Criticism of Advertising

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Advertising is known to perform three main functions, that is, ‘inform’, ‘persuade’ and ‘remind’. However, in doing so, it attracts a lot of criticism especially in a society which would be resistant to part ways from it’s cultural norms or orthodox behaviour.

Often for the sake of being trendy and different, companies make use of wrong grammar and incorrect spellings. When OWSUM was launched one of the first few things to get noticed was the billboards and then the spelling! Now what exactly are kids going to learn? The benefits of milk consumption or too much dependence on Microsoft Word? Perhaps it’s the correct way of using incorrect spellings . . .

Why a brand that is targeting children doesn’t realize the importance of the having the right word as it’s brand name? It probably is a trendy incorrect spelling to make children learn. However, Engro Foods has come up with this unique strategy to name their flagship brands starting with the letter, ‘O’. I recently got to try this brand and one must notice how nice and colourful the packaging is despite having too much text.  It would no doubt attract children to read each and every word until the milk is brought to room temperature.

An interesting procedure mentioned is about how once consumed it should be blown followed by a mini explosion and then dumped into the bin. So the company aims at educating kids about cleanliness and keeping their society free of garbage but correct words ? It doesn’t really matter.

Thinking about dairy products by Engro it becomes evident that all of these brands are in much greater demand which seems unfulfilled as well, speaking of which Omore, the  ice cream brand makes sure that it pools in all its efforts to irritate the potential target audience that seems to remain it’s potential audience till eternity and not ultimate consumers who would ever get to have the ice cream in tangible form. The company seems to be oblivious of the fact that it is creating frustration and disgust in places where ever it is unavailable. It simply increases the demand for competitors’ ice cream and if one out of thousands of people gets to have Omore in Karachi people assume that individual to be in Lahore. After it’s jingle adapted from Coca Cola, it’s somewhat unclear why Omore’s advertisements keep on talking about the tickling effect. Why would anyone want to have ICE CREAM that creates such a weird effect, people should rather have Candy Land’s  ‘Toxic Waste’ for that matter, it really is something, perhaps it means what it’s titled as. It’s an interesting thing to have because of it’s sourness.

Well coming back to the actual discussion . . . another brand that has been satisfied over the years with it’s wrong pronunciation is KNORR. Why isn’t the ‘K’ silent? Why is it Ka-Norr and not ‘norr’ (pronunciation wise)? For many people who can’t get the pronunciation of the word ‘pronunciation’ right it’s a huge blow. It’s weird that when you go to a nearby grocery store and ask for KNORR mentioning it’s right use and silent use of ‘K’ the shopkeeper would be oblivious to the brand and when you say, ‘I want Ka-NORR noodles’ they would understand what you are talking about. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

Another perfect fit for grammar’s criticism is Supreme’s tag line ‘Chaskay Zindagi Kay’. Why would it move from a previously decent tagline to this one? The word ‘Chaskay’ has such a negative connotation, it seems more appropriate with drugs and drug addicts, not tea. It would seem more appropriate with ‘Chaskay Cigarette Kay’ or ‘Chaskay Cocaine Kay’ (well whatever way it is consumed). And then the word ‘Chaskay’ or ‘Chaska’ gets so frequently used with product placement of Eid Shows that it becomes unbelievable.

Another among the very interesting criticisms is that advertising persuades people to buy things that they do not need and eventually get to waste money. Tele brands in Pakistan get people into a buying trap they would later regret. If brands could make you further sprout up your height after a certain age limit or even before that we wouldn’t have people with short heights. Having product displays would have paved way to some credibility, however, internet seems comparatively more credible than television advertising for brands without product outlets.

Advertisers either consciously or unconsciously get to stereotype people. Why all detergent advertisements show women and why do some stereotype women for not being tech savvy. For example, in our ‘Advertising’ class we were told that World Call’s wireless broadband advertisement was stereotyping women for not knowing how to plug wires (Aurora Jan-Feb 10: 28), it was too sexiest with the picture of a woman with a ruthless expression, ‘No power required’, mention the print advertisement.

However, market segments could be segmented by presenting minorities and women more realistically. This still means that you do your target profiling sensibly and realistically. A few days back Fair & Lovely samples were being distributed at SZABIST, however. I am sure most of us don’t even think of using it. This brand has more of a persuading effect in the rural market. Why should people feel left out if they have a slightly darker skin tone? Why would anyone want to become fairer than what she/ he already are? Well ‘he’  . . . yes, ‘he’. I am in my right mind when I use the word ‘he’. This reminds me of an example our Marketing teacher once gave us. Her brother became fond of  Fair & Lovely but was too ashamed to reveal it and thus had developed a habit of emptying the tube’s content in Nivea jar so that no one would know. Hence, we now have Fair & Handsome.

