Short essay on the Advertisement Blitz and Family Life

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Advertisements of various consumer goods, especially luxuries and conveniences, seem to dominate many television and radio programs as well as the newspapers. While advertisements serve a social and economic since they are essential for promoting sales and thus expediting development of industries, they also make a distinct impact on consumers in general, and family life in particular.

Young boys and girls, besides the housewife, are greatly impressed by the new products— cosmetics, soaps, modes of conveyance, the latest artificial fabrics and dresses, time-saving devices in the kitchen and numerous other articles.

Since their appeal is intense, even irresistible, modern youth make insistent demands on their parents for purchase of such articles. The manufacturers make all sorts of claims for their goods—economy, utility, result of latest technology, etc.

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Purchases of sophisticated, continuously advertised goods certainly upset family budget, except in the case of a small percentage of very rich people who can afford to buy luxuries and conveniences without feeling the financial burden.

There is, consequently, a constant, often bitter and tension- ridden tug- of-war in the family. The parents, naturally, resist the ceaseless demands of their growing children. The latter, in turn, feel sore when they are not given the money they seek for purchasing the latest advertised goods, regardless of the fact whether their parents can afford to pay for them or not.

While the younger generation is anxious to adopt the latest fashions (they do not want to be left behind in the race for modernism and for keeping up with the Jones’s), the elders regard it all as a waste of money. Even without at the tussle for modern consumer goods, there are tensions enough between the elders of the family and the youngsters.

The advertising blitz has added to these tensions. What is more, there is little hope of such tensions decreasing with the passage of time.

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It is obvious that the advertisement blitz is doing havoc in life. The family income in most cases is limited and the soaring prices of goods cause a deep dent in the budget. Cases are known of parents felling compelled to take loans and advances from their offices, for meeting the expenditure being incurred by their offspring.

Advertisements through TV, the radio and the newspapers are essential, even indispensable for the success and prosperity of industry. Since industrial progress depends on advertising, it has been said that the quan­tum of advertisements in the media of a country is by itself an index of its economic progress. It is also believed that advertisements on a large scale ensure the maintenance of quality of the goods.

There is intense competition in the industrial world (except in the few cases where there is a monopoly of a certain sophisticated product or convenience). The countrywide advertising campaigns of manufacturing firms selling packed and standardized goods have virtually transformed certain trades, such as grocery, to the benefit of the consumer.

Reputed firms hold their leading positions through constant advertising, regardless of the cost, which they recover from the consumer anyway.

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Domestic harmony is also threatened when a frequently advertised product, bought on the insistence of a youngster or the housewife, turns out to be substandard and of poor quality. The master of the household frets and fumes over the implicit waste of hard-earned money, but the deed is done and the loss cannot be made up. Goods advertised through the media are at times deceptive; they even turn out to be fake or contain irrelevant, harmful substances.

But no lessons are learnt for the future; not long after the unhappy experience, the demands for new purchases of other freshly advertised ar­ticles are renewed. Of course, not all the articles of consumption, for which an advertisement blitz is launched, are bad or poor in quality. Many of them do turn out to be highly useful, even if expensive, appliances.

A cynic once remarked that the impact of commercial advertising on the sensitive and highly receptive minds, especially of young boys and girls, is so great, and induces such passivity and acquiescence that they would be inclined to accept the odd proposition that moon is made of cheese. We begin to lose our sense of proportion, become highly credulous and are carried away by the manufacturers’ persistent publicity.

Another notable effect of the advertisement blitz is the encourage­ment, through suggestion and presentation of glamorous personalities, to conspicuous consumption by families. Since the advertising campaigns are meant to promote sales of luxury goods (necessaries are seldom advertised), a dismal sequel is the creation of social imbalances at various levels. Fol­lowing the patronage extended by the affluent sections to sellers of luxuries, a new class has emerged. This presents a striking contrast.

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At one end of the spectrum there are affluent people possessing all sorts of modern gadgets, electronic devices for entertainment, several con­veniences, and also “rare” articles for display in drawing-rooms—in sum the “haves”.

At the other end (of course there is no clear demarcation) are the lower middle classes and the poor—the deprived sections who cannot afford to buy any of the advertised articles and who can barely feed and clothe themselves and their children. The contrast in the life-styles and standards becomes too glaring to be ignored.

Consequently, there is heart-burning- among the “have-nots”. The children of the latter class begin to view the well-off people and their alluring possessions, with envy. They begin to wonder at the injustice done by God in favoring one small section of his own creations, and virtually ignoring the teeming millions who have perforce to lead a hand-to-mouth existence, even while the favored sections amidst luxuries which the masses cannot even dream of. Such social imbalances, one piling upon another, inevitably breed social unrest.

In due course, such unrest, discontentment and the sense of grievance lead to agitation against the ruling classes. They are blamed for failing to ensure an equitable distribution of resources, in other words, social and economic justice.

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Where there is a perpetual sense of grievance, there cannot be happiness or harmony. It is axiomatic that there should be a rational balance, not only in the production of goods, luxuries and semi-luxuries, but also in the consumption of such goods.

Moreover, there is the log-rolling or chain effect of conspicuous consumption in society, promoted by well-sustained advertising campaigns. More consumption of, say, motor cars and scooters requires better roads, better facilities for service of vehicles, more mechanics and repair staff— all for the benefit of the affluent section of society, often at the cost of the basic necessaries of life.

As a realist commented once, a poor country has to choose between the production of more and better motor-cars, refrigerators and air-conditioners, on the one hand, and provision of more and cheaper shelter, more cloth of the less expensive variety which the masses can afford and mid-day meals for poor children, on the other hand.

It is indeed a sorry reflection on our sense of priorities that, while millions in this country do not get even two square meals a day, conspicuous consumption and wasteful expenditure, including the waste of food in five-star hotels, is increasing. Little attention is paid to this irony.

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