GLOBAL: Global Consumers Gain New Self-Awareness


This article originally appeared in Issue# 37

The advertising budgets of developing countries are on the rise. This is due mainly to the rapid expansion of commercial television in Latin American countries and of public service networks in Asia and Africa which have been lured into going the commercial way. Though the influence of transnational advertising corporations still persists, the ownership patterns of national and local agencies have undergone a change in recent years.

In several Latin American nations such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela, foreign ownership of advertising agencies is severely restricted. Brazil, too, imposes government controls on transnational investment in advertising. In India, most advertising business is in private hands, though the largest advertiser is the federal government.

However, where techniques and strategies of advertising are concerned, there is no mistaking the transnational connection. The appeals to glamour, youth and the good life continue unabated in the effort to peddle detergents. cosmetics, and instant foods (baby food in particular) in cultures that have other basic needs and other value systems.

But the angry protests of consumer movements are forcing advertising people to face up to reality. Women's groups in India and Malaysia, for instance, have raised their voices against the unnecessary use of scantily clad women in advertisements to sell cigarettes and other consumer items. The result: the advertisements have been withdrawn. Other protests center around newscasts and soap operas that indirectly advertise government propaganda and a lifestyle that is alien to local traditions and cultures.

These objections have had their impact. In Brazil and India, for instance, large advertising agencies have turned to social service advertising to improve their image. Their campaigns have included appeals for charities, for a better civic sense, and for breast feeding of babies.

Precise government regulations and an alert consumer movement build the need for media education and visual literacy at every stage of schooling. Advertising is a vital part of the media education program in Australia, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries. Unfortunately, the back-to-basics movement in the United States has put a brake on the progress of media education there.

In essence, then, we get the advertising we deserve. It is up to us as parents and teachers to build up communities that are critically aware of the rhetoric and the values of the games that advertisers play.

Author Bio: 

Keval Joseph Kumar is Director, Resource Centre for Media Education and Research, Pune, India. He has also taught at Bombay University, Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, USA and Siegen University, Germany.