As recently pointed out by our Advertising teacher, Pepsi had sponsored Clifton’s Donkey Cart Race (if that actually has happened which quite some people are witnesses of). According to him, with the launch of Sting and activation going on, it is definitely a bad idea. Similarly, why would they want to target or rather affiliate themselves with a particular ethnic group? It could be signs of moving from globalization to localization or disappointment from cricket and affection for a new sport . . . Donkey Cart Racing. Or maybe this is another way of saying, “So what if horses are smart? Donkeys are hard working!”

Donkeys obey when horses disobey . . . remember: Pepsi supports donkeys!

[Image Credits:]

Hiba Moeen is a Marketing major from SZABIST and writes as a leisure activity whenever the writer's block is away ... She also writes for and Suggestions and feedback are appreciated. Email: Twitter: @hibamoeen LinkedIn: Happy reading! :)

  • Amal

    Hey Hiba..are you very sure about the donkey cart race cuz i had a direct chat with their media planner and he got really offended..they may be using some of their old logos or maybe using pepsi’s logo without permission.

  • Hiba Moeen

    Hi Amal . . .

    Actually I didn’t get to take a picture of that banner . . . If they are not sponsoring it then they should take some corrective action against those who had Pepsi’s logo on it . . .

  • Mehr

    Nicely written hiba, with all the right points noted, but heres what i have to say:

    OWSUM: its like you said, its only a brand name. A name that Olpers is trying very hard to put in a childs mind whenever he/she thinks of milk. They’re teaching kids the element of FUN, they’re trying to teach kids that not only is drinking milk amazingly healthy but its cool, hence the word awesome changes to OWSUM. Make sure you have a look at their new Tv ad.

    Omore: I totally agree with your stance on Omore, their only disgusting their potential consumers more and more by prolonging their advertising when its not available! However they have recently just dropped their tickling ads, to be replaced by completely music oriented ads, that are focused on getting lost into the world of Omore.. I think!!

    Knorr: The only reason the “K” in Knorr is not silent is because when you do tell people that its supposed to be silent, they just reply back that why is it there then!! :P

    Supreme: Major blunder! I cant imagine myself saying that tagline with my family around! :S

    Fair & Lovely: You’ve answered that question yourself in the paragraph. Dark skin is considered such that we now have Fair & Handsome aswell!
    Haha Fair & Handsome reminds me of someone! ;)

    Pepsi: Damn i couldnt get a pic of that banner for proof! :(

  • Hiba Moeen

    @ Mehr: Thanks for reading up and comprehending . . . =D
    (still you can avail your n – 1) =P

    KNORR (Norr) could have created their awareness with the right use of pronunciation which they failed to do initially . . . now it’s ‘Ka-Norr, Ka-Norr, Ka-Norr’ everywhere. I remember in school a teacher pointed this out to a student and he replied. ‘Is is my fault sir if I watch PTV?’
    Please tell me what Fair & Handsome reminds you of . . . =P
    I so badly wanted that picture :@

    In the meanwhile I’m going to get ‘Chaskay Nescafe kay !” :D

    Adios !!!

  • Shaz

    The sad part is that due to these advertisements people have become more brand conscience than ever. They believe that whatever these brands say/tell/imply is all right and if they do not follow those norms then they are not “cool” enough.

    Another thing, about the correct spellings, you are absolutely right!. These advertisements clearly show that it is all about selling the brand, make it as sweet/colorful as possible to just “sell” the product to the target audience. Which is really sad because the kids of nowadays are being sucked in to this hypnotic wave of ads.

    The Knorr pronunciation is something that even the “educated” class needs to know!. I guess almost everyone i know pronounce it as K-Norr ! sadly thats the way they also pronounce it in the ads!!!

    The stereotypical element will continue to prevail in our ads!. No matter if they show a woman as a blonde when it comes to techno ads or her only cooking and not knowing anything else!. This is the sad truth of our society is a part of our norm. However, there are certain ads that are in some way overcoming the depiction of stereotyping individuals..

    I hope that this continues and people realize the difference of “intelligent advertising and keeping the humor/glamor element in” and “just for fun ads WITHOUT using intellectual connotations!”

  • Shaz


    brand conscious*

  • Hiba Moeen

    Hi Shaz !

