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The Art of New Age – Invitation by a Trickster

The Art of New Age – Invitation by a Trickster


Once there was a humorous incident in a village in India. A man announced a feast for the whole village. He also guaranteed laddoos or jalebis according to the wish of the guests. Of course, the whole village was very happy. When the villagers gathered on that day for the feast, everyone was there, except the host. So, never believe in a trickster’s invitation. Here we will see some tricky ads.


I am going to write about ethics in the advertisements in this article as well as in the forthcoming articles.

The researchers, Matthew A. Lapierre, Frances Fleming – Milici, Rossendale, Anna R. McAlister, Jessica Castonguay have highlighted the effect of advertising on adolescents (Effects of Advertising on Children and Adolescents) in their research.

Here is the summary –

Over the last hundred years, the journey of advertising for children has been interesting. It grew from ‘disgusting thing’ to ‘an integral part of growing up’. A lot of research has been done on the impact of advertising on children and contradictory conclusions have evolved. Till date, reams of pages are written about the ethics regarding such advertisements. Advertising for children is beneficial to them. As they can become sensible future informed customers after watching advertisements. 

Advertising for children is an important issue for the advertisers as well since the crores of rupees are spent on the products for children. Nowadays children’s opinion regarding what they should wear, eat and which entertainment gadgets they should use are valuable than ever. One more reason behind this is, in future, these children are likely to turn into loyal customers of the product which they are using now. 

Every year, children in America watch 13,000 to 30,000 advertisements only on television.  Online ads, advertisements through print media, video games and in schools also add to this chunk. I assume that the figures related to Indian children are no different. Many questions pop up in my head as these children keep on watching a plethora of advertisements. 

What are the effects of advertisements on these children? 

Does watching advertisements adversely affects the mental growth of children?

What parents and advertisers can do to avoid the ill effects of the hammering of social media advertisements on children? 

While thinking about all these issues, one thing is coming to the forefront– children’s role in shopping. 

Generally, five types of roles are played by the consumer while he or she is shopping for daily goods.

  1. Initiator
  2. Influencer
  3. Decider
  4. Buyer
  5. User

Let us take an example.

Winter is about to start. While having morning tea, a granny tells her daughter-in-law, “Winter is about to start. Time to buy a sweater for my baby grandson.” So, here the granny is the initiator in the shopping process for a sweater.

Mother of the child seconds her and says, “Very true. Our Sahil won’t fit into last year’s woollen clothes anymore. New ones should be purchased.” So, this mom is an influencer. 

If she is a homemaker and not earning, she asks her husband,” Should I?”

The husband raises his head over the newspaper and asks,” How much money would it cost?”

“At least two to three thousand rupees.”

“Okay. Buy those.”

The man of the house is a decider here.

The lady in the neighbourhood informs the mom, “There is a sale going on in XYZ mall. Will you come? Today is the last day.”

The mom replies,” Oh, I am busy today. Will you please buy three sweaters for my Sahil? Please buy a bigger size.” The neighbour will buy sweaters for Sahil from the mall. She is the buyer and Sahil, the one who is going to use the sweater, becomes a user. 

It is not always necessary that five different people perform five different roles in each act of shopping.  A salesman may buy an ice-cream between two sales calls. Here he will perform all the five roles – initiator, influencer, decider, buyer and user. But in the last fifteen to twenty years, children’s participation as initiator, influencer, buyer and user in these roles is becoming more and more important. 

Children today vs. Children before

A few months ago, I was waiting for a friend near a restaurant. As all the tables in the restaurant were occupied, a couple with a 6 – 7-year-old child was waiting outside the restaurant next to me. Soon a friend of the lady happened to arrive there. It was a small surprise for both. After exchanging the greetings, she asked her, “How come you are here?” The mother of the child replied, “Every Saturday my Aarav insists on having a pizza in this very restaurant.”

Let me be honest with you, I was quite jealous of little Aarav. Our childhood would have been more memorable if we had such freedom. 

I remember my school teacher, Panchnadikar Sir took me to have a dosa at the famous restaurant called ‘Sweet Home’. It was a reward for writing a good essay in the school journal. That time I was studying in 10th grade in Modern High School, Pune. My teacher placed the order the for dosa on my behalf. While informing my father about accompanying the teacher to a restaurant, I felt guilty as if I was being punished by my teacher.

How the time flies! And here the 6-7 -year-old Aarav had the authority to decide about the restaurant and what kind of food everyone should eat.

Nowadays, due to social and economic transformations, the opinions of children are considered very important. Especially the children exercise their option while choosing food, clothes, toys and entertainment. It’s no wonder that the advertising world concentrates so much on children!

