Advertising Space

Not many people will disagree with me when I say that advertisements these days try to sell you things you don’t really need or just put up impossible standards of beauty and perfection that we can’t really reach. I’m pretty sure this is a universal thought but I’d have to argue that we feel it more in the third world. People trying to sell you breakfast cereals in a country where we cook all three meals with garden fresh ingredients. People trying to sell you fairness creams because “White is beautiful” knowing fully well that you need something as drastic as plastic surgery to truly whitewash your skin.

I studied film and media and advertising was one of our subjects. In doing our research, we did find that there were TV spots in the past that promoted good health and mental well being.

Case in point, this wonderful ad about doodh which is Hindi for milk. The ad has a really catchy tune about how you should drink a glass a day and all the benefits it has – it features real people, truly jolly people and I remember asking for glasses of milk just because of it.

(Transcript – Milk is fun in every season. Drink milk for healthy reasons. You will stay fit and fine and live past 99. Drink a glass full of milk. Wonderful milk. )

Or this beauty from the National Egg Corporation. It is set to the tune of, well, you’ll recognize it. To a nation of vegetarians (egg is not veg!), it tries to tell you of the goodness of eggs. Most ads those days were public service ads of sorts. Things that are beneficial.

(Transcript – The tag line for this ad is “Sunday of Monday, eat egg everyday“)

Then there was the era of fun and playful ads. This was my favourite at the time – an ad for Happy Dent White, a chewing gum that helped you keep your teeth sparkling white. Ads became more about creativity. We used to look forward to these appearing on TV more than we were about the shows.

I look at these ads with a great sense of nostalgia which has hit me like a brick because of how TV is today. It’s cricket season, which means we are being bombarded by ads, not about things that are good for us, but things that cause us utter depression. Depression. Yes.

Look at this ad for Veet, a hair removal cream

Erm, yes. Use a hair removal cream on a woman with silky smooth hairless arms. Wouldn’t it sell a product better if you used it on a gorilla?

And this one depresses me the most – it is a Kellogg’s ad about a 2 week weight loss challenge that is taken up by one of India’s best known actresses, because she seriously needs to lose weight.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m a 90 year old woman reminiscing about the good old days but am I the only one who is disturbed by these ads? It makes me realise that we create a market for it, why else would it exist? Advertisers usually play off our psychological fears and needs and if ads like these are mirrors to what we really fear, what message are we receiving from it?

Happy Moanday to you all!

Okay, Monday rant is done. I’m leaving you with one of my most favourite ads of all time – it is for English speaking lessons and how I learnt to speak the Kween’s Anglish!

39 thoughts on “Advertising Space

  1. I think the problem is that a lot of people watch adverts as if they were some kind of public service, informing them about the world in an unbiased fashion and imparting useful information and cultural enrichment.

    Put yourself in the mindset of an advertiser. You have a product and you want to sell more of it. You create an advert that is intended to raise awareness of the product and to create desire for it. It is not your job to encourage healthy eating or promote good role models.

    Now you understand what adverts are for. In fact we already do, but somehow keep forgetting.


    1. No, we know what advertising is for. Having fashioned and worked on some ads myself, I understand the concepts that go behind it. My problem is that in selling products, advertisers don’t just market their products, they create a “need” which isn’t really a need. It is unhealthy to society as a whole and if it does affect our mental health, there is seriously something wrong with us if we turn the other way. Same with movies, TV shows that promote undesirable values and physical attributes as the big goal!


  2. It warms my heart to know that soulless advertising also exists outside of the U.S.A. This commercial appeared on U.S. TV in the late 1940;’s.
    In more recent years our drug companies have warned us of the terrifying disease, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).

    I have to say that I love the Happydent White ad and the Berlitz ad. Unrelated at the end of the Egg ad, a selection of other videos came up, and one of them was a John Hartford song. I’m taking that as an omen to post about John Hartford, as I’ve been contemplating doing so.

    Glad to see you back with a new post.


    1. I think my wordpress may be down. I tried to send this to you earlier. I’m completely horrified by that smoking ad. I recently watched Dallas Buyers Club and some show I can’t remember that spoke about pharmaceuticals selling drugs via ads on TV. Dreadful. Shouldn’t that be illegal?


      1. Many types of advertising should be illegal to my way of thinking, but you don’t want me to get started on corporate influence on politics in the USA. I could ride that hobby-horse all day and into the night.


