It is inconceivable to think of the modern world without advertising. It is one of the constitutive elements of modern living and in terms of costs involves astronomical figures.
In its extended sense advertising is as much applicable to the world of politics and religion as to that of business and trade. Here, however we will confine ourselves to the more common world of business, where one is struck by the intensity and subtlety of the advertising it resorts to. Perhaps it is inherent in mass production for extensive markets across a country and beyond to thrive on large-scale advertising. One thing generally leads to another. International trade was made possible, thanks to the unprecedented development in the means of transport and communication, and it in turn created the giant publicity firms and advertising agencies.
Two obvious functions of all advertising are bringing new products or services to the knowledge of their prospective customers and promoting their sales and use. Nothing wrong in this—but trouble arises when exaggerated or patently dishonest claims are made by the manufacturers for their wares with the express intention of making profits at the customers’ expense. As we open our newspapers, we find page after page of several advertisements. The danger here is that people are misled by dishonest people who push up sales of useless things. People think that, whatever comes in print is true. They also think that when a thing is said to be good, it must be good. The advertising people know this. They know that if a lie is repeated a hundred times, it sounds like truth and is, taken for truth. This group psychology is dangerous for public health and standards.
Furthermore, two associated evils of unscrupulous advertising are vitiating the psychology of potential buyers and marketing goods capable of adversely affecting human health and environment. Foy it is not rare to meet with instances where ingredients known to harm or poison the human body are used in items sold to unsuspecting millions under the cover of fierce publicity and aggressive advertising.
All this is not to suggest that business of advertising is an unmitigated evil. Put to proper use, advertising can do enormous good to society, in the Minds of people with a social conscience. However in the hands of those businessmen who are unethical and unscrupulous, the chances are that advertising will be more an instrument of individual and social harm than an agent of human welfare.