleading. Particularly so in India, as we do not even have a legal definition of what constitutes ‘whole-wheat’ flour. I have picked up an oil from the Dollar Shop here, which calls itself a blend of Olive and Soya Oil. On close scrutiny one realises that the Olive Oil is only 5 percent of the whole.

Any solutions?
One of the ways to sort out such blatant displays of misleading marketing and advertising, is regulation. Both by the government and the industry. Government generally does not interfere too much, barring laying out broad guidelines and setting legal limits. Companies find it fairly easy to get round the law. Often the advertising councils depend on consumers to make complaints, but in countries like India consumers are less aware and often do not complain. We have one of the lowest complaint rates here.

It’s ideal if the ad industry self-regulates. This is common in developed markets but while it may not have worked as well as it should, (as one commentator pointed out in a comment on a previous post on self regulation in India), it’s still needed. For India however, self-regulation is in it’s infancy and we need self-regulation in place as one of the measures to prevent misleading advertising.

The government needs to do more work too. In my view, children in particular need to be protected against misleading advertising and I hope India goes the way of countries like Sweden where all television advertising aimed at children under the age of 12 is banned.

But if one has to take a holistic view, advertising is needed for business growth and without it we will go back to the dark ages, literally speaking as access to information will decrease. So the answer is more control and more checks and balances. And ofcourse a strong consumer awareness, which is sadly lacking in India.

And as far as I see it, if the ad industry doesn’t get it right soon, if it persists on pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes, the worse it will get for them. The cynicism and distrust which has crept in which increase as consumers get more aware and this can only harm brands, even the good ones. As a result, companies will be forced to spend more and more to try and convince consumers. It makes me wonder if the backlash against advertising will ever start to reverse…

(I have written this article by taking help from the following sources: [1], [2] [3] [4] [5] )

(The photographs are mine.)

Related Reading:Advertisers to be reined in!
Surrogate ads blatantly displayed
Vegetable and Dal Noodles are not as healthy as the ads claim
Creating a need where none exists
Is the Beauty Care Industry a fraud?
Aggressive advertising by supermarkets

 

41 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2008 2:41 am

    Good one, Nita. Though I’ll have to take exception to the following:

    3. A democratic government needs advertising. This is the only way that the candidate can reach out to his/her voters.

    While ads are an essential part of election campaign, that is not the only way for a candidate to reach out. That’s why those who are running for an office have public rallies, meetings and debates (in the US), and write op-ed columns in newspapers, and are interviewed by reporters – which IMO are more important than their ads. They are applying for a job, and if we only looked at their ads (which exaggerate and/or outright lie or are used as a smear campaign – plenty of examples) and ignored their resume, we’d be in deep trouble. A recent example from the US is “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”

  2. January 7, 2008 6:44 am

    I didn’t like this post, Nita.
    You have not touched even cursorily on the importance of advertising as a pillar of free speech, and you even advocate bans on it for certain segments. This is the kind of paternalism that is fatal to any free human activity. The supposed defenders of capitalism become the most effective weapons for introducing controls on it.
    What about a company that fixes up couples in marriage? Suppose, hypothetically, it says ‘you will spend only a reasonable amount of dowry in your marriage if you go through us’, should it be permitted? If an ad for an exclusive club says, “No rickshawallahs here; only the corporates types will rub shoulders with you”, should it be banned as it is offensive to rickshawallahs? Where do you draw the line?
    All these are extremely practical issues based on hypothetical posits, on moral premises, and on the principle of ‘reductio ad absurdum’. Unless your lines are clear, you will have no consistent and rational yardsticks for supporting or banning anything.
    The ban on certain ad types is like a ban on your freedom to speak against the Government or the country. You might as well convert to Chinese if you support that!
    As far as kids are concerned, the onus of protecting them from harmful content is on the parents and the teachers, not the whole wide world.

  3. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 7, 2008 6:53 am

    Nita,

    Good morning, and thanks for taking on one of my most favourite objects of hatred. The opening batsmen, Amit and Rambodoc have batted along predictable lines. I’ll wait until 5-down or so for my turn. Watching with great interest,

    Vivek

  4. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 7, 2008 7:14 am

    PS: Interesting. Shefaly’s latest post is on an allied topic. Great minds thinking alike?

  5. January 7, 2008 7:44 am

    Amit, I agree with you. That was the wrong way of putting it (for me).

