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Concept of Social Advertisement

Social Advertisement

In today’s competitive business world every organization depends on the advertisement. Noncommercial organizations are also using an advertisement for their publicity. Today the world is characterized by fast changes taking place in all spheres of business be it products, society, culture, etc. The advertisements which contain publicity about the social concerns of a human being are called Social Advertisements. Social advertising refers to those advertisements which deal with social causes aimed at the welfare and well being of the people. In other words, such advertisements create awareness among the people, inform and educate them about socially relevant issues like conservation of Oil, Petrol, Water and Energy, Health, Family Welfare, Literacy, Natural Resources to mention a few. They aim at communicating social causes, social issues, ideas or messages to the people. The tremendous success of commercial products can largely be attributed to advertising. TheSocial Advertisement (Photo: Google) successful use of advertising for commercial products has paved the way for a gradual increase in the use of advertising for noncommercial products, services and ideas as well i.e. for social causes or what is popularly known a “Social Advertising.” This is evident from the fact that even a bureaucratic organization like the government has to fall back on advertisements for propagating social causes such as Health, Child Care, Family Welfare, Literacy, etc. As compared to West, Social Ads are of recent origin in India. Way back in 1964 the government of India decided to tackle advertisements on family planning. In the late sixties with the increasing socio-economic problems and popularization of TV, Social ads were given increasing attention. Since then they have become part and parcel of life and the government sanctions some Crores of rupees for the telecast of various social ads such as family planning and child care to mention only two. Besides from time to time ads are also shown on communal harmony. Apart from the indigenous advertising which has a major role to play in communicating about social causes to the masses, various government department/ministries, National and International Agencies, Voluntary Organizations and Autonomous Bodies deal with different social causes. The main objectives are found in social ads:-

(a) Image building

(b) Action Inuring

(c) Giving Awareness

(d) Information about non-commercial things like disease, flood donation competes for issues.

Concept of Social Advertisement:

The use of advertising to plead a cause rather than sell a product is not new. Yet, as noted by Green, we are currently witnessing a surging growth in the area of what is loosely termed as “issues/causes” advertising. Much of the difficulty in labeling stems from the fact that it covers such a wide variety of objectives, audiences and communication tools. That there is a lack of consensus on the terminology is revealed by the findings of an international survey on social advertising. No one term satisfactorily conveys the meaning of this type of advertising. At various times it is referred to as “Public Service”, “Institutional”, “Idea”, “Non-Product”, “Social”, “Advocacy”, and “Public Relations” advertising. Sometimes it is derogatorily termed as “Propaganda”. An international survey on social advertising revealed that there is a lack of agreement on terminology in this regard. however, a few commonly used connotations in this context are. Public Interest advertising, Public-affairs advertising, Public Service advertising, Viewpoint advertising, public-affairs advertising, public Service advertising, Viewpoint advertising, Strategic advertising, Opinion advertising, Advocacy advertising, Adversary advertising, cause-and-issue advertising. Accordingly, various authorities have conceptualized the term to suit their own point of view. Coming out of the jumble of words, in the following paragraphs, a few viewpoints are presented to clarify the concept. In the words of Garbett, Public Service advertising is “that kind of advertising either government or association-sponsored which promotes causes and activities generally accepted as desirable”. By its nature, public service advertising is usually non-controversial. It may then be paid or resented by the media without charge. Most importantly, it is associated with “good works” about which there is consensus. Another expression commonly used in this context is public service advertising. Such advertising may be undertaken by public bodies such as municipal corporations. It may also be undertaken by business concerns in the public interest. As the name of the company will normally appear in the advertisement, some payoff from such advertising, to the company’s goodwill may be there. However, where the primary purpose of such advertising is to promote a social cause, it may be considered noncommercial. While there can be no categorical classification of ads, it is the basic motive which counts. From the above definitions of social advertising, certain characteristics of social ads are highlighted here.

