As per Wikipedia (the modern age Encyclopedia), advertising is a form of communication used to influence individuals to purchase products or services or support political candidates or ideas. But this definition is incomplete because it does not state that the influencing is done by misinformation, false claims, and often, lies. This enrages me so much that I think I have reached a state of ‘ADnauseam’ – I get nausea, when I see an ad!
Advertising should be redefined as the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have, for buying things they don't need. In fact, advertisements make people think that they have longed for something all their life that they had never heard of before seeing the ad. Just take a look at the Sky Mall magazine in a flight, where there are products like Hollywood Cookie Diet, Aquabell Sets, Active Sitting Discs, etc.
They say advertising can sell any product and I couldn’t agree more. It is easier done these days as the world today is driven by a lot of hype and less of sense. People are willing to believe anything a scantily-clad sexy woman says on an ad. Appeal to reason in your advertising and it seems you will address only 1.37% of the human race! How else does one explain such products in the market? – Relaxing Magic Showerhead, Nazar Raksha Kawach, etc.
The sad part is that advertising has us working jobs we hate, so that we can buy shit we don't need. Advertising has also changed our thinking. Last week, I saw my wife put on eye shadow, eyeliner and eyelashes. I asked, "What are you doing to your eyes?" She said, "I'm making them look natural."
My biggest grouse against advertising is how it takes gullible common people for a ride. H G Wells said, “Advertising is legalized lying”. What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? - unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public, ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.
Advertisers have taken more money from people than what government and mafia have taken put together. Like I saw an ad last week that said, “Buy one and pay for the other”! When I asked a family friend of ours, a clergyman, about his opinion of the advertising business, he refused, but he did offer to pray for those that make their living at it.
However, I have to admit that advertisers are one of the best users of humour and sex. Though there have been no studies that link humour and sex in ads to its effectiveness, more than a majority of ads use both, and use it well. But funny for funny sake could backfire, like the case of a health club whose billboard read "When the aliens come, they'll eat the fat ones first."
It is often funny to hear the claims advertisers make. Like the claim of introduction of ‘lite’ - the new way to spell 'light', but with twenty per cent fewer letters. I am told that the first strategy of any new marketing campaign is to add the word ‘new and improved’ to the product. Isn’t it obvious that a ‘new and improved’ claim is false? - Because if it is new, it couldn't have been improved and if it is improved, it can't be new! I still remember the days when razors used to have one blade. Slowly it became two and then three. Now I hear there are four-blade razors in the market. But the quality of the shave has still been the same! Hear George Carlin’s take on advertising and advertising claims (statutory warning : contains profanity).
However, advertising has become a necessity to stay in business and I doubt if a business can survive without advertising. Though half the money spent on advertising is wasted, the trouble is, you don't know which half. I was shocked when a friend of mine, who had a good business idea, said he failed because of too much advertising. On further probe, he confided that it was from the competitors.
I will end with a quote from Philip Dusenberry, an advertiser, “I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes...”