    Rdoc, I don’t agree with your line of argument. I don’t believe in unlimited power of free speech. It’s almost impossible for me to talk hypothetically. Call it my drawback.

    vivek, I don’t know whether we will have five down as you say. this is rather a long post!

  6. January 7, 2008 7:59 am

    I also wonder from the pov of an advertisers, if they already know that their ads are despised by the viewers (talking about TV) then how and why do they expect to sell their products? Or is it a case of rapid fire where if you hit one out of ten (one person likes the ad and buys the product based on it), you have achieved your goal? Maybe someone with inside knowledge of advertising world can comment on this.

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 7, 2008 8:22 am

    Nita:

    OK. I’m sure it’s going to be a long lineup. I’ll take my turn when it comes. Right now I’m not even sure whether I want to bat or bowl.🙂

    Actually, by paraphrasing the conventional “love … or hate … you cannot ignore…” into “ignore … or hate … you can’t deny you need it …” you have already taken a partisan position. I’ll be watching, as I said, with great interest.

    Nita, Rambodoc:

    Have you read Naomi Klein? If you haven’t, do google her. I’ll be more conventional than Nita — love her or hate her, you cannot ignore her!🙂

  8. January 7, 2008 8:26 am

    I worked in the ad industry for more than 5 years Amit and then later as a journalist reported on the industry for a long time.
    Yes, it is rather hit or miss as you say. But more important, no company can afford not to be there. And as is typical of most number crunchers they look at the numbers (TRP’s of programmes) and delude themselves into thinking that their ad is beng noticed. What always made me laugh was that at times ads have a negative effect and at times the ad is so fancy that the brand name gets lost. there are also ad recall surveys in any case and some companies take them very seriously and evaluate the effectively of their advertiising. but most important are the brand surveys which give the company an idea how high up the brand is on the consumer’s mind. and it is a truth that (in most cases) the more a company advertises the higher up this brand is!

  9. January 7, 2008 8:46 am

    Nita,

    I really don’t have anything against the advertisements. In law, we’ve always learned that the onus lies on the buyers. In other words, “Buyers Beware!”. We need to read the fine print. But yes, considering the number of illiterate people in India, there needs to be some sort of a regulation too. Determining that line is what is difficult.

    In a monopolistic industry, advertisement vehicles are very important in differentiating the products. And most of the times, consumers pay a premium because of the different features that they’re exposed to, thanks to ads. So, economically, yes, it is a necessary evil.

  10. January 7, 2008 8:52 am

    Here’s an interesting case from the US- Nike vs. Kasky. I think it’s somewhat irrational to talk about unqualified and unrestricted rights when it comes to corporations, which are a collective, and not a human being, or an individual. But that’s discussion for another time.🙂

    Vivek, your turn to bat as I’m retiring (not hurt).🙂

  11. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 7, 2008 8:59 am

    Nita (as of January 7th, 2008 at 8:26 am):

    I appreciate your candour. You can’t be all that bad, after all🙂

  12. January 7, 2008 10:21 am

    Just two bits about DD before cable onslaught.. I was pretty young then, but I only remember amazingly educative programmes.. there were quality news programmes, programmes on culture (surabhi et al) and drama was never as exaggerated and regressive.

    And not to mention quiz and crossword programmes.. Heck, no one channel now has a crossword programme on TV. As a kid, Kitu Gidwani introduced me to cruciverablism and converted me!

    DD wasn’t bad at all, right??

  13. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 7, 2008 10:46 am

    Anand,

    Thanks for reminding/informing all of us about this. You are bang on! DD in its “bad old monopolistic days” may have lacked slickness, but for sheer quality and richness of content it was way above most of todays close-to-200 channels.

    You may or may not be aware that even before the DD national network came along, it had regionally or locally autonomous broadcasts, centred on the four main cities of those days, with a footprint perhaps not exceeding a 50-100 km radius. I have fond memories of hours of excellent programming from the Bombay-Poona centres, and from occasional viewing of Delhi and Calcutta DD. The national network killed this diversity, enforcing a “One Land, One Leader, One Sunday-Evening-Film” kind of homogeneity (recall the Nazi slogan — “Ein Volk, ein Stadt, Ein Fuhrer”)

    Even when TV advertising first came along, it was confined to just two slots at the beginning and end ONLY of a half-hour programme. And these slots barely lasted 3 to 3-1/2 minutes. The kind of vile excesses we see today, with 10 minutes of ads following 10 minutes of programme, did not exist.