  1. Public service advertising is a type of public relations advertising and such has a non-product, non-service, non-profit perspective.
  2. The main focus of this advertising is on some matter of social importance.
  3. The social-economic or cultural issues dealt with in the advertising are worthy of public attention, and often, need public action.
  4. The media pay for the time or space it is paid for by someone other than the sponsor.
  5. This kind of ads is sponsored by the government, voluntary organizations and sometimes by business houses.
  6. It promotes those causes and activities which are generally accepted as desirable or about which there is general consensus.
  7. It is usually non-controversial.
  8. It contains the idea of folk culture usually.
  9. The rural concern is the main target of these ads.

Why Social Advertisement?

Today the world is characterized by fast changes taking place in all spheres-sciences and technology, business, products, processes, society, culture, economy, etc. This has created a variety of socio-economic problems for the entire human species. It has influenced different economies in very many ways. The problems so created have both indirect and direct impacts on the working of different types of publics. The government is the guardian of the society is pursuing to deal with problems on different counts in a variety of ways. But the government has its own limitations. As a result of which problem has largely remained unsolved and only aggravates with the passage of time. A few organizations on their own with the intention to carry out their social responsibility of business come out and help the government propagating for a social cause also known as public service advertising.

Types of Social Advertisement:

1. Political Advertisements: These ads skyrocketed in the elections way back in 1976, the US presidential candidate spent a huge amount on this. The Lok Sabha election of India 2004 is the best example of political advertisement ‘India Shining’ and “feel-good factor” are known by each countryman. Lintas and HTL which are the main agencies of advertisement were involved in the 1989-90 political campaign of congress.

2. Charitable Advertising: It is distinguished from social cause advertising. It is used to raise donations on a regular or emergency basis. Where the money will be used to help the needy unfortunate or sick.

3. Social Cause Advertising: In America for many years the advertising council Inc., a non-profit organization financed by the American industry has used advertising to promote social cause such as safe driving, aid to education, etc. It accepts a number of causes each year and arranges for the donated services of advertising agencies and media to prepare and broadcast this advertising. It tends to leave more controversial causes. Social cause organizations such as ecology groups, family planners and women’s liberation organizations have also stepped up their advertising budget to get their message out to the public.Stop Smoking

4. Government Advertising: At times various government units are frequent advertisers. The take funds to advertise a particular task. For example encourage tourism, tax payment, etc. Police departments issue a message to the general public on the safety issues.

5. Private non profit advertising: Universities, museums, hospitals and religious organizations all have stray communication programmes and develop annual reports, direct mailing, classified advertisements, broadcast message and other forms of advertising. Various professionals whose ethical code formerly formed advertising — social workers psychologists, etc. are now free to advertise.

6. Association Advertising: Professional and trade association have substantially increased their use of paid advertising. Their objective is to improve their public image and also the knowledge of their services. Public service advertising programmes have recently been undertaken by associations representing lawyers, accountants, doctors, and other professionals.

7. Advertorials: The advertorial deals not merely with the selling of particular goods and services but the advocacy of particular points of view on controversial view. It is this that we mean by Advertorials — the expression of a position by an individual, group, or organization, on a topic of some controversy, through the medium of advertising. The fact is that the advertorial formed its presence in the last two decades than ever before in history. It will be helpful, then, to recognize two very general subcategories, viz. non business `causes’ advertising and advocacy advertising.

8. Institutional Advertising: It is one of the earliest types of social advertising. Very often used by the business corporation, its goal is to communicate to the public the activities of the organization that might otherwise go unreported through other media channels. A business form, for example, may want to let the public know about its extensive research facilities or its active role in community affairs. Some have referred to this type of Advertising as “image” advertising or even “Corporate image” advertising.

9. Advocacy Advertising: Unlike institutional advertising, advocacy advertising is usually argumentative deals with the controversial subjects and is directed at either specific or general targets or opponents. In brief advocacy advertisement is directed at an opponent at times a specific opponent and at unspecified one which is considered to be “The energy”. The target can be political activities, the media, competitor’s consumer groups or government agencies.

