- Their uses.
- Their misuses and danger.
An advertisement is a notice to buyers, giving description and price of all sorts of things. It is needed for the convenience of consumers and the profit of producers. It gives choice to the public to pick and choose what they like. It increases the sale of goods and tells people the range and variety of goods. Though it is true that good wine needs no bush, yet it is also true bad coins drive away good ones! That is to say, if good things are not advertised bad things will be pushed up and bad will displace good ones. As population increases and the markets become wider, the advertisement of goods becomes inevitable. In small communities, like the small villages, there is not much need to advertise. But in towns and cities is a great need to do so. No sales could be pushed up even of good things if they are not properly advertised, displayed and demonstrated.
There is thus a great need to advertise goods. In an age of commercial competition, goods cannot be sold without proper advertisement. If properly done, advertisements can help the public in choosing and buying the best on the market. As we advance, we make new discoveries and inventions. We bring out devices for good, comfortable living, and we should tell the public what there are. Life becomes richer and better as we increase the range of good. Our standard of life is raised when we have more goods to use and consume. Whether they are necessaries or luxuries, they cannot be enjoyed unless we know where to get them. It is not enough to produce things. They have to be distributed. Advertisements play a very important part in this respect. They bring profit to the producers and they offer a wide choice for the public. Without advertisements, our trade and commerce will never flourish.
But every good thing becomes bad when abused. So it is with advertisements. Today, advertisements have multiplied to a bewildering extent. As we open our newspapers we find page after page of several advertisements than news. The danger here is that people are misled by dishonest people who push up sales of useless things. People think that whatever comes in print is true. They also think that when a thing is said to be good, it must be good. The advertising people know this. They know that if a lie is repeated a hundred times it sounds like truth and is taken for truth. This group psychology is dangerous for public health and standards.
Our country is yet old-fashioned in many ways. The masses are yet uneducated. Most of them are now becoming half-educated. They are taught to read and write. This new literacy enabled them to read newspapers. Now it is here that the danger of abusing advertising comes. If dishonest people put in advertisements of cheap, shoddy, spurious things and tell people that they are good and indispensable, the public is easily misled. For example take the large number of medicines and tonics that are advertised in our magazines and weeklies and dailies. Most of these are spurious. They are made by people who do not know what they are doing. They just want to earn money, and they find this way of getting it.
If for example, someone tells you that just for four annas or so you will get a box of pills which cure every disease, you will certainly buy it straight way. Now there is no one remedy for all ills. But all the same if a thing is daily hammered into your head, you are inclined to believe it.
And there is another danger of the abuse of advertisements. More is spent on advertisements than in the making of goods! This is done on the belief that the more money one spends on advertisement the wider the market for his goods. This is no doubt true. But this is also likely to result in two evils. Either the goods will cost more than they are worth or the quality of the goods will be third-rate. The reason is that advertising costs a good deal. This money invested in advertising will increase the cost and price of goods. Else, if prices are not raised to meet the cost of advertisements, the alternative is to use cheap and second-rate materials in the making of goods. In either case, over advertisement is harmful to the public. In the age of commercial competition, when several people produce the same kind of goods, either of these evils is inevitable.
But these dangers of advertisement do not mean that advertising is bad. The abuse of anything does not mean that it cannot be used. We must use advertisement for letting the public know what goods are available. The motive of advertisement should be public service not private grain. If this motive is present, advertisements do good to all concerned-the producers and consumers alike. There will be no danger of lowering the standards of commercial morality so long as the producers and distributors keep service to the public as their aim. The danger comes when private gain is made at the cost of the public.
Advertisements have several shapes and forms. It means propaganda of all sorts. Ideas no less than goods, can be advertised. Politicians advertise themselves and their ideas in the same spirit as the manufactures of goods. The louder you speak the more likely you are to be heard. But again it will depend upon the motive with which one starts propagating an idea or advertising a product.
There is no easy remedy for stopping the evils of the abuse of advertisements of propaganda. Some may be done by appointing a vigilance board to check the statements of advertising agencies. Inspectors may be appointed to see whether the goods in question are really good. But even inspectors are human, all too human, and much corruption might ensue in trying to check corruption.
There is however, one hopeful solution of the problem of corruption. This is education. If the public is so educated as to be able to judge and choose, there will be less corruption in the world of commerce. This is all more necessary in an age of democracy himself. Democracy might spell danger the right of self-expression is misused. Only by a sound and wide system of universal education it is possible to ensure morality, commercial or otherwise.