The way advertisements are packaged nowadays has succeeded in winning the hearts of most consumers, albeit cunningly, into switching tastes, writes Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare. 

A 12-year-old boy once told his mother years back that if he has to smoke, he would go for Benson and Hedges cigarette. Surprised at this disclosure, the mother asked him for reason and he answered that he wanted to go for the gold in it. This was the period that Benson and Hedges producers were besieging the media with ‘their turn to gold’ advertisements and the boy, like many others, including adults, was caught up in the frenzy created by the message in the advertisement that portrayed Benson and Hedges as a cigarette for the wise, wealthy and accomplished. 

People all over the world are exposed to advertisements everyday. They are pressured from every direction by advertisements which exploit their deepest fears, attractions, needs and desires, shaping their behaviours, goals and thoughts.

Often times, they are led into believing false information and promises that are mostly never kept, all for the simple objective of selling the product and making profit. Advertisements are everywhere – in magazines and newspapers, on the radio, on TV, online, in the mail and sometimes, even over the phone. These advertisements use the basic ideas of either providing an elite status with the possession of the product, or giving a sense of belonging to a group or community. 

An advertisement as a means of persuasive communication has been known to give unsubstantiated claim just to attract patronage. Many advertisements are designed not only to attract patronage but also to generate increased consumption of those products and services through the creation and reinforcement of brand image and brand loyalty.

Due to this reason, advertisements often contain both factual information, exaggerations of effectiveness and persuasive messages and every major medium is used to deliver these messages — television, radio, movies, magazines, newspapers and billboards.

The effect of advertising on people, especially young ones, has been a matter of controversy and debate over the years. Many different claims have been made in different contexts, during debates, about the ban of cigarette advertising. A common claim from cigarette manufacturers has been that cigarette advertising does not encourage people to smoke if they are not inclined to but the anti advertisement camp on the other hand, claim that advertising does in fact increase consumption. According to many schools of thought, the past experience and state of mind of the person subjected to advertising may determine the impact that advertising has. Children under the age of four may be unable to distinguish advertising from other television programme while the ability to determine the truthfulness of the message may not be developed until the age of eight and sometimes even beyond.

That advertisements have an effect on people is a fact. Many people use particular products not because it is the best around but because the producers have overtaxed the senses with adverts, making the product the most visible around. There are some organisations which frequently spend large sums of money on advertising but do not strictly sell a product or service to the general public. Such organisations include: political parties, interest groups, religion-supporting organizations, the military and some non-profit organisations; many times though, these group rely upon free channels, such as public service announcements.

Advertising spending has skyrocketed in recent years. While advertising can be seen as necessary for economic growth, it is not without social costs and consequences. The advantage tilts more towards the advertisers than the public who sometimes spend too much on a product they know nothing about simply because they saw the advertisement.

Midweek Tribune spoke to some people on whether the various adverts they come across have any impact on them, either negative or positive. Abimbola Akinola, a student said, “I love watching advertisements because they give information about new products. They have effects on people, sometimes positive, at other times negative.”

When asked how she manages to avoid the negative lessons, she said, “I learn what I think is good but anything that I know people would frown at, I do not do.” She also said they sometimes give false information about the effectiveness of their products. “Amstel Malta and Ribena adverts are examples of this. No matter the volume of this products one takes, can it really make one fly?” “Advertisements have a great effect on me both positively and negatively. I only choose what I know is considered good and overlook the bad one. For example, I hate the harpic toilet cleaner advertisement.

In a country like Nigeria where people have to protect themselves, it is not realistic that an average Nigerian would open his home up to a stranger even if the person is a television star. Again, harpic does not work the way it is portrayed, it does not clean anything, they are just misleading people,” Kehinde Olanipekun said.

One of the reasons advertising is successful is because it can target a particular audience to build awareness of what the advertiser has to offer with nothing more than millions of naira for media fee. Advertisers use different styles to attract attention to their products – creating demand via traditional media, sponsorship support and consumer-contact activities out of a host of other forms.

It is an established fact that all advertisements that go into the society have an impact, either positive or negative, on the viewers. How it affects each individual depends on many factors that are personal to him – background, taste, religion and others. Taste is subjective and varies from time to time as well as from one individual to the other.

The frequency at which one sees or hears an advert also determines how great the impact will be on the individual based on some other conditions. The responsibility therefore lies on each individual not to be taken in by any advert but to know how the product or service will serve him before switching to it or deciding on it.

* Source: The Nigerian Tribune

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