Advertisements, Media and Ethos ~ Media Ethics


I love watching advertisements. But it would be much fairer to say that I loved watching them as I grew up, more before than now. And what is so good about them? Probably because I relate to the people in the advertisement. Probably because I am one of the breed that goes by the name – common man. Probably because they help me everywhere, right from setting up a home or buying a conveyance or even getting all the essentials I need for a luxurious life. But then when the same media that helps a common man upgrade his standard of living, starts conveying not so right messages to the society, questions start popping up over the standards and ethos of advertisement and media. Which now brings me to the fundamental question – What are advertisements?

In simple words, they are a means of communication that convince an audience to go for something they have been speculating over whether to buy or not. Needless to say, every advertisement exudes a message too. And today, the world runs on advertisements. Be it clothes, cosmetics, footwear, jewelry, food items, gadgets, books, vehicles and so on, advertisements make it a lot more easy for the consumers to compare products and buy them. Just because an actress seemingly looks younger by applying an anti ageing cream, females get lured into buying products that promise to stall ageing. Just because an actor looks fairer by applying a fairness cream, people are convinced about the authenticity of the product. Who knows for a fact that celebrities would never use the products they market for, considering they are all so made up for most part of their life, camaflouging their blemished faces behind makeup, getting frequent face lifts and going under the knife to stay ‘young and beautiful’. Believe it or not, advertisements influence our lives by a great deal.

And then gone were the days when one had to take some time off for purchasing items, thanks to the technology today! Online shopping is the order of the day. Log on to Internet and there will be a thousand pop ups trying to convince you to buy items online, adding to the advertisement gimmick: 50% off OR Shipment free OR Replacement within 30 days if item is faulty OR ‘all three mentioned’! The world has shrunk. It is practically possible today to rate your purchases sitting at home rather than going out to finish shopping chores. And thanks to the advertisements of today that have made it all possible. But then there is ethos. How ethical are the advertisements today? Besides guiding the consumers and clients, what kind of message do they give to the society? To what extent can advertisements go to promote products? There goes some food for thought!

The reason I am writing about this is that certain advertisements that are shown today definitely don’t cater to good taste. I would refrain from naming the products. For instance, there is this advertisement for car that shows a bunch of students gaping in awe at their class mate’s big sedan. And so mesmerized they are that, they treat their classmate like a king and subject themselves as his mere servants. It was so disheartening to see that kind of a message which instead of bridging the gap between the rich and the middle class/ poor, is rather making it wider. What will our children learn seeing these kind of advertisements? Although they take just a mere 2 minutes, but the number of times they are replayed on the television is countless. And it is human psychology that when you see something or hear something for an indefinite period of time, your mind starts to accept it as rational thinking is overpowered by the persistent visual or audio perception. Then there is this advertisement that uses kids barely 4 – 7 year olds speaking and behaving like adults. I was also one of those who chose to see the humor alone first. But then as such advertisements continued to increase, I wondered whatever is wrong with the advertisement world? Is there not any respect for innocence? I mean, the kids who are acting in those advertisements would have definitely been forced to let go off their innocence to act the way they have been asked to. And that is because kids can never pretend. They have vulnerability written all over them. It aches to see these flower like children getting used to promote a product. Certain advertisements for deodorants and perfumes are no less antagonizing. Some of them portray women in poor light questioning their basic integrity and morality. And not only us, but now as our kids grow they will be watching all of this. What is worse, in today’s world the generation gap is so less that we sometimes fail to distinguish between what is ethical and what is not. Perhaps in future, nothing would really seem wrong to anyone.

However, despite all the cons of the advertising industry, there are good ones as well. There are meaningful ones too that convey profound messages that leave us pondering. Advertisements should be such that they make the person think, rationalize and make his opinions after careful assessment. At least they should pass on a good message to the society.

I grew up listening to ‘humara bajaj‘, ‘mile sure mera tumhara‘, ‘Ek tithli‘, ‘Lijjat papad‘ and ‘purab se sooraj uga‘ and many more. All of them have one thing in common. They all make us associate with it. We feel a sense of belonging when we see them. For instance, I can still enjoy the music of ‘Humara Bajaj’. It brings back fond memories of bumpy roller coaster rides on that sturdy Bajaj scooter, which I rarely get to even spot one now. Even as you watch that ad, you can make out that it belonged to all classes of people. Be it a Parsi uncle or a working lady or a milk man or a family, the scooter belonged to all. When the advertisement of Lijjat papad used to come, I used to jump in joy as the rabbit cracked his Pappad to take a bite. ‘Ek tithli‘ still reigns supreme over genuinely good advertisements for children. Thanks to Youtube, as those videos exist at the least. However, that personal touch is just going away in today’s advertisements. It feels like advertisements have evolved only to pick on a new audience who are more tech savvy and are ready to accept the ‘modified ethos’ of modern times with ease. Perhaps, the present generation is growing in a different world. And advertisements will continue to influence their lives intensely in their own way.

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