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Lesson 25

                    Do Advertisements Play a Positive or
                        Negative Role in Our Society?

                                       Text

                 People Change Their Attitudes towards Ads

    One night, when television began broadcasting a boring TV show, I said to my wife, "The programme is even less interesting than the advertisements, or commercials. Let us have a change.
    My wife, who happened to have a remote control in her hand, consented immediately, switched to another channel and enjoyed an advertisement of riee flour with me. Just at the moment, I found that we were no longer as disgusted with the commercials as we had been before.


    The next day when I told my experience to my colleagues, they, to my surprise, all had the same feeling. A few even sang several of the commercials songs.
A few years ago, when advertisements began to appear in the Chinese media, most people, including myself, were against the practice. Some sighed: "The socialist TV, newspapers have started imitating the Western bourgeois media too!"
    What has changed the audience's mentality in only several years' time?


    First, Chinese advertisements have improved their advertising techniques. At the beginning, the language of advertisements was simple, the music insipid and the images coarse and crude. Later, some better foreign advertisements came to Chinese TV and newspapers.
    "Where there is a mountain, there is a road; where there is a road, there is a Toyota." The words of the Japanese advertisement publicizing the Toyota car are very absurd but impressive and easy to memorize. " Nestle coffee is tasty indeed." The American advertisement promoting the sale of the Nestle brand coffee has become a new household phrase in China.


    Gradually, Chinese advertisements also have learned how to dress themselves up. They have strange and humorous associations, charming, deep male voices, colourful images and songs that are pleasing to the ear and easy to learn.s For these reasons, the commercials for Santana cars, Fud colour film and Orient beverages have successfully attracted a TV audience.


    Second, life needs advertisements. Everything in modern society is linked to information, while the main function of advertisements is to disseminate information on commodities, service, culture, employment, student enrollment and even marriage.
    Of course, one can obtain such information by listening to hearsay and making on- the-spot investigation, but the information provided by advertisements in doubtless the most direct, comprehensive and detailed.


    As society advances, people's demands have become more and mone diversified, and the commodities and service provided by society have also become more and more diversified.
    On the other hand, as living tempo quickens, people have less leisure time. If they want to spend time finding suitable commodities, service and employment opportunities, they have to rely on advertisements. So, unconsciously, people
have changed their hatred for advertisements to an acceptance and utilization of them.


    But, due to certain conditions in China, the Chinese do not have a great need for advertisements for the time being. That is because Chinese economy is not highly developed,and the supply of many commodities falls short of consumers' demands. So the more consumers see the advertisements, the angrier they become.
    Second, people's living pace has not quickened to the extent that they have no time to go shopping leisurely. Many can even find time to walk the streets during their work hours. There is no need for them to read "the shopping directory".
There are even fewer people depending on advertisements to seek employment, for there is not much flow of the labour force.


    Earlier this year, I discovered that the annual business volume of a US advertising corporation was as high as $ 6 billion, more than 12 per cent of that of China's exports last year. I was really taken aback to find that an advertisement corporation-had developed to such an extent.


    It is said that advertising is indispensable to the lives of people in developed countries. Without exception, people read advertisements before going shopping or looking for jobs. It is against this social background that advertising has developed
so much in these countries.
    An idea comes to me: As the economy develops, advertisements may finally penetrate every corner of our life. The day will come when all Chinese will realize that advertising is essential to all of us.


II . Read
    Read the following passages. Underline the important viewpoints while reading.

                      1. The Function of Advertisement

Robert:   We're having a debate on advertising tomorrow and I have to take part.
Mr.Lee:   That's interesting. I should like to hear what young people think about
  advertising.
Robert:   Well, we wouldn't know what there was to buy if we didn't have
  advertisements.
Mr.Lee:   Yes, that's true-up to a point. Advertisements provide information
  that we need. If someone has produced a new article, naturally the
  seller wants to tell us about it.
Robert:   Yes, and advertisements tell us which product is the best.
Mr.Lee:   Do they? I don't think so. Every manufacturer says that his product
  is the best, or at least tries to give that impression. Only one can be
  the best,so the others are misleading us, aren't they?

 

Robert:   Well, in a way, I suppose, but we don't have to believe them, do we?
Mr.Lee:   Are you saying that advertisements aren't effective? I don't think that 
  intelligent businessmen would spend millions of dollars on advertising if
  nobody believed the advertisements, do you?
Robert:   Perhaps not, but after all, it' s their money that they're spending.
Mr.Lee:   Is it? I think not. The cost of advertising is added to the price of the 
  article. You and I and all the other people who buy the article pay for
  the advertising!
Robert:   Well, I suppose we get something for our money -- some information.
Mr.Lee:   Yes, but don't forget it's often misleading information, and sometimes
  harmful.

 

                       2. Advertisers Perform a Useful
                           Service to the Community

    Advertisers tend to think big and perhaps this is why they' re always coming in for criticism. Their critics seem to resent them because they have a flair for self-promotion and because they have so much money to throw around. "It's iniquitous," they say, "that this entirely unproductive industry ( if we can call it that ) should absorb millions of pounds each year. It only goes to show how much profit the big companies are making. Why don't they stop advertising and reduce the price of their goods? After all, it's the consumer who pays...


