Do Advertisements Play a Positive or
Negative Role in Our Society?
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
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
We're having a debate on advertising tomorrow and I have to take
That's interesting. I should like to hear what young people
Well, we wouldn't know what there was to buy if we didn't have
Yes, that's true-up to a point. Advertisements provide
that we need. If someone has produced a new article, naturally
seller wants to tell us about it.
Yes, and advertisements tell us which product is the best.
Do they? I don't think so. Every manufacturer says that his
is the best, or at least tries to give that impression. Only one
the best,so the others are misleading us, aren't they?
Well, in a way, I suppose, but we don't have to believe them, do
Are you saying that advertisements aren't effective? I don't
intelligent businessmen would spend millions of dollars on
nobody believed the advertisements, do you?
Perhaps not, but after all, it' s their money that they're
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
Well, I suppose we get something for our money -- some
Yes, but don't forget it's often misleading information, and
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
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
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
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
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
First, some enterprises, especially township and
private ones, use fake advertising to push sales of their substandard or
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
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
Some products are advertised as having a remarkable and
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.
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.
Advertisements often encourage us to believe that because someone
has been successful in one field, he should be regarded as an authority in
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.