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January 18, 2019

Impact of Advertisements

Advertisements aim to effectively inform as many people as possible about the quality, benefit, and price of a product, or service and where it is available using attractive visuals and with as few words as possible. It also tries to promote brand recognition, brand loyalty, and increase sales.  A variety of means and mediums such as billboards, newspapers, magazines, journals, TV, cinema screens, notice boards, flyers, pamphlets, wall sheets and vinyl sheets are used for advertising. In Myanmar, with the rise in the number of FM radio stations, the radio has also been put to service for advertisement.  Another new effective channel, especially to reach out to young people for advertisement, is the Internet. Giving free samples, souvenirs and discounts for new products, making donations of products, and holding demonstrations on the use of new products have also become novel ways to draw attention to new products. In addition, with people becoming more enamoured with celebrities, for those advertisers who can afford it, star-studded product launches, exhibitions, shows, and event sponsorship have become popular ways to promote sales and gain publicity.
It is generally accepted that advertisements benefit many parties, such as product advertisers, consumers, the media used for advertising, people who allow billboards to be set up on their property, including the local development councils, advertising agencies, the advertisement production teams, and celebrities who not only make the product famous, but also make themselves famous.
An advertiser spends huge sums of money on advertisements, but he/she gets a lot back in return for the money spent. Through advertising, the advertiser can get brand recognition and make his company better known to the public. He/She can inform the public about the differences between his products from similar products of other manufacturers. He/She can make his product popular and memorable to people. He can raise sales and expand markets. He/She can attract investments and capable staff. On the part of the consumer, through advertisements, he/she comes to know about new products in the market. He/She gets the necessary information to compare contents, benefits, services, and price with other similar products, and also gets to know where it is made and is available. However, as the saying goes, not everything that shines is gold.  Unfortunately, neither is everything that is mentioned in an advertisement true. Hence, the consumer needs to be discerning, so that he/she is not misled or cheated. The main requirement on the part of the advertiser to be successful is the need to be honest about his products, or services. Fortunes made dishonestly are easily lost. If the products and services are good, the users themselves advertise the product, on behalf of the manufacturers, or service providers.
Advertisers must consider the impact that their products can have on people, especially children, and the environment, and not just the profit they can make. There are strict regulations relating to the advertisements of certain products. For instance, liquor and cigarettes as social and health hazards are banned from advertising in Myanmar. However, there are manufacturers who try to hoodwink authorities. For instance a liquor manufacturer produces a small quantity of bottled water with the same brand name as their liquor products and inserts advertisements related to their liquor products, as if they were advertising the bottled water, thereby giving it pretence of legality using surrogate brand. Some of the alcohol companies use indirect means that are both cheap and effective to advertise their products. They distribute free vinyl sheets with advertisements of their liquor products to poor families living near main roads, such as the Yangon-Mandalay highway, and these families use the vinyl sheets to protect their houses that are in poor condition from the weather, thereby unwittingly serving as free billboards for advertising liquor products.
There are also advertisements that try to mislead people who are naive and believe whatever comes out in print. Falsely advertising some products, such as low quality clothes, may not cause much harm. However, misleadingly advertising products like medicine or food that contain ingredients that are harmful, or have no beneficial effects, and make false claims can harm the health of users, even to the extent of causing death.  In addition, there are also educational institutions that make false claims about the value of their certificates as well as the prestige of international institutions they are supposedly linked with. There are also instructors whose credentials are of suspect. Doctorates are conferred by universities, and not countries, and usually the name of the university is put in brackets after the PhD, not the country. Therefore, credentials of those who advertise themselves as holders of PhD (USA), (UK) etc. should be doubly checked.
Advertisements can also have huge social impacts. As the aim of advertisements is to attract attention and create a strong impression of the product, the same advertisements are shown repeatedly. This repeated showing of the improper way some women dress and some people behave in TV and newspaper advertisements that have very little relationship to the products and services advertised, and are against the norms of Myanmar culture, serve as unacceptable and harmful models for our young people. An indirect negative impact of advertisements is showing on TV, serialized foreign movies that advertisers prefer to use to place advertisements of their products because of popularity with viewers. Consequently, these movies are imported by those who give very little thought about the adverse impact on the young people because of the enormous income derived from advertisements. Some of these foreign movies have a serious effect on the behavior of our young people. Due to the daily exposure to foreign cultures, young people, both males and females, have come to regard behavior in alien cultures as norms and have started to imitate the manners of those belonging to these cultures which were once regarded as unacceptable acts in Myanmar culture, such as, women openly drinking alcohol, girls having many boyfriends at the same time, girls proposing to boys, girls riding piggyback on boys and embracing each other in public view, girls wearing revealing dresses, etc. etc.
Every country has the right as well as the responsibility to protect its culture. It is true that modernization and change are a necessary part of progress, but change must not be at the expense of the positive aspects of its culture, nor due to the negative influences of other cultures. The negative impacts of advertisements can be countered effectively and easily, firstly, by advertisers giving recognition to the fact that some of their advertisements can have serious negative consequences, and taking more responsibility of their action. Secondly, the public needs to be more vigilant and vocal about advertisements that are dishonest and have socially negative influences and register their complaints with the authorities concerned. Thirdly, consumer protection associations should be more active in protecting the less-informed and naive members of the public from the dangers of advertisements that mislead or that promote behavior contrary to Myanmar culture. Finally, if the authorities concerned feel that current laws are not adequate enough to deal with unscrupulous advertisements, then they should work for stricter laws in the interest of all the citizens of the country and the preservation of its fine traditions and culture.

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