Area covered under “Social Advertising:


  1. Health Care: Advertisements on health include ads on Cancer, AIDS, DOTS, etc. Such advertisements highlight causes, symptoms, target groups, preventive measures, etc. For instance… newspaper advertisements on AIDS highlight what causes AIDS, what are the symptoms, who are the most susceptible / target group, what preventive measures can be taken, etc. The same holds for cancer and other health ads. The significance of this cause is reflected in the fact that the world observed 7th April 1990 as the “World Health Day”. Health and human development form an integral component of the overall socio-economic development of any nation. India, after freedom, has consistently followed the path of planned progress. The main objective of this planned development has been to fulfill the common man’s basic minimum needs and to bring about an upward shift in the quality of his life. The health plan has been an intrinsic part of the overall development. The broad objective of the health programmes so far has been “to control and eradicate communicable diseases and to provide curative and preventive health services…” Emphasis is also being laid on preventive and primitive aspects by organizing effective and efficient health services.
  2. Family Welfare: The demographic situation in the country today is a matter of great concern. One of the most crucial problems facing the country today is the galloping population which has been growing at an alarming rate. As against the 1947 figures, India’s population by 1981 is observed to have doubled itself. The rate at which India’s population is increasing annually can have serious repercussions on the socio-economic development of the Nation and therefore pose a crucial problem for all concerned. In this context, the Family Welfare programme needs to go hand in hand with our Health programmes so that population stabilization becomes a realistic goal in the near future. This situation can be tackled effectively nearly proving better health care facilities but educating the people about the evils today in our country. Very many ads are floated in this context. In India, ads on Family Welfare include-ads such Family Planning, Vaccination, Immunization, Cleanliness, etc.Save Girl Child (Photo: Google))
  3. Child Care: The all round development of women and children is an important component of the Human Resources Development. Therefore, the special treatment given to these two groups apart from the benefits they derived from the general development programme in the country. The government efforts for this target group include establishing a separate department of women and child development in order to revitalize the existing development programmes for women and children. The Centre and the State government share the responsibility of implementing welfare and developmental programme for women and children. The Centre formulates welfare policies and programmes apart from coordinating guiding and promoting the implementation of various programmes by the Central Ministries/ departments, the State government, and the voluntary sector. The department of Women and Child development is the modal agency to guide, co-ordinate and review the efforts in this area, both governmental and non-governmental. The major thrust of the programmes being to ensure a state of wellbeing for women and children, particularly those of the weaker section of the society through integrated programmes. The department consists of 2 bureaus one of which is Nutrition and Child Development. The technical support to the activities of the department is provided by the Planning, Research and Statistics Division. Further, the department in its functioning is assisted by the Central Social Welfare Board and National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development both of which are doing a notable job. These efforts are further substantiated by the voluntary sector through the help it renders in carrying out the task. The Bureau is also responsible for overall policy and coordination of child development, apart from implementing programmes for the welfare and development of children.
  4. Nutrition Programme: Launched in 1970-71, the Special Nutrition Programme (SNP) provides supplementary nutrition to children below six years of age, expectant and nursing mothers. The programme mainly caters to ICDS beneficiaries. At present about 110 lakhs beneficiaries all over the country are being covered under the programme. The SNP is implemented partly with the food supplied by CARE (Co-operative for American Relief to Every Where) and WFP (World Food Programme) and partly with indigenous food. In order to expand the existing feeding services, a new programme under centrally-sponsored scheme of wheat-based supplementary nutrition for pre-school children and nursing and expectant mothers has also been introduced. Another nutrition programmes include the programme run through baalwadis/ aanganwadi ( day-care-centers) by voluntary organizations. In all the SNP’s health inputs and safe drinking, water facilities are being progressively extended to maximize the impact. Children form an important segment of our population and as such they are the future citizens of any Nation. 1979 was observed as the “International Year of the Child” thus reflecting the significance attached to children as population. Some National and International Efforts Towards Children National Children’s Fund. In the ‘International year of the child 1979, a National Children Fund was constituted with the object of creating a source of assistance to the voluntary organizations for innovative programmes of child development. United Nations Children’s Fund.
  5. Dowry Prevention: This is one of the most burning problems of the country today. It is rather distressing to note that this problem was as much acute before Independence as it is today. Despite all claims of progressing towards the 21st century and all efforts towards education and so forth, this problem persists unabated. Bride burning/harassing continues to persist even among the so-called educated, the intelligentsia of the society. More disappointing is that the so called women organizations and society at large stand mute witness to this issue. Apart from the women/their organizations /the society, this issue is a matter of grave concern for the government also and poses a serious challenge to it. It also indicates the existing government efforts or laws are inadequate for the existing government efforts or laws are inadequate for the elimination of such a deep-rooted evil cause. One of the most vulnerable targets of this problem is young brides of upper and middle classes. And it is this section of the society that needs a change in public opinion. Although the government has amended the Dowry provision Act 1961-as the Dowry prohibition (Amendment) Act 1986 what is needed to tackle this problem is strategic planning consistent efforts on part of all concerned and a totally different approach and outlook towards this problem.
