The Purpose of Advertising Defined:
The negative argument assumes that international advertising purposefully takes advantage of developing nations and their weak, vulnerable markets. However, in order to fully develop an argument which supports advertising in foreign markets, we must first define the purpose of advertising. According to De Mooij (1994):
The purpose of advertising – such as to enable greater volumes to be sold, to inform of new products and to establish competitive advantage – are interwoven with the working of the free market economy and the economies of scale and competitiveness that it brings. […] Advertising helps to build strong brands, stimulates innovation, and advertising expenditure has brought about an increase in the range and variety of media available. (p. 503-504)
Clearly the purpose does not include imposing harmful images, nor does it claim an unnecessary promotion of product consumption. It does promote competition, innovation, and the freedom of choice.
Freedom of Speech:
International advertising, whether it is transmitted from American corporations or local consumer-driven establishments, is a form of commercial speech. The freedom of commercial speech owns the same rights as any other format of speech as outlined in the valued tenets of democracy. De Mooij (1994) states the following concerning the influx of commercial advertising bans:
In many parts of the world, freedom of commercial speech is under attack. Both specific product categories and media are prone to attack. Political bodies everywhere try to uphold freedom of commercial speech and the advertising industry, led by the International Advertising Association’s World Secretariat in New York and local chapters, is engaged in a continuous battle to fight the threats. (p.501)
Thanks to organizations like the IAA, bans on American products both nationally and internationally have been contested. The International Advertising Association (IAA) states in its mission statement that it “is the one global organization committed to fight unwarranted regulation on behalf of all those engaged in responsible commercial speech and to act as an advocate for freedom of choice across all consumer and business markets” (IAA Website). The IAA is determined to educate society in the following benefits of advertising:
Advertising informs and inspires consumers so they can choose how to enrich
These benefits have no boundaries, they can be felt both nationally and internationally. For example, Procter & Gamble, responsible for offering over 250 brands like Pampers, Tide, Pringles, Folgers, Crest, and Vicks to nearly five billion customers in more than 130 countries, is the second largest global marketer in the world and is the leading American marketer according to 1999 rankings (P&G Website). Not only does P&G employ nearly 106,000 people in more than 80 countries worldwide, but it also has laboratories where product research has led to medical contributions.
The Main Culprits:
Criticisms of international advertising, especially in developing countries, does not focus on retail advertising, which brings together buyers and sellers and provides consumers with information about the local market, nor does it focus on industrial advertising where businesses are targeted not the consumer (Mueller, 1996, p. 259). The brand-name products like soft drinks, sweets, alcoholic beverages, and cigarettes are most often the targets of criticism (p. 259).
In countries all over the world, both developed and undeveloped, governments have debated over tobacco advertising bans. In January 1991, the Turkish president vetoed a bill to ban tobacco advertising (De Mooij, 1994, p. 501). In 1992, the Argentine president vetoed a bill passed by the senate because it was deemed unconstitutional, and in 1992 the Chilean advertising industry fought a decree that would impose restrictions against outdoor advertising. The decree was declared unconstitutional because:
1. The intention was to ban an economical activity
(advertising), that does not run counter to public order, moral principles,
or national security.
The reasoning behind these bans are supposedly because of health concerns. In particular, Wilcox et al. (1994) find the following to be the case:
World health experts are concerned that aggressive advertising and marketing efforts by American tobacco companies have led to increases in the consumption of cigarettes and are contributing in the rise in smoking rates in many European and Asian countries (p. 333).
However, the evidence to support these claims is miniscule if not non-existent (Hoek, 1999, p.24)
Weighing the Benefits:
The promotion of consumerism is not a negative effect of international advertising. According to the Hong Kong Association of Advertising Agencies, “A legal product should have the right to be promoted” (Wilcox et al., p. 333).
allows consumers to “compare goods, which often
results in lower prices and improved product quality; advertising stimulates
the economy by encouraging consumption; and it has the potential to improve
living standards” (Mueller, 1996, p. 256). The society in
which Western advertisements are presented may portray images that are
contrary to the oppression of women or a lower standard of living. Could
Western advertisements possibly promote a positive image of women in society
or encourage the upward mobility of suppressed classes? Not all products
are harmful to consumer health, and not all products promote harmful consumption
of needless products.
by Megan VandeKerckhove - Meginski@aol.com