  3. “a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”. “When you feel a little peckish, a pick, a pick of a penguin” and who says advertising doesn’t work, these have stayed with me from my childhood although I can’t swear that I have quoted them verbatum! At its best advertising can inform us of products or services which may be of interest to us and of which we where previously unaware but, at it’s worst we are bombarded with different brands, E.G. soap powder which do precisely the same thing but just appear in different coloured packaging! Cheers for the thought provoking post, Kevin


  4. I really really really as I have grown older have started to dislike advertising and not only from a political place but from a general place of dislike. It started when I was reading Heideggar back in the day and I really notice how te public space is not a place for the sharing and discussing of ideas but more so to sell stuff.

    What started really grinding my gears are something the assumptions behind the products being sold. Like Marshmellows and breakfast never had anything to do with each other. eh I’m just ranting too sorry about that but great post.


  5. Those first adds you inserted were wonderful but I have to agree with you what comes later is just plain daft. It’s as if they watched a fictional movie and based their ads on that. On top of that they didn’t even really pay attention to the movie. As you said why try to sell pre-packaged food to people who cook daily with fresh produce?

    In the past fews years in Australia we’ve had ads for cream to give a soft blah blah and also sun tan lotions etc – this is in a country with the highest rate of skin cancer in the world – what the hell do we want with lotions that will increase the speed of tanning [burning].

    What we need are the adds I had as a kid with the 20+UV protection sunscreen, hat and t-shirt for littlies to go play in the sun [ slip slop slap – slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat]. It was a massive campaign countrywide. Plus the vegemite ads which has every Australian kid having vegemite sandwiches in the school lunch. [nifty song about happy little vegemites etc]

    Also on your side about actresses doing daft dieting things and trying to tell you that cereal with suddenly make everything all healthy and glowy – humpf – you need better add execs but then so does everyone.


    1. Jenni, I wish I could republish comments as posts because UGH you capture my annoyance so well. I really like that ad campaign you have mentioned and I love vegemite so I may be partial to any ad they might put up. Wouldn’t it be great if ads were issued in public interest rather than feeding you lies about all the things we ‘need’. Frustrating.


  6. The ‘doodh’ ad made me so nostalgic.
    We are a bunch of insecure people. Even those who are confident have based their confidence on hollow things like their own physical attractiveness, money, a highly attractive/successful partner, etc. So even so called confident people end up being insecure since they have a fear of one day losing it all.
    There was an era when people were confident because of their honesty, the values they would stick to, the pride they took in their nation and in their work. We have slowly given up on these things and ended up being insecure.
    So here comes a marketer, whose aim is to create money and not social welfare. He sees a need can be created out of those so many insecurities and all he has to do now is communicate about this need through an advertisement. The degrading quality of advertisements reflects the degrading values in our society, and before blaming those in the industry, society needs a collective introspection (which sounds too good to be real πŸ˜€ ).


  7. It seems as if the greater part of focus has shifted to superficial appearances, impractical ideas, and blind aping of other cultures. It is disheartening to know the extent to which people are willing to go merely to sell their product. The implications? “Eh, let’s leave the public to fend for themselves.” I like to believe that if people had even half a brain, they would see right through those advertisements which as you say, create a ‘need’ that was never present. There are however, many advertisemtns which empower you. One would be that by a leading telecommunication firm saying that you don’t need a language to connect with people in your country. Another shows a little boy leaving behind indifference and taking the first step to move aside a tree ten times his size and which has been blocking the traffic. Those are the kinds of advertisements that give a definite, honest purpose for selling a product. Agreed that if you want to sell your fairness cream, you have to make consumers want to look fair. However, fairness should not be glorified as beauty. A couple advertisements that you have posted above irritate and annoy me by emphasizing how stupid people can be. It’s crazy, don’t you think?


    1. It is crazy Seth and it really worries me because those ads would not continue to exist if people called it on its bullshit. Which means that somewhere, a significant amount of people BELIEVE the message of these ads and that’s just wrong and heartbreaking!


  8. On the same page with you…In fact I would be more of an extremist on this issue…I feel that lot of people have turned slaves to the corporate decrees disguised as ads. ..your complexion must be fair and shall be measured by a shade card. your hair must shall resist dandruff at all cost…you must be promiscuous… the calcium of your milk must be absorbed by your bones………. an so on.. πŸ™‚


  9. Wow … I’ve never seen the Kelloggs ad before, but that one is very disturbing! No one should be eating it for dinner – I haven’t eaten cereals for years, for many good reasons!


  10. Wow … I’ve never seen the Kelloggs ad before, but that one is very disturbing! No one should be eating it for dinner – I haven’t eaten cereals for years, for many good reasons!


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