  14. Raj permalink
    January 7, 2008 10:58 am

    Nita,
    I must say that this is a balanced article!There are quite a few benefits to consumers because of advertising.But corporations and advertisers should not be allowed a free run and must be reined in as more often than not they turn out to be liars!

    Every newspaper or magazine or channel that carries ads must be made to clearly display something similar to the following message on every page in bold letters or everytime they screen ads,

    “Advertisements may range from being informative to being misleading.They may even turn out to be outright lies.Reader (or viewer) discretion is advised”

  15. January 7, 2008 12:05 pm

    @ Nita:

    Interesting post – of course, I would say it; I am a great fan of Indian creative expression in advertising and have always been an avid watcher of ads – never a compulsive consumer though – and then I am wont to compare and analyse them – and the commentary is amusing too. And it is the comments that I will address😉

    Rambodoc: I have to agree with Amit. Advertising is not free speech because unlike free speech in an individual’s case, somebody is paying for it. So at best, it is ‘paid speech’! Therefore the effects of relative ability to pay will come into play. So there is more than a finite chance for misleading content to make its way into the public domain. Wherever the market cannot manage to resolve imbalances, regulation will come into play. And that is why discriminatory advertising – whether rickshaw-wallahs not allowed or ‘no Indians or dogs allowed’ of yore – is not allowable. I think your model of capitalism is Capitalism Ver 1.0; now companies know that unless they follow some basic guidelines of being seen as socially responsible – at least not socially irresponsible by promoting things that are not the hallmark of a civilised society – they cannot go very far with making money…

    Amit: On the point that some watchers despise ad and it is only hit and miss, John Wanamaker is attributed as having said that “Half the Money I Spend on Advertising Is Wasted. The Trouble Is, I Don’t Know Which Half”. The man should know – he is considered the father of modern day brand advertising! Even so its power to influence cannot be ‘misunderestimated’. Recently I wrote about how Santa has been portrayed in religious works versus how Coke’s campaign in the 1930s converted him to a pot-bellied man wearing red clothes and how grown-ups (fat activists) have spent time defending the latter version as if it were a natural truth, which too sometimes is subject to naturalistic fallacy in argumentation..

    Ruhi: ‘Buyer beware’ works when the government has done all it should to ensure basics in society are in place and the information is provided for the buyer to make an informed call. Not so in India. e.g., seeing Nita’s Maggi photos reminds me – yet again – that food labelling laws in India are minimal to non-existent. Why blame Nestle for formulating or selling or promoting atta noodles? They will do minimum to comply with the word of the regulation; they do it the world over. It is their stated strategy – for those who are interested.. Indian food manufacturers, when they export their products to markets with tighter labelling regimes, use extensive labels. That suggests to me that they have the data and the ability to label their foods in India too but they do not do it, because the government does not care to address this asymmetry allowable by the way the laissez-faire in India works in the name of economic growth.

    I shall watch this debate shape up, Nita. Thanks for writing this.

  16. January 7, 2008 12:24 pm

    Shefaly,

    I agree with your points. That’s the reason I mentioned that as far as India is concerned, “Buyers Beware” might not totally apply (even though law refuses to really take this into account), because we need a stricter regulation.

  17. January 7, 2008 12:43 pm

    @ Nita:

    You say: “It’s almost impossible for me to talk hypothetically. ” I know you are talking about yourself but I disagree🙂 If you can talk conceptually, you can talk hypothetically. It is just a different kind of abstraction.

    However what you say suggests that Naomi Klein’s polemic will probably not interest you (assuming you have not already read it, which I doubt). Any person who can think for herself and observes the world and reads broadly is likely to find her writing repetitive and tiresome; not unlike the other Naomi (Woolf) each of whose basic life experiences seem to have become a book. But I digress.

    Since you prefer specifics rather than hypothetical generalisations, in the context of advertising I would recommend a book by Amarantha Wright, called Ripped And Torn.

    It is not just a great story of how brand marketers sell the dream of the blue gene to South America; but also of how they conceptualise what dreams to sell. You will, I hope, pardon some of the stylitic choices I have made in reviewing the book here:

    amazon.co.uk

    Thanks.

  18. January 7, 2008 1:47 pm

    Here’s another issue: Today, we see a lot of “advertising” for yoga, meditation claiming to cure many ills. Government has a clear role here. To protect citizens from the fake and to promote what gives holistic health.

