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Advertising and impact on society

Advertising is an integral part of market economy. The high level competition involves more aggressive advertising. It is the most visible sign of lively competition that results in satisfied customers for whom it promises choices, value and improved products that are accessible. The reach of advertising to urban and rural areas is simply mindboggling. Competition to sell goods and services through Internet and web is developing at tremendous speed and extending the boundaries to unreachable. Advertising is about informing customers about product availability and prices. Every product can be distinguished from its rivals with the help of advertising thus helping the customer to exercise choice. Advertisement is thus important in establishing brands that customers can recognize and rely upon. The economy too stands to benefit as advertising builds up volume by creating demand especially for new products that in turn can lead to lower prices. While this proves that advertising is highly beneficial to the economy and is accepted as a fact of modern life, it is also clear that advertising works within the social milieu. It must reach out to the individuals in the community in order to inform, convince or cajole. These individuals are a part of the greater social fabric. So it becomes the responsibility of advertising to make sure that in its efforts to attract maximum customers it does not tear or slash this tenuous fabric. Advertising is all about reaching out to the society just as much as society can stand being reached out to. Society survives on an unwritten code that delineates roles, functions, actions and behavior of its members. It is the duty of the advertising to respect this code and use the influence it has over the customer’s mind to strengthen this code. Advertising is justified provided it strikes a balance between hard sell and regulatory ethics. Indecency in advertising tries to fulfill the ultimate objective to use shock tactics to draw attention to the product. The most obvious example is the often-irrelevant exploitation of sexual images especially those of women. Attitudes to indecency are subjective and vary enormously. Very often only the titillating image remains with the customer who later has no recollection of the product that is counter productive for the advertiser. Insurance companies also use shocking claims and images to instill fear but raising such apprehensions should not be disproportionate to the risk as it could result in spreading panic. The advertising of alcohol is very controversial and widely discussed aspect of responsible advertising. No matter how subjective the approach of different individuals society as a whole agrees that it is ethically vital for the advertiser to keep alcohol abuse and damage to health in mind while advertising the product. This also holds good for the tobacco industry where manufacturers and advertisers though insist on the right of freedom of commercial display are forced by courts to display bigger images of harmful consumption. The right also carries with it certain responsibilities and constraints must be exercised for the sake of health as well as ethics. In the modern world advertising has an awesome impact in its ability to influence lifestyles, attitudes and priorities of millions. It has the power to create demand and make people believe they must have something that they would have never dreamed of before. This is significant in developing countries where newer artificial needs are being created often at the expense of necessary public services. Making non-essential products fashionable amounts to wasteful expenditure in poor countries while the glorification of consumption options fuelled by advertising in developed countries raises a more fundamental question of destruction of environment and nature. Advertising has become an essential part of modern life. But it must be made to act responsibly and abide by certain values and ethical codes. Socially responsible advertising has the power to influence, educate and motivate the community towards positive and desirable behavior and this should be the guiding principle behind all advertisements.