  6. Untouchability: This is one area where one fails to recall having seen an ad on Untouchability. And yet fact remains that after all the education, literacy mission and such other efforts, this problem continues to persist even today. Efforts are required to stress on a person as an individual and on the dignity of labour rather than look down on a person/section of society just because of their nature of work. Despite over 44 years of independence besides other problems India is still plagued with the problem of untouchability. The government has been making efforts to do away with this problem through various educational programmes, voluntary organizations and such other efforts. Efforts in this direction include laws framed by the government from time to time. One such law is the untouchability (offenses) Act 1955 which has been amended by the Untouchability. (offenses) Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976 which came into force from 19 November 1976. The idea behind this amendment was to enlarge the scope of the previous Act and to make the penal provisions more stringent. The name of the principal Act has been changed to the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. The Act provides for penalties for preventing a person on the ground of untouchability from enjoying the rights accruing out of the abolition of untouchability.
  7. Womens’ Education: Women Education plays an important role in the socio-economic development of the country as they constitute 50% of the country’s population. Hence unless they are well educated any country cannot move towards the path of progress. In its Literacy Mission, the government recognized the significance of education of girls and women to with the morning cup of tea. It almost leaves a person disinterested in picking up the morning newspaper or switching on the T.V. for morning transmission of news until one has finished with his/her Cup of tea. The situation is not different whether it is the developed or the developing nations. One of the probable reasons of this scenario may be the rather dismal standards of road safety in India. This problem assumes all the more significance and becomes crucial with India witnessing an unprecedented automobile boom. This situation will turn all the more grave if urgent remedial measures are not taken. The growth in number of vehicles being is tremendous.
  8. National Integration: The idea of National Integration is not new for India. Over the years at different points of time and in different ways the country and its people have withstood challenges. The idea is highlighted in the fact that the constitution lays down that India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The government efforts include various educational, socio-cultural programmes, fairs, festivals etc. undertaken from time to time. Recent efforts include the advertisements dealing with ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ and such other ads. Other aspects of National Integration have already been discussed in the earlier section and in order to avoid reputation are not taken up here. Ads on National Integration appear to be most popular; one which a large number of audience is familiar with. Instances of such ads include an ad showing brother and sister playing under a tree and the brother asks the sister “didi ek kya hota hai ?… and the sister replies, “chanda ek, suraj ek tare anek… ek, ek, karke ho gaya anek” …The one showing” Mile sur mera tumhara to sur bane hamhara. . . ” And of late, one of the most popular one’s is the ad dealing with “Mera Bharat Mahan”.Social Advertisement (Photo: Google))
  9. Energy Conservation: Energy is an essential impact for improving the quality of life and for economic development of the country. India is endowed with a vast energy resource base. As against 40% share of commercial Energy with balance 60% contributed by noncommercial energy resources, commercial energy accounts for a little over half of the total energy used in the country, but this is likely to increase with the industrialization on a large scale. The remaining energy coming from non commercial resources like cow dung, fuel wood and agricultural waste. The remaining energy coming from non-commercial resources like cowdung, fuelwood and agricultural waste. Though the share of these non-commercial sources has been coming down, it is observed that consumption of energy through this source has almost doubled since 1953 up to 1980. These renewable, non-commercial sources have been used in India for years together now, but no systematic, efficient, optimum way of utilizing these has been developed. As a result these sources continue to be used in a primitive and inefficient manner and a large reservoir with tremendous potential remains unexploited. A major policy of the government is directed towards increasing the use of coal in household and electricity in transport sector so as to reduce dependence on oil which is becoming scarce gradually. Indian renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. is registered as a government company with a view to promoting projects in the area of new and renewable sources of energy on a wider scale and performs various functions.
  10. Girl Child: In India, Girl Child is considered to be a burden on the family. So right from the childhood she is discriminated against her brother on every count. More often than not she forced to live life of deprivations, ill health and exploitation due to age old traditions, socio-religious customs and prejudices. It is also observed that in a large number of cases, a girl child’s birth is not cherished even by the parents of the child’s apart from other members of the family. Discrimination against the girl child manifests in various forms in the family as well as the society so much so that the girl child is regarded as the lasser child. Nothing could be more obvious than this to indicate the plight of the Girl Child. The systematic and deliberate neglect of the girl child is supported by socio-religious practices, customs and traditions. For years together now, the role of the girl child is restricted to primary group viz. family, neighbors and friends with restriction also imposed on her interaction in the large society. The men in the society have not changed their attitude. Even in farms in rural areas, the productivity of women labourers in undervalued and considered secondary and sometimes they do not even have a right to their own earnings. The following points indicate the plight of GirlChild in India:

