Why Advertising In India Is Indeed A Legalized Form Of Lying

Posted on January 13, 2013 in Specials

By Shweta Madaan:

“An advertising agency is 85 percent confusion and 15 percent commission” – Fred Allen
Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need” – Will Rogers
“Advertising is legalized lying” – H. G. Wells


I think the ‘hidden’ meaning of advertising is clear to most of you after going through these quotes. Advertising is a form of marketing in which visual, graphic and monographic effects are used for presentation of products in an attractive manner, making it capable enough for grabbing the eyeballs of viewers. It makes us aware that a product or service is available in the market and we can acquire it for our use. New and improved products are developed all the time and we cannot keep a track of these developments ourselves. So, in a way, an advertisement is really a very helpful tool. We are grateful to advertisements because they keep us up to date on the improvement of existing products and the creation of new ones. But unfortunately, many advertisements, despite rigorous guidelines, rules, laws and consumer awareness organizations, tell us a product or service is good which after purchase, we find out that it is not good at all.

It is sad to say that in the Indian scenario, the quality of advertising is not so good. Though, some ads create awareness and impart knowledge but some of the ads are simply unpalatable. For e.g. the ‘Stop Not‘ snack ad on soldiers created a huge furore; one of the ‘Cadbury’ ads were not very pleasing as the kid in the ad was portrayed as selfish and obstinate; the ‘Axe effect’ is completely absurd; the ‘HCL’ ad’s “499 Lao Computer le jao’’ induced laughter for all the wrong reasons; and ‘Rupa Macho Man’ had gone too far as it was vulgar and simply unsuitable. The list is quite endless.

The companies claim that their products are the best and they keep in mind their social responsibility while creating ads but in actuality, all this proves to be a white lie and nothing else. If the manufacturer is creative, he executes the ad in such a sophisticated manner that viewers get wholly convinced that what they are being shown is genuinely a great product. Ads sometimes stoop to such a low levels that people are left deceived when it gets revealed that the product is made out of substandard materials, made from leftovers and rejected materials. These could be dangerous to children and could also be made out of animal byproducts. The sentiments of people also get hurt in this way because sometimes non-vegetarian food products are not labelled with red mark, the consumption of which is a highly sensitive and religious issue for most of the vegetarians in India (Hindus in particular). It will be rather depressing if we go into the history of making of these products. But these things are never brought to reality in advertisements.

Such advertisements also deteriorate the thinking of the society. It is well known fact that in most of the Indian advertisements, women are represented as sex objects, whether it is a deo ad, a bathing bar ad, a talcum powder ad or even an acrylic paint ad. She is depicted as a servant of her family and is shown to be merely a toy for her partner, which is not likeable. In simple terms, they promote sexism which imparts a wrong message to the adolescent viewers.

There are many misleading and objectionable advertisements which take consumers for a ride. These are related to cure a dreadful disease, increasing one’s height, pills that can be used for any purpose, be it a headache, neck pain, constipation or to boost your sex life. And this really is unintentionally funny and then there are shoes which can make you slim. And, the most popular ones, people are most familiar with are those of fairness/beauty creams which can turn a dark person (no offence meant) into a fair and charming person; and reduce wrinkles in one minute. These are usually targeted at women but men also seem to be affected these days. No cream can do such a miracle. Advertisements set a standard that a certain type of body is perfect; a certain type of look is appealing, which as a result puts an unavoidable pressure on people.

Bad advertisements are invading the territories of the market meant for children. Children are the keen observers by nature. Such portrayals are obviously corrupting their mindset which can result in serious repercussions in the long run. Advertisements are meant for creating awareness and not for deceiving people, so, things need to be changed. The government is considering setting up special machinery to look into the issue, but the problem with government is that it always considers things, it does not act.

However, the Indian advertising industry is always criticized for such ads but it continues to follow the same route. Indian advertising needs to be more conscious about its content, censor rights, regulatory rights and its responsibility towards society because ads definitely have a direct impact on society. Customers should also become more alert, keep their eyes open, and pay close attention to the product so that they can get exactly what they are paying for. Misleading advertisements are a major problem and consumers must start taking actions against these cheaters .These defaulters should be punished by law as they do not have any right to mislead people and take them for a ride. We have certain rights and it is time that we put them to good use.