    The poor old consumerl He'd have to pay a great deal more if advertising didn't create mass markets for products. It is precisely because of the heavy advertising that consumer goods are so cheap. But we get the wrong idea if.we think the only purpose of advertising is to sell goods. Another equally important function is to inform . A great deal of the knowledge we have about household goods derives largely from the advertisements we read. Advertisements introduce us to new products or remind us of the existence of ones we already know about. Supposing you wanted to buy a washing-machine, it is more than likely you would obtain details regarding performance, price, etc. from an advertisement.


    Lots of people pretend that they never read advertisements, but this claim may be seriously doubted. It is hardly possible not to read advertisements these days. And what fun they often are, too! Just think what a railway station or a newspaper would be like without advertisements. Would you enjoy gazing at a blank wall or reading railway bye-laws while waiting for a train? Would you like to read only closely- printed columns of news in your daily paper? A cheerful, witty advertisement makes such a difference to a drab wall or a newspaper full of the daily ration of calamities.


    We must not forget, either, that advertising makes a positive contribution
to our pockets. Newspapers, commercial radio and television companies could not subsist without this source of revenue. The fact that we pay so little for our daily paper, or can enjoy so many broadcast programmes is due entirely to the money spent by advertisers. Just think what a newspaper would cost if we had to pay its full pricel

 

    Another thing we mustn,t forget is the "small ads" which are in virtually
every newspaper and magazine. What a tremendously useful service hey perform for the communityl Just about anything can be accomplished hrough these columns. For instance, you can find a job, or sell a house, announce a birth, marriage or death in what used to be called the "hatch, match and dispatch" columns; but by far the most fascinating section is the personal or "agony" column. No other item in a newspaper provides such entertaining reading or offers such a deep insight into human ature. It,s the best advertisement for advertising there is!

 

                    3. Some Ads May Be Too Good to Be True

    Advertisements for vocational training courses are seen all over China owadays. But not all of them are reliable.
    A spare-time training school affiliated with the Tiexi District library in Shenyang offered a hairdressing course nine times from October 1987 to April 1988, attracting a total of 1,628 students. The eighth term was attended by 348 students. But afterwards, 100 of them sued the school, charging that they had been cheated with false advertising.


    The ad had stated that two well-known hairdressers from Hong Kong, one of them a woman, would teach the class and that a third from Shenzhen and a fourth from Guangzhou would also teach. But as turned out, one of the "Hong Kong hairdressers" was a man from Henan Province who had been living in Shenyang since his marriage, and the woman hairdresser was from Guangzhou. The one from Shenzhen never materialized.
The ad also stated that a Hong Kong beauty salon would provide textbooks for the students. But the texts turned out to be only pamphlets rinted by a jobless young man.


    The ad promised to provide an official ertificate from the city' s education bureau at the end of the course, but the seal on the certificate was that of the school.
    The ad said that a spacious and well-furnished classroom would be provided, but a small and dilapidated room which could hold no more than 100 people was used instead.
A conference room was added, but half of the students still had to stand during the lectures.


    The school took a group photo of all 348 students on the first day of the course and started to hand out certificates the following day. A total of 160 certificates were sent out in 20 days, loag before the students completed the course.
    As a result of the suit, the library was fined 15, 000 yuan and the jobless young man had to pay 2,000 yuan.
    The proliferation of vocational training courses in China has given rise to a proliferation of related advertisements - in newspapers and on radio and television. A study of a locai newspaper by Shenyang's Industrial nd Commercial Bureau found that from January to March 1988 the paper ran 220 advertisements and that 99 of them, or 45 per cent, were for vocatoinal training courses.


    With flowery phrases and possibly empty promises, these advertisements re often tempting to those who want to get rich quick.
    In most cases, the shorter the vocational training courses, the easier they appear and the sooner the enrollees hope they can start earning money with what- they learned in class. So, naturally, the ads for short courses are all the more tempting.
Who could resist an ad like this:


    "Want to learn the most updated technique of making detergent? You need no equipment except four tubs. Attend our course, and within a week you will learn how to produce 150 kilograms and earn more than 150 yuan a day."
    The eagerness with which many people rush to attend vocational training courses in the belief an easier life awaits them afterwards leaves them vulnerabIe to cheating.
    In 1987, a man from a rural area in Shenyang who was anxious to make money met the manager of a soap factory. By various illicit means, he got hold of the business license and the seal of the factory. He decided to open a training course on soap and detergent production under the factory's name and to charge a tuition fee of 200 yuan from each applicant.


    He advertised in newspapers read by farmers in Liaoning, lilin and Heilongjiang provinces. He immediately received applications from 100 people from 60 counties. The man pocketed 20,000 yuan in tuition fees, but never gave the course. He endcd up in jail for fraud, and the factory's business license was revoked.

