Advertising and Development
When discussing advertising and development, the focus naturally is primarily on the process of the expansion of wants. This is integrated with the process of growth, expansion and diversification of the economy of a country. Furthermore, one is also faced with the international horizontal and vertical expansion of the market. Thus what takes place on a national scale in one country is replicated in other parts of the world. Advertising also develops different characteristics to suit each stage of this process of development, of the transition from one stage to another, both nationally and internationally.
Let us begin with the process of the expansion of wants. In the first stage of development the basic needs or wants were food and drink as nourishment and clothing and shelter as protection against the elements. Obviously, at this stage of human development there was no need for advertising. As each of these basic needs began to be met, the search began for other needs, some of which could be in the sphere of the arts and culture. Once a society reached the stage of satiation, the search began for the exotic in food and drink, self-adornment more than protection against the elements, greater home comforts and more facilities rather than mere shelter. This has been the process of development. It has been made possible because of the wealth generated by the ability of human labour to produce a surplus much beyond his needs. Human beings have added to this ability by discovering new tools and equipment to help the production of a larger and larger surplus.
Related to this pattern of development, advertising has advanced from merely providing information for goods and services available, to persuasion in the face of competition among different brands of the same product OF service, and further on to the creation of new markets, new wants and even new lifestyles. Finally, we have reached a stage today when the world is in the process of integration and inter-dependence. It is the trans-nationalization or mobility of capital across national boundaries and of production and distribution, which is fast integrating the world economy. In this situation, the same product is being manufactured in different parts of the world and marketed in different parts of the world. There is very little difference between the products or services offered by one company or the other. Each company attempts to achieve monopoly control over the market. In such a situation, it is no longer enough for advertising to inform or persuade; it has also to manipulate the consumer's mind to ask for a particular brand of product or service, to achieve brand monopoly.
Advertising has to mould the attitude of the consumer, his or her behavior pattern. This is a difficult task. As here, advertising enters the area of human social relations. It has to compete with traditional home influences, religious institutions, the school, in creating a certain type of aspiration towards a different lifestyle. It creates new wants through built-in obsolescence of existing products or services and by projecting changing fashions. Advertising then encourages emulation and competition among individuals. Thus, as the eminent American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, has put it: "The pressure of emulation and competition in adornment and display has no clear terminal point" (The New Industrial Estate).
This is how we have reached what we call today the consumer society. The well-known British economist, Joan Robinson, describes the consumer society thus: "There is an ever-rising consumption of industrial products by the middle class of farmers, small business, pr9fessionals, including personnel of the techno-structure itself, and that part of the working class which has become absorbed into the system; the system has come to be known as the consumer society." Advertising helps generate this process by "the management of those who buy goods," to quote Galbraith.
Advertising influences the media as well. Not necessarily in the crude way of buying up media personnel or even threatening to withhold advertisements. It is true that newspapers, periodicals and even the electronic media depend on advertising as a major source of revenue. What is more important, however, is that both advertisers and media-owners belong to the same economic and socio-cultural level of society. Industries own the media. Even the bureaucrats who control state-owned media come from the same section of society. With monopolies emerging, the media have also been monopolized. Sponsored programmed in the electronic media set the pattern for the programmed broadcast or telecast. The choice remains, but it is limited to a few different brands of the same product or service, which have little or no different user satisfaction to offer. It is the success of advertising that determines the choice. According to the American economists, Baran and Sweezy, advertising, "in its impact on the economy, is outranked only by militarism. In all other aspects of social existence, its all pervasive influence is second to none" (Monopoly Capital).
Obviously advertising has today become a very powerful instrument for motivating public opinion and action. That is why it is used for political campaigns as well. There is, therefore, always the danger of advertising, with the currently available versatility of modem information and communication technology, being misused by every powerful instrument that interacts with human beings or human.
Society has to be used with caution and a sense of social responsibility. This is, however, very difficult. As Galbraith has said, "Men with power have an extraordinary capacity to convince themselves that what they want coincides with what society needs done for its own good. It is in this background that one must look at the place of advertising in a developing society.
The major part of the developing world belongs to the world capitalism system. It is within the orbit of the global market. At the same time, it is obvious that the socio-cultural and economic situation is not the same in the developing countries as in the advanced countries. The requirements are also different. Hence, it is necessary to understand first what development means in the context of the developing countries. Development is the transition from one stage of social progress to another, from a simpler to a more complex production, economic and political system and socio-cultural relations. There are three facets to the development process-economic, political and social. The transition today in most cases is from a pre-industrial to an industrial society and economy. In the era of the scientific and technological revolution, particularly in the field of communication, the transition is at the same time to what is being characterized as the post-industrial or information society. In such a transitional stage, often many different stages of human society co-exist, depending on different forms of production, from the most primitive to the most advanced, from handicrafts to space equipment.
