Advertisement is not only necessary to promote one's products and services. It is important to make the public informed about the government policies, rules and regulations, laws, procedures, concepts, treaties, and agreements, among others.
--BY ARJUN MOHAN BHATTARAI
Advertising is an integral part of the business. But, here in Nepal, it is being seen as an unnecessary expense or a charity. We are losing a lot due to our stubbornness towards advertising. Our knowledge, ability, suffering, and prejudice are responsible for this loss.
Does it have anything to do with any tussle with designers, mass media, journalists, or ad agencies? Let's brainstorm whether an advertisement has increased expenses only or delivered some results to the advertisers.
Ignorance of the law is not forgivable, but in a country where only 70% of the population is literate, it is advisable to inform people through the medium they understand like audio, visual, pictorial, sound, etc. The high-ranking officials and policymakers in government bodies have a role to play in this. Whatever their explanations and rhetoric may be, the truth is that it would be wrong to be narrow-minded toward information and communication. The Prime Minister himself has admitted in public that he felt a lack of voter education in the recently-held local body elections. This is just an example of one government agency. The tradition exists in many other agencies.
There is a tendency in private, business associations, organisations, and business establishments to spend the cost of advertisement elsewhere and show their other expenses under advertisement heading during auditing. Those who say "advertising is the right of the media" need to be aware of this. It is also important for auditors with professional ethics to be alert to all this. It is also important to understand irregularities and tax evasion while manipulating expenditure headings. The consumers' right to be informed about services and goods is also being violated. When proper information is not delivered to the people promptly through information and advertisements, people cannot play the role of a watchdog in the implementation of development works. If that happens, it will result in low-quality development works. Service delivery will not be effective. On the other hand, people will be deprived of the opportunity to be alert and aware.
Those who are narrow-minded about the advertisement and see it as unnecessary expenses need to do some soul searching. Is your decision correct? Will it benefit you in the long run?
Some people are narrow-minded towards advertisements because of baseless publicity and unnecessary claims made by a few. High cost, long time to get the desired results, and difficulty in understanding the concept pitched by agencies could be some other reasons.
Advertising may not be mandatory, but it is becoming increasingly necessary. Those who earlier used to say 'don't bother to ask advertisements' are now reaching the agencies saying 'we made the products, now we don't know how to sell. Please help us find a market for us.' Those in the advertising industry also need to upgrade themselves in terms of skills and technology and be able to meet the expectations of the client.
Advertising is not about displacing other products and services in the market. There is a wrong conception that advertising helps us to win. Advertising is all about introducing a product or service in the market, informing consumers about the brand, technology, utilities, cost, etc. Advertising is done to dispel confusion among consumers about brands, products, and services, and to ensure market presence.
There may be psychological, economic, and social reasons behind narrow-mindedness toward advertising. For businesses suffering from disasters, epidemics, etc, cutting advertising expenses may be the first step to take which can be understood. At the same time, the economic situation is also a factor that makes it difficult for businesses to manage expenses. Businesses with big teams, whose operating cost is high, may find cutting advertising expenses an easy solution. Advertisers' rigid views towards advertising should not be considered otherwise as there is a lack of intensive communication, dialogue, discussion, and collaboration between the advertising agency and the advertisers.
Advertising agencies also seem to have failed to inform general advertisers about the need, importance, benefits, disadvantages, and impact of the services they provide to clients. Agencies responsible for promoting the products and services of others must also explain, identify and demonstrate the importance of their profession to the potential clients. The government has brought out the budget for the new fiscal year. We need to see whether the policies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year say anything about advertising. The issue of branding has been raised in the budget. Advertising agencies should now pile pressure on the government for its implementation. They need to do the needful for making high-level government officials realise the importance of branding.
As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Nepal needs to focus on advertising and promotion to make its products and services competitive in the world market. Advertising and promotion is the only way to introduce Nepali products to the world. The government needs to bring tax waivers and other subsidies to effectively promote our products and services in the international market and make the 'Make in Nepal' campaign successful. It is high time the government took the service of advertising agencies to inform the general public about the policies and programs that it is bringing.
It is because of its narrow-mindedness towards advertising that people had misconceptions about MCC and COVID vaccines, among others. Through advertising, the government should have made people informed about such things. Government organises workshops, seminars, training, etc to raise awareness, but doesn't understand that advertising could be the most effective and cost-effective tool. It can do a cost-benefit analysis while implementing awareness programs. Such analysis will show advertising will be more beneficial. But needful efforts should be made in the selection of the best tool to disseminate the message, presentation style, and media, among others.
Conservative policies toward advertising make it difficult for government programs to succeed. Advertising and promotion play an important role in making projects of national importance successful. The advertising agencies need to upgrade in line with the technological advancements and assure the clients according to the principle of cost-outcome analysis.
Good communication and coordination among advertisers, agencies, and advertisement creators is a must to get the desired outcomes. If advertisements can be made result-oriented to assure the conservative government bodies and businesses that their investment is not going in vain, attraction toward advertising will increase gradually.
(Bhattarai is the Executive Director of the Advertising Association of Nepal)