    Few years ago, I believe, there wasn’t much support from the Govt. to any of non-allopathic treatments. Instead there was an irrational suppression.

    Even today, with the Brinda Karat vs. Baba Ramdev episode, there is complete distrust of yoga as a preventive vehicle. While many yoga practitioners claim benefits (and I have seen one in my own family), there seems to be little from the Govt. side to clearly state what has been observed experimentally and put it out in a big way to promote public health.

  19. January 7, 2008 1:47 pm

    Shefaly, Amit, Ruhi, Vivek, Raj and Anand and Rdoc, thanks for making this into an enriching and intelligent discussion. I am indeed lucky to have people like you coming to my blog. I want to add to this discussion in detail but something hectic is happening in my personal life right now and will come back to it later…but definitely I agree when Amit says:
    //I think it’s somewhat irrational to talk about unqualified and unrestricted rights when it comes to corporations, which are a collective, and not a human being, or an individual.//

    Also Vivek, let me tell you an important thing about blogs. If my voice is coming through in my blog post, if my opinion is clearly coming through, that is desirable. Ofcourse I think advertising is necessary, important, useful and all of that. I am on the side of advertising! I do hope that has come through. I do try to substantiate my viewpoint and try hard to see the other side though and comments help a lot. For example Anand pointed out that DD had some good programes. yes, he is right and I thank him for reminding me.
    The purpose of blogs is different viewpoints. That is what makes it different from media. And the reader can read 5 different blogs and then make up his own mind. A blog is an individual voice and I try to make mine a strong one. But in the end it is but one voice and should be treated as such.
    By the way this article I wrote today would have been edited and changed if it had been published by a newspaper, because they depend on advertising. That is if they had agree to let me write the negative things about advertising in the first place. That is the reason I am blogging, and I have written that in why i blog.
    remember, the purpose of blogs are individual viewpoints. If I write a dr. spock type article I would consider it defective. I want my own view to come through and as you know I welcome contrary views as long as others don’t question my right to hold my own view. As you know we have people like that, who feel that bloggers should not have their own viewpoints (as you saw on my non-veg post) but the purpose of blogging is viewpoint!!

    Shefaly, thanks for the recomendations. About the other aspect, as as I said I was talking about myself…maybe i should have put it differently. Instead of saying I can’t talk hypothetically, I should have said something like I think it’s useless to talk hypothetically. i was just being polite! Thanks for your valued comment.

  20. January 7, 2008 1:50 pm

    @Vivek

    yeah! TV then provided quality viewing.. I barely watch TV now..

  21. January 7, 2008 5:45 pm

    What an excellent article! I strongly agree with you that advertising serves several useful functions, Nita, and I also agree that advertising should be banned in some instances when it sharply conflicts with other legitimate and overriding social goals.

    For instance, I too would like to see advertising targeted at children 12 and under banned. In fact, it sickens me the arsenal of effective psychological tricks developed to efficiently manipulate people is now increasingly targeted on children.

  22. decontructor permalink
    January 7, 2008 6:57 pm

    You wrote “2. Advertising helps improve quality of the product. Brands compete and try to outdo each other in order to be first with the consumer and this can spur innovation.”
    Advertising does not do that. Competition does,

    You wrote3. A democratic government needs advertising. This is the only way that the candidate can reach out to his/her voters.”
    Not at all. Candidates can reach out to voters through TV/radio/Internet. TV and radio are transmitted on publicly owned airwaves. They should be REQUIRED to make time available equally to all candidates to participate in debates and to make position statements.

    You wrote, “4. In fact, whether it’s a brand, a government, a community event…all require advertising. NGO’s use advertising to spread educational messages and organisations collect donations through advertising. And let’s not forget the importance of classifieds and appointment ads.”

    Classifieds and job ads are not the type of ads that are vilified and seen as suspect. Free web sites like craigslist have shown that the non-ad supported model works very well. As for community events, the Internet and small local newspapers – supported by small local businesses – can do that. NGO and govt ads are public service announcements – not an issue in terms of trust. That leaves corporate brand ads. Those are a problem when they induce people to buy things they don;t need and can ill afford. You are conflating the last with all the others and trying to make the case that all advertising is “ncessary”. Not so at all.

