Advertising: Perceptions and Interpretation!


ADVERTISING, the right to choose. Ominously, advertising is the life blood of both traditional and modern media in the world today. The media depends heavily on advertising for its survival just as advertisers depend on the media to reach out to a number of potential buyers out there.

These are naked and undisputable facts about media and advertising industry. In recent years, we have witnessed a head on competition from corporate organisations’ that offer similar and/or different services and products for markets such as manufacturers of beverages, mobile phone service providers, training institutions to mention but a few.

To win and lead the market, advertisers are employing different techniques and tactics to sell their products and services. They have developed advertising, marketing and communication strategies to facilitate and attain desired goals.

Undoubtedly, advertising industry today is one of the fastest growing industry and booming part of the Tanzanian economy. It provides employment to thousands of young people and calls for creative and laser-like brains to create adverts that captures the attention of the busiest man on the street and a lady in the kitchen.

The copywriter is usually out of ordinary person who is able to arrange ‘arresting’ words and images to involve the target audience and at the same time appeal to his physical as well as psychological needs.

S/he must be able to use rational claims and appeals to persuade would be clients to purchase their products and services. Presentation of the advertisement also counts. Choice of words, language, illustrations, images, sound effects, actualities and characters usually adds colour to the advert.

A good copy writer and art director combines, blends and weaves these elements together to create adverts that are clear, easy to follow, memorable and at the same time mind-boggling.

The copywriter uses language that is rich and arresting, employing sex, humor, fantasy, surrealism, or fear to encourage feelings and associations that cannot be raised by the product or service alone and that is the beauty of advertising.

Advertising critics must simply understand and appreciate the art that goes with advertising. Equally, messages are skillfully crafted to sell products and services to intended audiences.

A copywriter uses unique features of the products and services as a selling proposition. When the product or service in question has no unique selling proposition, style and choice of words becomes essential in the presentation of the advert.

In recent days in Tanzania, we have seen an increasing number of advertisements being presented in lyrics or ‘song-like-format. When one tunes to radio, for instance, Y-fm or X-fm all you hear are composed advertising songs.

It has become trendy but sadly the ads have turned out to be boring and annoying. Telecommunication companies have taken the lead in this. ‘Halichachi’, ‘Jaza, Ujazwe’, ‘Hatupimi Bando’ to mention but a few, are examples of such adverts.

Recently, a participant at one of Public Relations workshop at the University of Dar-es-Salaam- Business School inquired, “Must all the ads now be in a song-like-format? Do copywriters and art directors run out of ideas?” In an audio clip that went viral after the launch of Tigo Tanzania ‘Jaza, Ujazwe’ campaign, a customer is heard complaining to a customer care officer after he had received a computer generated message congratulating him for connecting to ‘Jaza, Ujazwe’ bundle.

A vividly annoyed customer was heard saying, “Listen to me my sister, I don’t want to receive any message with regard to your ‘Jaza, Ujazwe’ campaign for I did not ask for any offer from you and I am not comfortable with the language used in your campaign.”

Truly, the campaign has not gone down well with a number of male customers in the country. Whilst, the youngsters are making fun of it and life goes on, traditionalists are grappling with its perceived meaning.

Personally, I find the campaign okay and the problem remains with individual’s perceptions and interpretation. Suparna Jain writing for the “International Journal of Man agement and Applied Science,” observes that advertisements today have become an integral part both of the society and also the corporate sector.

The people see it as an entertainment and medium to keep abreast with the latest products and services they can avail in the market and the corporate sector thinks that it is one of the most effective, creative and impactful means of promoting and generating awareness about their products and services in the market.

Understandably, adverts can be annoying sometimes to a critical mind. If you critically look at a number of adverts that are being aired in our television and radio stations every day you will note a lot of loop holes.

The purpose of analyzing ads is usually to “see” the ad in a way you might not have if you hadn’t been looking extremely closely, breaking it down to its component parts—the way it uses language, the kinds of images it employs, the way in which the language and images interact with one another, and the way in which the general layout of the ad reinforces its message.

It’s only by looking at ads holistically that one can be able to give a fair and objective assessment and not by simply looking at one component, for example, use of language as is the case with ‘Jaza, Ujazwe’ campaign.

Equally, advertisers have the duty to do justice to their work and avoid dishing out misleading messages to the audiences for whatever reason. In many of the adverts we come across, advertisers promise rewards and guarantees to which products and services do not offer in most cases.

Misleading the audience through the use of false claims and unjustifiable appeals by unscrupulous advertisers is unethical and uncalled for. The TCRA content committee must look at these adverts critically and reverse the trend.

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