 

                     4. Fake Advertising Seeks the Gullible

    Want to make gasoline and diesel fuel in your own home?
    Want to have the capacity to drink a thousand shots of booze without being tipsy?
    Want to add three centimetres a month to your height?
    Sounds ridiculous? These impossible dreams have been offered to people in this country. And they are just a few examples of the false advertising that has become one of the major problems hounding a modernizing Chinese society.


    Last year, the Chinese Consumers ' Association alone received 55,871 complaints about the deceptive advertising, more than doubling the figure for 1987.
    In spite of repeated crackdowns their numbers are still increasing each year, according to officials with the State, Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC).
    Fake advertising, which appears mostly in print media, cheats consumers, and in some serious cases, threatens gullible people's lives.


    As part of the latest campaign against phoney hucksters this year,the Beijing Administration of Industry and Commerce has just forbidden all publications to carry the column called "Tips on how to get rich. " Though many people have learned about a product or a technology through the column, much of the information in the column is provided by swindlers.
    For instance, after a private school advertised that it was offering a course on how to make fluorescent lamp tubes at home, a farmer from Jilin Province came to Beijing to learn the skills.


    However, after spending 30, 000 yuan of family savings, the farmer didn't produce a single tube. Realizing the whole tbing was a hoax, the bankrupt farmer repeatedly attempted suicide.
    According to SAIC officials, there are several reasons for the rampant
fake advertising.
    First, some enterprises, especially township and private ones, use fake advertising to push sales of their substandard or fake products.


    Sheng Xincheng, a private businessman in Xinjiang, advertised for his "fine cow-hide shoes." Customers outside Xinjiang sent him 180,000 yuan( $48,000) only to get back inferior plastic shoes.
    Second, many newspapers, magazines and other media take the advertising because
they need the money and don't care about the ethics of the ad's contents.
    Third, China does not have effective laws and regulations to prevent such advertising.
             


               Gifts from heaven -- Jahn's Slimming Cream

                    5. The Language of Advertising

                       1

    Some products are advertised as having a remarkable and immediate
effect. We are shown the situation before using the product and this is contrasted with the situation that follows its use. Taking a tablet for a headache in such advertisements can have truly remarkable results. For not only has the headache gone, but the person concerned has often had a new hair-do, acquired a new set of clothes and sometimes even moved into a more modern, betterfurnished house.

                       2

    One thing reminds us of another - especially if we often see them together. These reminders are sometimes more imaginary than real: for some people snow may suggest Christmas, for others silver candlesticks may suggest wealth. Theadvertiserencourages us to associate his productwith those things he thinks we really want -- a good job, nice clothes, a sports car, a beautiful girlfriend -- and, perhaps most of all, a feeling of importance. The "image" of a product is based on these associations and the advertiser often creates a "good image" by showing us someone who uses his product and who leads the kind of life we should like to lead.

                       3

  Advertisements often encourage us to believe that because someone has been successful in one field, he should be regarded as an authority in other fields.
The advertiser knows that there are certain people we admire because they are famous sportsmen, actors or singers, and he believes that if we discover that a certain well-known personality uses his product, we will want to use it too. This is why so many advertisements feature famous people.

                       4

    Maybe we can' t always 6elieve what we' re told , but surely we must accept what we're actually shown The trouble is that when we look at the photograph we don't know how the photoraph was taken, or even what was actually photographed. Is that delicious-looking whipped cream really cream, or plastic froth? Are the colours in fact so glowing or has a special filter been used?
    It is often difficult to tell, but you can sometimes spot the photographic
tricks if you look carefully enough.

                       5

    If you keep talking about something for long enough, eventually people will pay attention to you. Many advertisements are based on this principle.
    If we hear the name of a product many times a day, we are much more likely to find that. this is the name that comes into our head when the shopkeeper asks "What brand?" We usually like to choose things for ourselves, but if the,advertiser plants a name in our heads in this way he has helped to make the choice for us.6 In this age of moon flights, heart transplants and wonder drugs, we are all impressed by science. If an advertiser links his claim with a scientific fact, there's even a chance we can be blinded by science. The question is simply whether the impressive air of the new discovery or the "man-made miracle" is being used io help or just to hoodwink us.

                       7

    Advertisers may try to make us want a product by suggesting that most people, or the "best"people, already use it and that we will no doubt want to follow them. No one Iikes to be inferior to others and these advertisements suggest that you will be unless you buy the product.

                       8

    The manufacturer needs a name for his product, and of course helooks for a name that will do more than just identify or label: he wants a name that brings suitable associations as well -- the ideas that the word brings to mind will help sell the product.

                       9

    Most advertisements contain certain words ( sometimes, but not always, in bold or large letters, or beginning with a capital letter) that are intended to be persuasive, while at the same time appearing to be informative. In describing a product, copy-writers insert words that will conjure up certain feelings,associations and attitudes. Some words--"golden", for example - seem to have been so successful in selling that advertisers use them almost as if they were magic keys to increase sales.

                       10

    Advertisers may invoke feelings that imply you are not doing the best for those you love most. For example, an advertisement may suggest that any mother who really loves her children uses a certain product. If she does not, she might start to think of herself as a bad mother who does not love her family. So she might go and buy that particular product, rather than go on feeling bad about it.