One must appreciate the fact that a transitional society is not something conclusively established, but is in a state of constant movement or formation. Furthermore, this transition is taking place when the communication revolution has broken the barriers of time and space. Today the taste of affluence prevailing in the developed and more established societies is brought right into your home. Just as the practice of democracy increases the urge for greater rights and privileges, similarly increasing literacy is accentuating the desire for more knowledge, for information. It is creating an awareness of the world around and rousing the desire for change, for consumption enjoyed at the moment by the few. There is an explosion of expectations-expectations of upward social and cultural mobility. There is constant movement and change and conflict. This is all part of the development process of deciding some, concepts that are no longer useful enough and acquiring new concepts that meet new requirements.
In such a society, which is in a state or constant motion and change, information and communication has a tremendous role to play. This is also true of advertising as one of the most modem and scientific methods of communication and dissemination of information and motivation on a mass scale across vast distances. In a developing society, advertising has a much wider role to play than merely that of acting as a link between the producer and the consumer for the ultimate objective of capitalist profit.
This is particularly so, because, in the final analysis, economic development is an instrument of human development. It demands investment in both human and material resources. Development cannot be measured merely in terms of economic inputs bringing about the desired output. The deification of the gross domestic product as the measure of growth is not fully relevant. Similarly, consumption and more consumption does not necessarily bring about economic and human development and social and cultural transformation. The developing countries are facing a much more complex reality for such a simplistic approach to be valid. Models of the developed countries do not fully apply. The historical conditions under which the transformation of the developing countries is taking place are very different. So are the circumstances. The first and the most important point to understand is that the underdevelopment of the developing countries has been and continues to be a condition for the rapid advance of the developed artilleries. Underdevelopment is not the natural condition of the developing countries. Hence, the urgency is not only to accomplish the industrial revolution but also acquire and take command of the scientific and technological revolution.
Thus, the developing countries have been forced by history to try to telescope in a few decades a process that has taken the advanced industrial countries a few centuries to master. This is inevitable. Otherwise the transition from a dependent to an independent economy can never take place. At the same time we must recognize the reality that this transition does not depend merely on the acquisition of technology, but more on the human element, the people who use the technology. They cannot be treated as mere objects of history and social transformation. They have to be converted into subjects of social transformation; the decision-makers and the levers of change. Without bringing about such a change consciously in the human element, simultaneously with technological and economic structural change, the process of development will reach a plateau and even decline. The basic development strategy must necessarily ensure the utilization of the country's economic and human resources to strike a balance between consumption today and investment for a higher level of consumption tomorrow, through a process of self-sustaining and self-accelerating growth. This would mean striking a balance between global integration and equal interdependence and self-reliance.
Apart from what is usually considered when discussing development, such as production, import, export, technology, industry, agriculture, social welfare and human resources, investments, foreign aid and foreign exchange and resources, we have to think of certain specific areas. Among these could be the need for increased domestic, especially household, saving rates, for conversion to productive capital, instead of unbridled consumption. In such a situation the classical role of advertising in educating, motivating and persuading the people to want more and want badly is not fully relevant. The role is a more complex one. In this context one might also ask the question: Is it possible to market goods and services without at the same time marketing a concept, even a way of life? In the advertising profession one talks of lifestyle advertising. It is really advertising a concept, a way of life. Take pressure cookers, fertilizers and high-yielding seeds, bottled gas for cooking, wall-to-wall carpeting, life insurance as a provision for the future at critical periods of one's life, and so on. One could go on listing a whole lot of such goods and services, which involve advertising a concept, a way of life. Even when really aimed at creating profits for the manufacturers, such advertisements help change ways of living and even human relations in society and value systems. In this context an important dimension of social transformation is the transformation of human attitudes, perceptions. A human being uses products of the scientific and technological revolution, and thus is able to create his own destiny to some extent. Yet that person does not necessarily develop a scientific attitude, a rational attitude towards life.
This gap has to be bridged consciously. This is the world of ideas and concepts. Advertising has an important role to play, in this transition from the utilization of the products of science to a greater understanding of the potential of science in making life easier.
To move from the general to the particular, India too is a developing country. It is a developing country with a difference. Since independence, over a period of more than four-and-a-half decades, India has reached the stage of middle-level industrialization. In the process a fairly large consumer market has emerged. As a percentage of the total population it is, however, very small. According to different estimates a population of between 200 and 250 million constitutes the market for advertised goods, in a population of over 850 million. This is a market which is as large as the market of many a European country.