    You say, “5. In most countries the media cannot survive without advertising. Whether it’s television, radio or newspapers, advertising is their life-blood. Government sponsorship of media does not always work and may lead to consumer dissatisfaction. How many of us watch Doordarshan more than we watch a private television channel? And believe me DD is far better now, and that’s because of private competition. If DD was the only TV channel, we are likely to get below average fare as anyone who remembers what DD was like before the advent of cable knows.”
    What about the BBC?! They work harder to establish their independnece BECAUSE they are govt and license-fee supported. And the govt, for the most part, welcomes that. The existing model of advertiser supported entertainment does not have to be the ONLY model. Also there are channels like HBO in the US thata re subscriber supported. And channels like Hallmark (from the greeting card people) that are advertiser supported but in a low understated way and they offer quality programs rather than ones that appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    You wrote, “6. Consumers pay less for their tv, newspapers and magazines. Without advertising a private tv channel or newspaper or magazine will cost a lot. Nothing will be free or almost free anymore. Instead of shelling out Rs 2/- for one’s daily newspaper you might have to shell out Rs 100/- and forget about enjoying it with your daily cuppa. Most of us will head for either the library or wait until we get to the office. Only the rich benefit in this case. The benefits of the media reaching all citizens at a nominal price are vast.” True. But look at the BBC model!

    You wrote, “7. And ofcourse the advertising industry also creates a huge number of jobs! It was estimated that (according to an economic study for 2005) $278 billion of company advertising would drive $5.2 trillion in sales and contribute to 21 million jobs in the United States.” So what? Polluters and the porn industry and the gambling industry also create lots of jobs.

    As with anything else, advertising has a role, but in moderation. And it is far from the inevitable, unescapable entitiy – especially in its current form –

  23. January 7, 2008 7:32 pm

    Paul, thanks.

    deconstructor, thank you for your valuable deconstruction. Actually I don’t disagree you at all, at least not in the broad sense. I am all for moderation and nothing disgusts me more than misleading advertising. As for giving the example of bbc, that is indeed an excellent example! Thanks.

  24. decontructor permalink
    January 7, 2008 7:45 pm

    You may not disagree with me, but your arguments about the inevitability of advertising are far from persuasive, and are actually quite dangerous in that they accept and defend/rationalize the status quo without adequate justification.

  25. January 7, 2008 8:39 pm

    Hi Nita,
    I do think that advertising has positive sides. However, i find that many advertisers sell their products based not on their merits, but rather by linking them to unconscious human impulses and needs, be they sexual or social. It was Freud’s nephew, Bernays, who in the aftermath of WW1came up with the brilliant idea to do this. As a test of his theories, he convinced a group of hip, upper class women to take up smoking, and soon enough, the trend spread among other women.

  26. January 7, 2008 8:43 pm

    @ Deconstructor:

    Interesting comments.

    You say: “Classifieds and job ads are not the type of ads that are vilified and seen as suspect.”

    Wherever these appear, whether in the Economist or in Vogue or Harper’s Bazar, there is a disclaimer that the consumer must make independent enquiries first. I am not sure that is a great endorsement of their not being ‘suspect’.

    You say: “Free web sites like craigslist have shown that the non-ad supported model works very well.”

    Actually Craigslist _IS_ itself a list of ads. The ads posted by Joe Bloggs are free, because corporates and others who place ads such as job postings, pay for their ads.

    So by hook or by crook, it is advertising that makes Craigslist their money and makes Craigslist’s survival possible… 🙂

    You say: “NGO and govt ads are public service announcements – not an issue in terms of trust.”

    Lumping the two types of organisations together is a fallacy. It is also naive to assume that trust issues do not arise with NGOs. NGOs come in various colours and hues. Sometimes they have an interest and an axe to grind; others are driven by more lofty aims. Their advertising is not always for public service. Their ads also serve purposes such as fund raising and lobbying.

    I do not know where you write from, but trusting the government – and its messages – is a fading possibility in current day UK. In the US this cynicism against government and its departments is more ingrained because the ‘capture’ of these institutions by profit making groups is more evident than it is here in the UK. Both countries effectively operate revolving doors between industry and government, and industry and NGOs. The lack of public awareness of such a revolving door may lead people to trust these two entities more but that does not mean that their advertising does not deserve the same cynicism as corporate brand advertising.

    You say: “They work harder to establish their independnece BECAUSE they are govt and license-fee supported.”

    The BBC is deemed independent because it is a quasi-autonomous public organisation. It is deemed independent because it is independent of the _government. However the funding negotiations take place between the trust and the government so indirectly the government has the power to influence the BBC’s strategic agenda even if not the day to day programming.