    Thanks for the interesting comments! I can’t believe that you guys are actually analyzing each paragraph . . . Now that’s more interesting. :)

    I completely understand what you are saying, there was no need for correcting the spelling . . . or have I made you all spelling conscious? Yes? :D Ironically companies think, as you pointed that using wrong grammar or spellings is the ‘in’ thing.

    As far as Knorr . . . Well K-Norr is concerned :) . . . yes brands like these have helped render the educated as uneducated people as you pointed out that even educated people are oblivious to the right pronunciation. So as long as the products sell it won’t really matter to advertisers or brands themselves . . .
    One more thing, as mentioned in Peter Stimpson (Business Studies) is that some words cannot be accepted in specific cultures like what lemonade means in French, ‘Psshit’ but this does not mean that whatever wrong spelling or pronunciation our society is taught should be accepted in it’s culture . . .

  • Shaz

    heyy!! thanks :D

    yes your right!.. the way the saying goes
    “think globally, act locally!!!”
    and never loose your identity!!!!

  • AJ

    “Targeting” is one of the oldest and most successful forms of advertising techniques.

  • Hiba Moeen

    Hi AJ,

    That’s what everybody does after segmentation isn’t it?
    It’s one of the steps . . . :)

  • Hiba Moeen

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for your kind reply . . . I don’t actually need to express my opinion to the consumers as this could most appropriately be directed towards the companies having any such issues with how they advertise and PMB is a platform where opinions can be shared.
    These are general criticisms which print and media advertisements can be related with and probably the link to your LUX website matches with one of them. . .

    Moreover, my career as a writer gets to be substantiated from PMB and other blogs I write for . . . if pay is what you are interested to know then it is pretty attractive and depends on your experience . . . Hope to hear from you again . . . :)

  • Bushra Syed

    Many times,target audience must be observed very carefully.

    Advertising is a strong as well as a sensitive part of media.

  • Hiba Moeen

    @ Bushra: Yes exactly . . . if target audience is not projected well the disconnect could be inevitable . . . :)

  • Omar

    If you had done a simple Google search you would have discovered that the actual correct (Dutch/German) pronunciation is ‘KNORR’. Its only in the English speaking world that it is pronounced ‘NORR’. I bet you feel pretty foolish now ;)

  • Hiba Moeen

    Hi Omer,

    Think about the target market and the demographics and the official language being spoken in a country like Pakistan. I remember when Maggie and Knorr were launched they came to schools and targeted school children in non-Dutch speaking schools and I believe my school as well taught English not Dutch/German.

    So when MENA and AFPAK teach English pronunciations in schools, bringing in a different pronunciation out of the blue only in Pakistan, that too with your justification is pretty weird. I bet you feel more foolish now! :)

  • MariaP

    Dear Hiba,

    despite of all the glitches in this piece, you have good writing capabilities. don’t waste it on writing criticism for the sake of criticism :P

    now let’s discuss the brands come under fire here. do u think that the companies like Unilever and Engro will spend and expand their budget on advertising without research?

    so the question why Engro preferred OWSUM on awesome? but i haven’t seen you raising any concern for the names of Olfrute, Olpers, Olwell and Omore and neither you ever raise concerns for Google or Yahoo . You must have read the brand ideology which take years to build. In today’s environment, billions are spent to establish new product and service names. But only a few succeed.

    Product and service names that cut through the clutter have a distinct advantage. And Engro has been lucky with their word play on O and has achieved a distinct advantage.

    Now your question: what kids learn through it? read the case of “BellyWashers” – Healthy Drink for Kids … so what does the name suggest you here? yet it’s so popular, not because of anything but because of it’s packaging. So the idea is, don’t restrict yourself just BE CREATIVE! and i think you know Creativity knows no boundaries. :)

    Then comes the question of KNORR’s pronunciation in our local market. If an American can call you HEE Bah then why can’t you call Norr (KNORR) K’Norr? it’s all about a local dialect. It’s a proper noun and can be pronounced in any way. It’s the case of Pakistan where 64% per cent of market hasn’t an access to even charpaai schools, and Knorr Noodles doesn’t target themselves in A & B strata. It is available all over Pakistan at any kiryana store.

    And yes! as far as Supreme’s case is concern, i truly second Mehr’s view. It was a major blunder. but now they have changed the platform and chosen SEHATMAND’s platform which is very timely and will repair the damage the brand could have faced with the prior tag line.

    Hope I helped you clear many a things here.

  • MariaP

    by the way Engro uses the technique of neologism while giving names to brand. Learn about it :)