What advertisements tell us about us

They say a lot can be told about a culture by the television content it watches. Being such a popular and widespread medium, it necessarily reflects the people and their views and outlook on life. The same can be said about the advertisements running on TV too. Being created by professionals for the sole purpose of enticing consumers to buy a product, the ads, I’m sure, go through a rigorous vetting process and are fine tuned to achieve their purpose. The target audience is clearly demarcated and the ad is tailor-made to appeal to the group it’s aimed at. A lot of research goes into it and a lot of time and money are spent on it. Keeping that in mind if we look at some of the ads running on TV today, you would get the feeling that the Indian masses are basically dumb and have no critical ability whatsoever. The idea seems to be to make the ad alluring enough so that people watching it don’t even think of questioning the claims made by the ad. There’s one for Nivea deodorant with “ocean extracts”. What, pray, are these extracts? What exactly do you even mean by that term? Nothing, of course. It is just meant to invoke the image of the blue ocean with its bracing breeze and get the consumer in a mood to buy the product. Logic goes quietly out the window. There is a plethora of ads with extra cute kids selling everything from dog food (Pedigree) to phone connections (Reliance 3G), with their perfectly lisped sentences and dimply smiles, ready to tug at our hearts and loosen our purse-strings. You have ads selling perfumes and after shaves and deodorants that purport to convey the idea that women are olfactory sense induced, sex hormone pumped, brainless animals who’ll claw your clothes off if you wear the right scent. I know there’s hyperbole involved in advertising, but this has gone way out of hand. A frail twig of a girl can pull a truck using her hair as rope since she uses a particular brand of shampoo. Apparently un-split hair ends are all that stand between you and super-human strength! You have sunscreen ads which throw about the term SPF without any explanation of what it even means and how it is to be interpreted. All ads quote all kinds of scientific sounding figures without any justification, explanation or reason. Or truth, for that matter. 46% better, 55% more effective and so on. “In house data” is the common refrain when pressed for evidence, and we all can guess what that means. All such adverts point towards one thing. The Indian public is becoming more and more uncritical. It doesn’t examine the claims made in the ads nor does it seek proof for the same. I don’t meant to say that there are girls out there grunting as they attempt to pull trucks after using Garnier Fructis for a couple of weeks, but there are boys out there buying up fairness creams by the dozen. There are mothers out there thinking normal food just isn’t enough for kids and sugar coated cereals and powdered additives are necessary if their kids are not to end up stunted. There are ads that claim cold weather causes the common cold and others that now claim to have found the perfect nutrient combinations for adults, since apparently we are all mal-nourished (spend an hour in T3 at IGI in Delhi and you won’t ever claim that again). I could go on and on but my gripe is simply this. Bring back some sanity to advertisements. The admen certainly won’t lead the way. It is up to us as the general public to make sure that only products publicised cleanly with minimal exaggeration and no falsehoods are successful. Concocted ads with unproven and implausible claims and extraneous content should be ignored. That is the only way we can bring back some semblance of normalcy in advertising. Otherwise, these kind of advertisements that consider us stupid will only go on multiplying. In the end, we get what we want, we just have to be sure what exactly that is

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