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The Value Of Advertising

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As FranÐ"§ois Villon characterised the renaissance and Walt Whitman inspired the beat-generation, our age is dominated by advertising; it is the poetry of the twenty-first century. In many ways, it is impossible to avoid advertising within the western culture. While nearly every pre-school child can recite an advertising slogan of his favourite cereal brand, nobody can properly recall a verse of Shakespeare’s sonnets anymore, once a phenomenon for general public. Advertising soaked in every aspect of our society as it is depicted by Marshall MacLuhan (1964):

�Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.’

Many people tend to have a rather ambivalent perspective on advertising. On the one hand, they refuse it and claim that it has no effect on them because they are conscious enough to realise its manipulative nature. On the other hand, when it comes to shopping, they all know Tesco has low-cost goods �all under one roof,’ and do not look further for any alternatives. These people condemn and support advertising in the same breath.

However, staying entirely out of the reach of advertising is senseless because it is a valuable tool for gaining orientation within market and its offers. �Advertising is in itself information to consumers,’ as it define the International Chamber of Commerce (2002). This attribute of advertising has been remarkable mainly during the past two centuries when advertisements were characteristic for long, explanatory texts. It was advertising that clarified wide public the advantages of electric lighting installation or usage of refrigerators for food storage; gadgets that are naturally integrated in our everyday life now but would have never been if public was not persuaded about their benefits. It was as John Kenneth Galbraith (1982) said: �Few people at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed an adman to tell them what they wanted.’

The attitude of an audience to advertising instantly evolved within its development to the contemporary form and it has gained favourers as well as critics. The main argument of its defenders is that it does not force its audience to do anything; to buy or to like. It merely suggests reasonable or emotional arguments for people to make an individual choice. Anything even resembling to menace, public mock or lie is legally prohibited from advertising. In the end it is always the consumer who decides which product stays on the market and which one is withdrawn.

Nevertheless, the critics of advertising blame it for manipulating people’s minds; i.e. brainwashing. They believe that advertising has gone from being informative to be merely persuasive and forbids people to act upon their own will. Dr Kathleen Eleanor Taylor (2004, p.51) from Oxford University states that brainwashing is �… a use of pressures to override the victim’s capacity to think rationally about his or her situation or beliefs. This overriding of reason is what a good advertisement aims to achieve.’ However, such radical opinion is often condemned mainly by these who work in advertising business or marketing and have an insight into the process. It is argued that people are not puppets and have the democratic ever guaranteed possibility to think and decide for themselves as well as firms generally do not have criminal intentions of invading brains of their customers. Charles H. Sandage (1972) represents the conviction as follows:

�Advertising is criticized on the ground that it can manipulate consumers to follow the will of the advertiser. The weight of evidence denies this ability. Instead, evidence supports the position that advertising, to be successful, must understand or anticipate basic human needs and wants and interpret available goods and services in terms of their want-satisfying abilities. This is the very opposite of manipulation.’

The phenomenon of the manipulative nature of advertising was wittily demonstrated by Czech documentary makers VÐ"­t KlusÐ"ÐŽk and Filip Remunda in their first fruit Czech Dream (Ð"ЊeskÐ"Ð... sen, 2004). The story followed the two hoaxers creating a fictional campaign advertising a new supermarket offering products for considerably lower prices than the Czech standard was at that time. The documentary culminated when a great opening revealed a great fraud instead and three thousand of eager customers faced the truth. Some reactions of the people were presumably negative as they felt offended but some of them later confessed they had felt awakened from the darkness of capitalism and consumerism. The document evoked two consequent reflections. Firstly, it has exposed that Czech people are liable to succumb to tempting advertising slogans and believe it instead of rationally evaluating the suspicious situation of extremely cheap products. Secondly, it has shown that truckling oneself to advertising is an independent choice, not a matter of an omnipotent manipulation hidden in it.

The opponents of the idea of advertising being a servant to people rather than a master claim that the effectiveness of advertising is based upon the principle of a vicious circle. Generally, adverts join together visual and textual aspects. When a spectator gets attracted by a dominant eye-catching visual element, he seeks for an explanation of it in the textual part of the advertisement. The justification from textual part leads him back to the visual again and as adverts may be seen several times a day in different media, the process continues repeating itself until the audience learns it by heart.

Unfortunately for the brand, people are often able to remember what the plot of the advertisement was but they cannot match it with particular product or brand.

The widespread method used by advertisers in order to make their promotion visible is adding a factor of irritation to their works. Russell Jackson (2007) states in his Scotsman article that the survey on advertising perception held in 2007 shows that �irritating jingles and D-list celebrities are the key to a memorable advertising campaign.’ Paradoxically, adverts based on exceptional ideas or humorous points are not so easily remembered, continues



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