    It is also deemed independent in that it is expected not to have a political bias. However there is plenty of evidence in media analysis to suggest that BBC has a liberal bias. The bias is evident in their choice of programmes, their language and even the choice of/ emphasis on some stories over others in the 24 hour rolling news channel, not to forget the ‘political’ biases that their journalists’ Facebook profiles show (If you are curious, they are mostly ‘liberal’).

    At any rate Nita’s point was focused on ‘in most countries’ (NOT all countries) ‘most media’ (NOT all media’).

    “But look at the BBC model!”

    The BBC model is an antediluvian anomaly. Some of us do not even want to watch TV; we just want to possess a TV set to watch DVDs. Our licence fee structure does not allow us to even own a radio or TV set without paying the fees.

    A lot of BBC programming is sub-par and there are as many repeats of past programmes as new programming in any given day’s schedule. I do not think the model is conferring any advantages. And paying £135 a year is not exactly cheap for many people..

    The flipside is that BBC World Service is funded by a grant-in-aid from the FCO. If I were more cynical I would say that the BBC World Service is a mouthpiece for UK government foreign policy!

    Yet the quality of analysis and programming on BBC World Service is consistently superior. However on our terrestrial antennae in the UK, the same that serves us Freeview – free, but only after paying the licence fee! – we cannot even get BBC World Service. We need to pay extra for Sky and so on.

    “Polluters and the porn industry and the gambling industry also create lots of jobs.”

    This is a purely social constructivist and moralistic argument. Which can be said about anything.

    By stretching it a bit, we could even argue that by issuing cash, Bank of England is enabling gambling… and by producing men, mothers are enabling prostitution. Could we not?

    Just my thoughts.

  27. January 7, 2008 9:58 pm

    Thank you Shefaly. You have explained it far better than I could have, with your usual astuteness.
    I didn’t know all that about the BBC, and thanks for that info.🙂

  28. Raj permalink
    January 8, 2008 12:01 am

    Shefaly,
    Thanks for your honest comment that the BBC World is nothing but a mouthpiece of UK foreign policy.

    Any neutral observer who watches BBC World in recent times is forced to conclude that BBC stands for “Bush-Blair Corporation”,ofcourse now changed to “Bush-Brown Corporation” and its tagline should be “Putting Lies First” or atleast “Putting Propaganda First”.

    Please note that it is always “Bush-Blair(or Brown) Corporation” and not in the other order because UK foreign policy itself is nothing but a stooge of US foreign policy!

  29. Jackie permalink
    January 8, 2008 3:26 am

    Interesting…my first degree was actually in mass communications. Advertising, journalism and PR is the continuum. All can be done well. All can be used for ill.
    Learned that you are not selling perfume; you are selling attractiveness, desirability, etc. Good ads go after what we all want: to be happier, healthier, appear wealthier, smarter or more handsome than someone else.
    Rule of thumb: people see themselves as 15 years younger than they really are, in the advertising world. ALso, if an ad doesn’t appeal to you (Viva Viagra campaign, for example🙂 you are probably not the intended audience.
    As teenagers, we bought magazines _just_ for the ads. Some are quite artful.
    As we become more sophisticated and discerning, we learn whom to trust. Personally, I have a deep hatred for those gigantic outdoor billboards. They flip and light up and do all sorts of things now. Great god, how do people drive with such distractions?
    Imagine my shock when I returned home, nearing the top of a final mountain pass to see an oversized white billboard with my physician’s photo and contact info. There has never been anything of the sort here, especially since this is located next to park lands. There she is, smiling at me in her red cowl necked sweater, in the middle of an otherwise monotonous expanse of hardwood forest..
    Advertising is neither good nor bad; it serves a purpose, but I personally like the opt out option. We intentionally skip TV ads by using the pause feature of TiVo and recording some shows (fast forward thru the commercials).
    I feel for friends who desperately are trying to keep their children from learning “McDonald’s”. Somehow, little Annie blurted out one day that she wants a Happy Meal. All that work (they don’t have TV) and somehow the kid still learnt….

  30. decontructor permalink
    January 8, 2008 6:01 am

    Shefaly –

    I was not being naive when I suggested the BBC and NGO as examples of alternatives to Nita’s analysis.