This level of development has been reached as a result of a very cautious policy of a somewhat regulated market with limited opening to foreign competition. Over time, the regulations became stultifying and thwarted further development. In this context the government decided to switch over to an open market policy, in which both foreign and Indian manufacturers can compete for the massive consumer market. The expectation is that this would help upgrade the technology of Indian manufacturers, improve their quality and attract new technology into the country.
Whatever might be the overall shape of the economy in future, as a consequence of this policy of indiscriminate liberalization, it is certain that the consumer market is in for a boom. And this is what advertising is concerned with. Various research studies have shown that during the last decade the rural market has been expanding at a very fast pace. Consumer durables such as television sets and non-durables such as soaps have literally invaded the countryside. The sale of soaps, wristwatches and such other products has been growing at the rate of 17 per cent till 1987. By 1989 the rate of growth increased to 41 per cent. The rural areas today account for about 56 per cent of the total toilet soap market, nearly 50 per cent of the razor blades market and 40 per cent of the washing powders market.
Overall, the market for packaged and branded consumer non-durables has been growing at the rate of about 99 per cent per annum. The spending spree that had started in the mid-eighties has continued well into the nineties. Although no recent data are readily available, the trends are clear. There is more money in the hands of the middle classes. The pattern of life has changed for the urban middle class. Rising prices and the desire for better living, triggered by a whole range of consumer durables and non-durables, which make living easier and more comfortable, have contributed to a decline in the percentage of single-earner families. The double income families have now further strengthened the change from the joint family to the nuclear family. In recent years, average family Income has increased about 90 per cent. This is reflected in the increasing sale of a wide range of goods. The number of families owning video cassette players and recorders, according to a study by The Economic Times and Pathfinders (a market research subsidiary of Lintas, the leading advertising agency), has gone up fourfold. The ownership of color TV sets has trebled and of black and white sets doubled. The study says: "So rapid and sweeping has been the acquisition of consumer durables by the middle class that in many cases, there is now close to saturation ownership. Thus 94 per cent of middle-class homes now have a TV set, either color or black and white. Similarly, more than half of the urban middle-class families now own refrigerators and mixer grinders, while a third have two-wheelers. Roughly a quarter has their cameras, stereo systems and telephone connections. And just under 10 per cent own cars." Significantly, more than half the total numbers of respondents in the survey live in their own homes. These data are about five years old.
If one looks at the way some of the biggest transnational corporations in the consumer non-durables field are fighting to overwhelm local and foreign competition in the Indian market, it becomes clear that the Indian middle-class and elite market is expected to continue to expand very fast and respond eagerly to new products. Maybe, as the new economic system stabilizes, we shall see a slow but steady growth of the average middle-class market in India. The consumer non-durable market is likely to expand faster than the consumer durable market.
The two top layers of the upper income levels would constitute this urban middle class, numbering about 2.7 crores individuals. It is for this narrow market that "the battle for consumer products and conspicuous consumption would take place" in the current decade. The study indicates that the market for general toiletries is likely to grow at a rate of about 10 per cent, but such items as perfumes, lipsticks, make-up items would grow at around 15 per cent or more. There would be a great deal of competition in categories of products, which do not fulfill any essential consumption needs, such as soft drinks and processed foods.
In the field of consumer durables, the consumer is being faced simultaneously or near-simultaneously with new products as well as their more improved versions, unlike in the advanced countries, where such changes have taken years. Whenever such products come to the market and meet a latent demand, there would possibly be a boom in sales to peter off once the demand wears off.
Within this middle class, as defined by P ACRIM, the top layer, described as the 'super-haves', is practically on the same level of consumption behavior as its counterpart in the industrialized countries of the west or Japan. Many of the international brands in readymade garments for men, and fashion wear and perfumes for women and cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, now invading India, would be targeted at this segment of the population and would possibly have a spin-off lower down the socio-economic hierarchy, particularly among those whom P ACRIM calls 'have-some'.
This is possibly the kind of market that advertising would be operating in, when some of you enter the profession. This is going to be quite different from the kind of challenges that advertising has faced so far. Some indications are available of the bitter battles that would be fought, from the advertising campaign war between Coke and Pepsi, between Surf and Ariel. In such a situation one would have to try to reach out to the fringe of the market of 44,00,000 households. This would demand changing attitudes and behavior patterns. The advertising profession would also have to bear in mind the grim reality that more than 75 per cent of the population is outside the market even of the usual toiletries or personal care articles. There are many, especially in the urban areas, which are on the fringe and are motivated by advertising. Unfortunately, they do not even have the opportunity to work hard and earn a disposable surplus to reach out to even a fraction of the increasing and diverse range of products that are already available and will be invading the Indian market in the current decade. India lives and will continue to live for some years to come in two worlds. In such a situation, advertising would also have' to face the same kind of environmentalist and anti-consumer society campaigns that have come up in the advanced industrialized countries. There is no doubt that the fast development of a consumer society in India, inevitable in the present regime of liberalization, would determine the investment pattern in the economy, obviously directed towards consumer goods, both durables and non-durables. Given limited resources, a fast I developing consumer society in India would also reduce household savings, which have so far been the main source for productive investment. There would be a greater inclination towards increasing the disposable surplus income to satisfy consumption desires, by investing in the share market, either directly or through the mushrooming mutual funds.
