Advertisement! What is it? We are continually bombarded with it –choked with stuff confusing our sense of balance and peace. To advertise is to publicize and draw attention. The peacock loves it. He advertises his wings in the hope of catching the best mate. The cuckoo does the same with its voice to woo its partner. Nature runs the best advertising agency. We are all at it from dawn to dusk.
Advertising means blowing your own trumpet. The individual, the corporate body, social do-gooders or even the mighty government are all seeking attention. So advertising is a powerful tool to spread the message – whatever that be. Sometimes it is paid and sometimes it is not but the operation is the same.
How are the messages advertised? Nature uses the magic wand of color and smell to announce the arrival of spring. Humans go about it through broadcasting mediums like the newspaper, television channels, radio, banners, leaflets, wall writing, and billboards, Internet etc. The list is endless. Trams and buses are pasted with catchy flashy messages. Rail compartments are not spared. Balloons float with epistles and there are trucks exclusively jamming the highways with no other purpose but to advertise soap or a soap opera.
Advertising dominates the scene today. Advertising companies do the job professionally. The parent company itself does not go into the details but appoints other organizations whose job is to advertise – who know the psychology of human minds. The idea is to promote sales – willy-nilly market products and services. Advertising has become an industry – perhaps the fastest growing in today’s world. Another name for advertising is marketing and has to deal with everything about price, product, research, strategy and overall management. Before blaring the trumpet the advertising company has to know about the price of the product, find out and make in-depth study about the target groups and then chalk the strategy. It also involves branding, designing logos, designating brand ambassadors and even using word-by-mouth technique to somehow ingrain the idea into the target groups that this or that is the best buy. Thus advertising involves huge amounts. America alone spent $144.32 billion in advertisements in 2005! It is predicted that by 2010 more than half a trillion dollars will be guzzled up by the advertising sector.
A question arises. Is advertising a boon or a curse? There are always two sides to the coin. Advertising is a must for economic growth but should not be allowed to mislead or become a nuisance factor. Unsolicited emails and mobile messages have become causes for concern. One scholar has termed it to be a toxic by-product of industrialization!
Advertisements are not without history. In the Louver there is a 550 BC painting talking about buying. In the ruins of ancient Arabia commercial and political messages have been found. Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome used papyrus to advertise products and ideas. Wall rock advertising was common in Africa and Asia as well as South America. Advertising began to take on its true colors with the coming of the Printing Age in the 15th and 16th centuries mainly in the form of handbills. In the 17th century it made its presence felt in the newspapers. From the 19th century advertising began to march hand in hand with economic growth. Mail-order advertising made its appearance. In 1841 the first advertising agency by Volney Palmer was set up in Boston. N.W. Ayer & Son were the first full-fledged advertising agency that started operating from Philadelphia in 1875. From 1920 radio stations began functioning and soon became advertising mediums. Television joined in from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. From the 1960’s a new trend was seen. Advertising became an art. It became creative and called out to the best talents.
Since women do make most of the purchasing soon the female sex became the target object. Today it has reached the height where the debate rages about what should or should not be allowed. Branding also became a factor when dangerous unlicensed products came to be advertised. To counter all these, laws on advertising had to be passed. These issued are still hot. Should the female form be denigrated? Should lies be spread about the efficacy of a brand? On the other hand the manufacturer and the user is in the dark without the guiding hand of advertising. It is up to the generation of today to find the answer.