    The BBC may not be as clean and pure as we want, but it is 100% better than what passes for media here in the U.S.. As for NGOs, they too may not always be as clean and pure as we want, but they are nowhere near as predatory as corporate ads.

    If anything, Nita is being a bit naive in suggesting that we “need” ads and that there is no alternative to them in their current form. Critical thinking and integrity demand that we don’t stop striving for a better way. To accept that ads in their current form are a necessity is to give up on core principals without even putting up a fight or searching for alternatives.

    Here in the U.S. we have NPR and PBS – both are media outlets that have taken a beating in terms of funding in these Bush-Cheney years; but they continue to plug away. Interestingly, they get funding from big business, BUT they don’t give up their editorial independence and the ads are not glitzy or filled with lofty claims and they don’t sell products people don’t need to people who can ill afford them. Audiences like me are inclined to patronize Audi and Honda BECAUSE they support NPR!

    Bottom line? I am not against ads – BUT I am not in favor of them in the form in which Nita accepts them as inevitable. And certainly not because they create jobs.

  31. January 8, 2008 8:29 am

    deconstructor, you say advertising in it’s present form is not desirable and as you know govt. sponsored advertising or media have their own pitfalls. In any case even if one accepts BBC as a professional organisation (which many don’t) such a model cannot be easily replicated in all types of economies or types of governments.
    It would be interesting to know what alternative you have in mind. Frankly your statement seems a bit naive to me, without taking into account whether an ideal alternaive is possible. If there is, can you give me any country which has followed the alternative and suceeded? It’s always easy to talk theory, naive to my mind.

  32. January 8, 2008 12:23 pm

    @ Decon(s)tructor:

    Thanks for your note.

    I am not sure it was clear that your comment on the BBC was framed comparatively. As for its being 100% better, that may be the case but BBC sure is no longer seen as impartial by many here in the UK.

    As for NGOs, I am afraid I have to disagree that they are ‘nowhere near as predatory as corporates’. They can be worse and because of the sectors they target, they can do more and more far-reaching damage that most people may think. I advise several government bodies and particularly in healthcare, I have seen closely how the noise-factor of a well-funded NGO – both noise and fundraising need them to advertise – campaigning for a particular disease interest can affect the government’s funding decisions in a particular area, even when much technical evidence is against that shift in funding. So pardon my cynicism – the corporates at least do not claim to be Mother Teresa!

    You say: “Interestingly, they get funding from big business,”

    In its fundraising efforts from corporates, PBS sells them the idea of getting prime exposure to a high quality viewership. Why else might Starbucks etc sign up? There is no clear economic case for CSR – yet – and therefore the only thing that attracts companies to CSR type activities is the benefits they may realise for their core activity.

    You say: “Audiences like me are inclined to patronize Audi and Honda BECAUSE they support NPR!”

    Exactly my point! Just because it is called sponsorship it does not mean it is not advertising. They have achieved their goal. You may think that not being exposed to glitzy ads means they did not try to sell you anything but see how successful they have been!

    I may be repeating myself in the blogosphere but I highly recommend a film called Skokie. It does not matter how a message gets through. So long as it gets through. That is what matters to the message-owner. And the film, when I watched it, scared me. It is about neo-Nazi propaganda in modern day United States.

    As for the inevitability of ads, I suppose the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon may have to be put on hold. Because eventually that is what it is based on – communities of trust and the lure of advertising to them. Nobody has yet figured how to monetise that for sure yet, but that is what the whole Web 2.0 thing is based on, and that includes blogging so this sort of dialogue can take place.

    Thanks.

  33. January 8, 2008 12:28 pm

    @ Jackie:

    “..Somehow, little Annie blurted out one day that she wants a Happy Meal. All that work (they don’t have TV) and somehow the kid still learnt….”

    Perhaps time for parents to learn that they cannot keep other influences from affecting their children?

    And knowing about something does not mean kids have to want it and wanting does not mean they have to get it. My nieces in Boston do not watch TV because they do not have one. They know of McDonald’s. But they will tell you, why it is not good. They are schooled from childhood in proteins, carbs, veggies, fruits etc so they know McD’s food is high in fat and cholesterol and not very good when it comes to veggies. Admittedly the parents are doctors (one pediatrician and one psychiatrist) but I still consider this a good achievement on their part..