In such a situation, it would soon become necessary for the government to discipline the economy and the market in some respects, without going back to the old regulatory regime. "This would be necessary for the sake of the overall development of the economy in a balanced manner aimed at raising the level of living of the 75 percent outside the consumer society. This should be in the long-term interest of industrialists as well. This is where advertising has a more challenging role to play. This would open up a different dimension in the place of advertising in the development process of the nation. In such a role, the advertising profession would face some kind of contradiction between its objective of motivating more purchase and encouraging household savings, encouraging particular types of consumption and curbing others, motivating-investment of rural wealth in higher levels of industry and so on. In the area of ideas and concepts, advertising would have to help develop the scientific temper, make empowerment of the people real through the democratic decentralization process being initiated by Panchyat Raj. One could go on listing many such items, some of which are already in the orbit of advertising-anti-AIDS, anti-drugs, anti-dowry, national integration, communal harmony and so on.
There is another area of the development process, which would be nearer the normal role of advertising of making new products and services acceptable. One example could be that of solving problems of adjustment to new technology, such as the change from the use of biomass as direct fuel to the use of gas through the conversion of biomass. This would involve the use of gas stoves to replace the traditional chulah. This would call for 'selling' both a concept and a product. The whole issue of commercial and social forestry is another area of challenge to advertising-the issue of acceptance of social change that accompanies every change in technology. Advertising would have to help change the urge for higher education and divert attention towards a vocation and self-employment. Advertising could help identify and market new products, such as the improved bullock cart to carry more load and to acquire greater speed; improved rice-pounding tools to save strain on rural women; inexpensive detergents from local natural sources, and so on.
One could think of many more such products and services. All these provide challenges not merely for communication for social change, but also for marketing products and even creating acceptance of concepts. In some cases there would even be competition from well-established and marketed and advertised products. In a dual society such as ours, advertising too would have to playa dual role. There is the disposable surplus of the 'super haves' and 'have-some', some 2.7 crore people. For them advertising would naturally play the role of encouraging higher levels of consumption of a variety of goods and services. At another level are crores of people who are on the fringe of this market or well outside. Development is meant to bring all these people into the consumption market over a period of time. Here advertising can encourage socially productive utilization of the disposable surplus, and better utilization of limited resources. Advertising could help change social behavior patterns as well. Such advertising would be a direct input in development as it would motivate large sections of the population and help them take their destiny in their own hands and build their future.
This type of advertising poses a different type of a challenge. It is significant, that in the advanced industrialized countries, in the well-entrenched consumer societies, advertising professionals have been engaged for quite some time now in what is called 'social marketing', or social service advertising. In recent years this has become true of India too. Many top advertising agencies devote some of their talent to such advertising. There are advertising professionals, who, at the end of their careers, are turning to this kind of activity. This is understandable. To be a successful advertising person, one has to be sensitive to the environment. One comes to see from the ringside the capitalist market as it operates and participates in the ruthless battles that take place. One deals with men's minds.
One deals with the raw data about human needs and their reactions to the environment around them. One cannot escape seeing the total reality beyond the glamour of high fashion and the glitter of consumer durables. Some are able to desensitize themselves to the reality, outside the world of the 'super-haves' and the 'have-some'. Some cannot; they find escape in other creative fields or turn to social service advertising, helping noble causes. Hovering between two worlds-the world of the 'super-haves' and 'have-some' and the 'near-haves' and 'have-nots' -the advertising profession in India has a variety of roles to play and has wide choices. The challenges are different to meet different inclinations and types of personalities. At the same time, you must remember that advertising is not an autonomous variable. It is difficult for it to overcome socio-economic limitations inherent in the economic system. Today, especially in the context of undifferentiated liberalization and the urge for globalization, it is practically impossible to break away from the stereotypes of international advertising, which are invading India along with the transnational brands. The only hope lies in the fact that with the experience of the last few years, there are already indications of some moderation. Attention might once again turn to the 'near-haves' and 'have-nots' and new and innovative strategies of what is being talked of as 'sustainable development might be evolved. In such a situation, advertising in India would really be able to contribute to development in a meaningful way. This would offer a major challenge to those entering the advertising profession during the nineties-a challenge that would demand fresh, innovative approaches, very different in many cases from the models now corning from the advanced industrialized nations.