Secondary School Level

Modern Advertisements

In the modem world advertisements are ubiquitous. They hit the eye from the hoarding, loom large in the news-papers, and gleam out of the celluloid. They may be brief or elaborate, illustrated with pictures or illuminated with neon lights. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of modern advertisements, for they create, if not the things they praise, their image in the public mind, and it is their image that counts for much.

Tono-Bungay, a novel by H. G. Wells, contains a delightful criticism of advertisements. Tono-Bungay is the name of a so-called tonic, a worthless syrup. But it was advertised so widely and attractively that it brought enormous wealth to its manufacturer. An early mode of advertisement was the trio of questions: “Are you bored with your Business? Are you bored with your Dinner? Are you bored with your Wife?” When Tono-Bungay was a great success, the public were introduced to several allied products like Tono-Bungay Mouthwash and Tono-Bungay Chocolate. Some posters showed climbers hanging from tall cliffs and champion cyclists upon the track. Wells ridicules a society which allows a man to amass limitless wealth for sitting in his office and telling it lies.

Wells is writing about the early ways of advertising in 1920s. Since then, however, there has been no essential change in the technique of newspaper advertisement; only, one notices greater refinement and greater emphasis on novelty. “If you come across a better soap” said an apparently modest advertisement, “use it”. Another interesting advertisement shows a large picture of a horse trying to laugh and begins with the words in capitals “It certainly deserves a horse-laugh!” You read on, wondering what the advertisement is about. “The idea of trying to save something at the end of the month deserves a horse laugh.

Once you start spending your income you may not have anything left to save.” So it is an advertisement meant to popularise the Savings Bank scheme of a bank. This craze for novelty seems to have influenced even the “Wanted Ads” where straightforwardness has been the tradition. An advertisement for the post of private secretary began with the unusual words “I am desperate” printed in bold type. Then followed the explanation in smaller type “because I am in search of a very competent private secretary etc.”

Though modern commercial advertisements be they through the radio, television or the internet, they do not tell outright lies, they grossly exaggerate the merits of their wares. There is something mean and vulgar in the way many of them first secure our attention and then artfully coax us into accepting their exaggerated estimates. In view of the fact that more and more people are beginning to see through the tricks of advertisement, some bold advertisers should now try, at least for a change, to be truthful and plain in their style. It is an experiment worth making, for calling a spade a spade, would perhaps be the greatest novelty in the world of advertising!


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