  34. Jackie permalink
    January 8, 2008 8:53 pm

    Shefaly – trust me, 4 year old Annie gets plenty of education from two parents who are park rangers (specialists in enviro education)…they are more into things green, including nutrition than I am! The little kid knows what foods mommy buys and can rattle off names of rocks, frogs, plants, etc.
    The problem is that one sleepover at another home, and she is exposed to McDonalds. I don’t know, but she must be thinking it’s some sort of forbidden fruit. One bite, and whoa! That was my point, sorry not to be more detailed. The kid knows nutrition – I have even brought kid friendly toys and the like from health fairs. Even the best and most attentive parents have to constantly fight off predatory marketing to children. Thanks!

  35. January 8, 2008 10:46 pm

    You say: “Audiences like me are inclined to patronize Audi and Honda BECAUSE they support NPR!”

    Exactly my point! Just because it is called sponsorship it does not mean it is not advertising. They have achieved their goal. You may think that not being exposed to glitzy ads means they did not try to sell you anything but see how successful they have been!

    But doesn’t that tell us that unobtrusive advertising can and does work? It’s not as if it’s only the NPR crowd that doesn’t enjoy their favorite TV/radio programs interrupted every 10 minutes by a jingle.🙂

  36. January 8, 2008 10:57 pm

    @ Jackie: I sent you a mail. Thanks.

    @ Amit: I assume your question is for me.

    The post, as I recall, is about advertising per se, not about the nature, execution and frequency of advertisements.

    Besides, the purpose of brand advertisers is to ensure their message gets through and translates into more sales. That is achieved in many ways – sponsorships are clearly the more effective way esp if sponsoring NPR.

  37. January 9, 2008 12:03 am

    Shefaly, the conversation in the comments doesn’t always stick to the post content, and if the nature, execution, frequency of ads etc. are mentioned, I don’t see why a comment can’t be made on it, or the possibility of unobtrusive advertising being a successful model.🙂

  38. January 9, 2008 12:42 am

    Amit, sure. I agree. 🙂

  39. May 7, 2008 6:42 pm

    As someone who has spent some time in this particular business field, my conclusion is this.

    There will always be comments about whether or not advertising is in fact a necessary evil, necessity or purely a fact of human life. There will always be questions to whether or not advertising actually works. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not.

    Do we really need it? Yes
    Do we really want it? No

    Why do we really need it?
    We get information that we can use in our lives – sometimes.

    Why do we not really want it?
    We might feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of information we have to process; too much choice makes it harder to decide for ourselves. [We often then defer to what is popular or even what is anti-popular / an alternate.]

    Does this all really matter?
    No. Ultimately it does not.

    I’m going to be a hack now, as I will quote by John Wanamaker;
    “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

    50/50. 25/75. 20/80. 10/90. 60/40. Divide it up however you like. Use complex equations if that is to your taste. The truth though is – it is ALL – hit and miss. This is no precision science – even in the age of digital communications / advertising.

    Whilst this topic is in itself interesting, it is perpetually rhetorical and therefore neverendingly pointless or meaningless. [With no insult to Nita – whatsoever.] It is the subject that is pointless and meaningless, because it cannot be definitely concluded.

    The truth of the matter is – corporations really do not care about their advertising, as long as they can detect that they are making money out of you and me, buying in to what they have to sell. Corporations communicate for two major reasons; further the brand and/or further the bottom line. When they make more money, they expand, give bonuses to their staff [on a sliding scale] and continue on their way.

    That might be a rather simplistic view, however it is one that cannot be questioned. Go and talk to the CFO about what he cares about. Cashflow and Profits. The CFO runs the company bu virtue of the fact that he or she is always looking at the bottom line.

    What interests me in the context of India are all the [ad] agencies that have plans to sink their teeth in to India – to – wait for it – make more money for themselves. Coming from a ‘developing nation’ myself and living in the heart of Europe, I curiously watch the greedy prepare themselves to swashbuckle in and ‘take over the show’ from the locals. I think that they are in for a shock. My advice in this regard is for local agencies to hang on to their business with all the might and vigour that they can muster. Develop your own markets on your own; you do not need the ‘help’ or ‘expertise’ of outsiders, because they’re not genuinely interested.

    On on the outro, a nice piece, Nita. Thanks to everyone else for making this an enjoyable read.

  40. gloria permalink
    March 23, 2009 9:43 pm

    can anyone tell me the answer for my question please…i need the solution for this..i just want some reasons for why “advertisements are not necessary or mandatory”…please do give me the answer as soon as possible.

    thanks alot,
    gloria

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