Horrifying is the otherwise legally acceptable practice of showing the warning on the television screen in such tiny size that even with large screen LCD and LED monitors, one feels the need of either zooming in or using a magnifying glass.
There are a number of television commercials, quite successful and popular in connecting with the viewers and may be resulting in an increase in the sale of the advertised product. Stunts like running faster even than Bolt, riding bikes even better than the professional riders, swimming, diving, et al performed by highly-trained and experienced persons leave lasting impact on the viewers.
Advertisements which are meant for adults and performed by adults can, of course, be given the benefit of doubt that even without the warning on the screen, no reasonable and prudent adult would be expected to imitate the same.
But it doesn’t remain the same the moment we are talking about advertisements showing children and targeting the children. Children of impressionable age are highly vulnerable to the visuals and may also try to imitate the stunt as seen on the screen, despite the disclaimer.
Here comes the importance of the warning on the screen: Many a time, the warning on the screen, which advertisers are forced to show due to statutory requirements, are shown in extremely tiny font size and also for a very short duration. It doesn’t serve any purpose except that of fulfilling the statutory requirement in letter, and definitely not in spirit.
Of late, an advertisement by Hero Cycles is being shown, which, to my understanding, should not have been aired. The commercial shows a child riding a bicycle and using the bicycle tyres to make a wall painting. We clearly understand that this is impossible, and it has just been shown to get the attention of the children of that age group.
There is a disclaimer on the screen, which is difficult to be read. Even if it can be read, how many children would be able to read that, understand the message and the legal implications? Despite such a disclaimer, chances are high that some children may try to do the same.
There is another advertisement for an extremely popular and successful biscuit brand – Parle G – which, without doubt, falls into the category of the most irresponsible advertisements I’ve ever seen. The advertisement, surprisingly, doesn’t have to do anything with the biscuits; it simply talks about learning from experiences, and that the life is a school in itself.
The message is fine, but the way it has been tried to be conveyed to the target viewers, is unacceptable. It shows a child inflating a balloon using the exhaust fumes from the exhaust pipe of two-wheeler. It is a bit too much to be shown about experimenting and self-learning.
Who is to be blamed – the company selling the product; or, the advertising company making the advertisement; or, the channels telecasting it; or, the advertising regulators; or, all of them; or, someone else?
It would be rather unbelievable that each and all of them mentioned above do not know that the exhaust fumes are harmful to be inhaled, and also that the exhaust pipe is so hot that if touched it can immediately cause serious burn injuries. The argument may be put forward, “Oh! Come on. No one will do that after watching it.”
But, that’s not true. Such is the impact of visuals that even highly reasonable and prudent persons may believe some of the things as they watch on the screen and not exercise discretion to separate the real from the artificially created and depicted situations.
After all, ‘seeing is believing!’ And, the indirect effect may be that such irresponsible depiction may give innovative ideas to fertile minds to experiment without supervision and caution. Or, it may be just to achieve something knowing fully well the consequences.
In April this year, the well-known car manufacturer, Hyundai, while promoting its new car, which used certain latest technology that ensured that the exhaust pipe would emit only water vapour and no poisonous gas, used a highly irresponsible advertisement in the UK.
It showed a man, depressed and dissatisfied with life, trying to commit suicide by shutting himself overnight in the garage with the car engine on. And, lo and behold, he didn’t die as the exhaust pipe emitted only water vapour. But, after seeing this advertisement, a depressed man really used a car, which emitted poisonous gases, as most of the cars do, in the same manner as shown in the advertisement, to end his life. Unfortunately, he was successful.
If an adult can try to imitate an advertisement, there are much higher chances of children trying to imitate what they watch on television screens. By merely paying lip service that the children are the future of the nation and we need to be responsible citizens and companies, it is far more necessary that such irresponsible advertisements are dealt with due seriousness.
Irresponsibility, which may immense harm, cannot be permitted in the garb of creativity and intellectual ingenuity. Law-makers and law enforcing agencies must act with a sense of urgency to work towards the real purpose. Only then the menace of irresponsible advertisements can be tackled.