There’s nothing wrong in that. But while trying to sell a product by hook or crook to the children, the harmful effects on them are likely to be ignored. Are the children who watch or act in these advertisements mentally and emotionally mature enough? Do they have the ability to decide before buying a product? (Even all adult customers don’t have this ability.) Or do they fall prey to the incessant appeals of the glittery ad world and even the parents keep on satisfying their demands? Will the habit of excessive consumerism adapted in the early age will turn into a big social problem later?

I remember an incident I had read about. It took place in the USA some thirty or thirty-five years ago. The famous shoe company ‘Nike‘ advertised their shoes for children in an attractive and imposing manner. It was so effective that the children who were not owning those type of shoes developed an inferiority complex. They had a feeling of backwardness or being deprived. Black children from slum areas also had the same feelings as they were also watching those advertisements. 

As a result, some black children staying near a reputed school kidnapped a student having those special shoes. Unfortunately, the kidnapped student lost his life in this event. Are the advertisers responsible to some extent for such gruesome incidents? 

Some thinkers believe that the problem of such brand obsessed children is faced by both, the developed and developing countries as there are no restrictions on such advertisements. Considering the harmful effects of advertisements on society, some restrictions have already been enforced. Some are enforced by the law, while some are to be followed voluntarily as per the guidelines of ‘Advertising Standards Council of India’ (ASCI)Ethics are more important than law or discipline. Though there are no written rules for social acceptance, they always exist in society. (Of course, eventually, they change with changing times.). Advertisers face a dilemma while following ethics. Advertisers are often seen trapped between the situations like facing the pain of regret for advertising unethically and effects on the sale of their product and bearing the loss due to unethical advertisements by the competitors.

“To hell with the ethics! Sell the product in every possible way…” The advertisers having such type of mindset never bother about any restrictions. 

I will discuss the restrictions imposed by law and ASCI in the next article.

Some thinkers have given their recommendations regarding ethics in advertisements. Here are some of those-

  1. Exaggerated claims should be avoided.
  2. Competitor’s brand name must not be mentioned in the advertisement.
  3. Always respect social and cultural beliefs. 
  4. Never disrespect the honourable people and places in society via the advertisements.         
  5. Never harm the reputation of humanity.

Despite these instructions, many well-known ad makers are found to be guilty of breaching these guidelines.  The advertisements giving misleading ideas about the product are called exaggerating advertisements. Here are examples of some advertisements with excessive claims.

PediaSure by Abbott

Abbott’ sells a product called PediaSure for Rs. 1,250 for a kg. This company claims that it is the best quality nutrition for children. 

PediaSure’s claims were:

  1. It’s been clinically proved that PediaSure supports growth in children.
  2. PediaSure tasty milkshake ensures the ingestion of 37 nutrients.
  3. If offers better and better growth.

Let us find out the facts.

One cup of PediaSure has 240 calories. Out of these 240 calories, 80 calories are obtained from fats, 25 calories come from proteins and the remaining 135 calories are gained from carbohydrates. After digesting the carbohydrates, 1-gram fibre and 18 grams sugar (4.5 spoons) are freed. So, the drink prepared with PediaSure is sweeter than milk. No doubt, children love it very much. Parents get attracted to it because of the long list of vitamins and think of it as a better supplement for their children’s growth. 

Extracting specific vitamins from natural ingredients and providing in the powdered form does not assure their absorption by the human body. The body excretes most of it via urine. Children gain weight (actually they become overweight) in the initial stage, but the habit of PediaSure may reduce the desire to eat regular food.  So, the PediaSure ad has an excessive claim.

‘Nutrilite Daily’ by Amway

120 tablets of ‘Nutrilite Daily’ produced by Amway cost Rs. 2229. It means each tablet costs around Rs.200.

The ad of ‘Nutrilite Daily’ by Amway claims –

Apart from 13 vitamins and 11 minerals, ‘Nutrilite Daily’ by Amway has extracts of organically grown Acerola cherries, parsley, spinach, carrots.

What is a reality?

According to a statement released by Food Safety and Standards of India (FSSAI), Amway does not have any scientific proof of obtaining phyto-factor plant compounds from vegetable extracts. The claim stating tablets of ‘Nutrilite Daily’ by Amway are easy to consume due to its Nutrilite exclusive ‘nutrialock’ features baseless and found to be wrong. Similarly, advertisements claiming weight loss in 8 to 15 days of misleading nature. The weight gained over a long period cannot be reduced within 15 days. Such diet plans are completely baseless. 

We will discuss some more forms of advertisements which are unethical in the next articles in this series. 

Originally Published in Yashashwi Udyojak. Subscribe Today.

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