Female Feticides: Discrimination against the girl child is now practiced even before her birth with the use of technological development in the form of amniocentesis for sex determination of the fetus and in many instances abortion is resorted to if it reveals a girl.

Female Infanticide: The female child is neglected deprived of love, care, nutrition and Medicare not only because of the environment being inimical to her mental and physical growth, but mainly so due to the international neglect of the girl child. Despite all efforts of the government and voluntary sector, the girl child is deprived of equal educational opportunities-evident from the girl child’s enrolment and drop-out ratios. She is burdened with too much work-both at home and outside. Surveys also indicate that female infants and children fall ill more often than boys-she is deprived of health and medicine, food and nutrition.

History of Social Advertising:

Social Advertising came into being with the entry of the United States into World War II. Radio broadcasters and advertising agencies offered their skills and facilities toward the war effort and established the War Advertising Council which became the official home front propaganda arm of the Office of War Information. Print, outdoor advertising and especially radio became the carriers of such messages as “Loose lips sink ships,” “Keep’ them rolling” and a variety of exhortations to buy War Bonds.

Public service advertising reached its height during World Wars I and II under the direction of more than one government. During World War II President Roosevelt commissioned the creation of The War Advertising Council (now known as the Ad Council) which is the nation’s largest developer of PSA campaigns on behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations

The advertising techniques used to promote commercial goods and services can be used to inform, educate and motivate the public about non-commercial issues, such as HIV/AIDS, political ideology, energy conservation and deforestation.

Attributed to Howard Gossage by David Ogilvy. “Advertising justifies its existence when used in the public interest — it is much too powerful a tool to use solely for commercial purposes.” Advertising, in its non-commercial guise, is a powerful educational tool capable of reaching and motivating large audiences.

Public service advertising, non-commercial advertising, public interest advertising, cause marketing, and social marketing are different terms for (or aspects of) the use of sophisticated advertising and marketing communications techniques (generally associated with commercial enterprise) on behalf of non-commercial, public interest issues and initiatives.

In the United States, the granting of television is contingent upon the station broadcasting a certain amount of public service advertising. To meet these requirements, many broadcast stations in America air the bulk of their required public service announcements during the late night or early morning when the smallest percentage of viewers are watching, leaving more day and prime time commercial slots available for high-paying advertisers.

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