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The Power Of Advertising: Socially Responsible Selling

Posted on 02 September 2010 by Cheryl Joy

It’s a regular Sunday morning. You switch on your television hoping to catch something entertaining and after a while you probably do. But then just when you’re enjoying your favourite show an ad stares at you from the screen. A woman, dressed provocatively stares back at you from the screen and for a few minutes you’re wondering what she could possibly be selling. You wait anxiously for the product and bam… she’s selling you a mouse! Yeah you heard that right… seems probable right…oh yes it does!
Advertising today is big…and the number of players in the market make it tougher to compete each day. Everywhere you go there are pictures, hoardings and images staring back at you trying to convince you to buy a new product or to change something about yourself that would turn you into an instant hit. With so much happening around you, advertisers are always on the prowl…hunting for that perfect idea that will make them stand out in the crowd. The result of this is an aggressive form of advertising that pulls no stops in order to get ahead, sometimes a bit too far.
The need for socially responsible advertising is evident in a modern consumerist scenario where everything is available to everyone. At the click of a button, information crosses boundaries and in an instant ideas and opinions influence cultures. In such an information age, it is as important as ever to engage in a form of selling that is persuasive yet subtle, strong yet ethical. There are so many advertisements that come on television or even newspapers today that would require one to run for cover and if there was a curious kid in the room, well then it would lead to some tough question and answer sessions.
Ours is a culture that has respected and venerated women since ages, yet today some advertisements commodify women to an extent that is unacceptable. Treating women as objects to enhance the ‘visual appeal’ of an ad in a manner that is far from aesthetic is something that we see quite too often in advertisements today. These ads rely on the shock value that they provide and hence ‘sell’ but to what end? Apart from this a lot of ads also rely on sending out stereotypical messages that type cast women into a certain bracket, something that in today’s day and age is far from acceptable. To think that an advertisement for toothpaste would require a skimpily dressed woman is far from justifiable more than that it borders on downright silly.
However for every advertisement that ignores aspects of decency and aestheticism, there are ones which leave the viewer with a sense of respect and awe. Though such advertisements are not very common on television today it can be safely said that these are the ones that leave a lasting impact on consumer minds. They are the ones that inspire us to turn into advertisers and to someday create magic. Advertisements like the old Cadbury’s and more recently the Airtel Power of one series literally give you goose bumps. They can almost be considered art in a way as in the modern world; advertisements are more than just that, they are a means of communication. They send out a message and they influence minds in a way. These are the kind of ads that stay in our minds and bring a song to our lips whenever we think of them. The jingles associated with them will never die, they live on as a beacon to our generation and to a time when life was simpler and put simply…better.
In recent times, there have been a wave of advertisements that send out social messages such as the Bell Bajao campaign, Save the Tiger’s campaign and the very famous Tata Tea Jaago Re campaign. While the first one was a government initiative, the latter two are worth mentioning as they dealt with regular commercial products and companies that were taking a stand and promoting an idea. By showing their concern towards the problem tiger extinction and the need to vote, respectively, these campaigns showed that all organizations are not looking solely at making their pockets fatter. While one could call this a very good PR stunt, what is important is that they were successful at doing two things at a time- making a very large impact as far as their products were considered as well as sending out a message- that they really care. Such advertisements reinforce the idea that good advertising is aesthetic, simple yet strong and convincing. They show that in the long run the products or campaigns that stay on in the minds of people are those which make them feel real, feel responsible and feel empowered.
While the issue of social advertising is one that can be debated- on the grounds of what works in the short run versus what works in the long term, there is a need to understand that advertising as a means of social communication is big and is only growing. In such a situation it is only logical to realize the benefits of considering your audience to be an intelligent one. Once that is understood, well then the battle has just begun.

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