The Consumer is NOT a moron

David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy Worldwide and the father of advertising, once said that the consumer is not a moron. He said, treat the consumer as if she is your wife - with respect and dignity.

Well, look at the Sri Lankan advertising scenario. I was disgusted by what I saw when I came back and started watching television.

Let's leave aside the poor creativity, Indian influence, lack of originality and craftsmanship etc. Let's leave aside the issues that are unique and inherent to us. Let's, for a moment forget the budgets and restrictions and look at ourselves.

Television is a visual medium; and what the consumer sees is what he believes.

- Anchor 1+ runs a commercial that draws arrows showing how that particular Anchor kid is growing taller than the rest. When did calcium elongate or lengthen the bones..?

- Dettol runs a commercial that signs off with 100% Protection (I saw the Sinhala ad; the back-translation suggests 100% Protection). There is nothing under the sun that carries a 100% guarantee; Dettol would never be able to have such claims in the Western world. If you had the statistics to back-up, you could claim 99.9% at best; never a 100%. “A Dettol home is a safe home” is what I remember about Dettol, in Sri Lanka the marketers tend to claim claims even without thinking.

- Then, there are the electrical goods (plugs and switches etc) from Orange. They proudly claim that their merchandise is for “Once, and Forever.” I would really love to meet the Orange engineers who, obviously position themselves on par with God, the Maha Brahma, Allah and the rest; capable of creating things eternal. They must have won the Presidential Award for Innovation.

- Then there are these comedies taking place between Anton PVC and S-Lon; Sri Lanka Insurance and Ceylinco Insurance etc. for the number one position. Anton is No 1; so is S-Lon. They all claim to be the number one...!

The list is endless.

See how loosely we use superlatives and adjectives such as “100%,” “the best,” “forever,” “No 1” in our advertising. Basic rule in advertising: always tell the truth. There must be evidence to support a claim. No evidence, no claim. It's not only the regulations, it's also the common sense.

In this Paradise Isle, the agencies and the clients have taken control of the media. They are taking the whole country for a ride, totally disregarding morals and ethics, only to meet their numbers in profits.

The ministry of information tells me that there is a “Code of Conduct” for media institutions and that should protect the consumer against such rubbish advertising. But, who’s following the code of conduct? Where is our common sense? Where are our ethics? Being an (ex)agency guy, I know the amount of responsibility that lies within an agency. Dear Mr Agency Guy, Dear Mr Client, please, please stop disrespecting us. Stop treating the consumer like a moron. Majority of us are not as dumb as you think.

And most of all, what hurts me most is, have we become such a stupid, dumb-a** nation to tolerate all this crap?


  1. Lol, funny post. Very true tho, unfortunately. Adversiers in Sri Lanka get away with claims that will no doubt get them sued if ever aired in western countries.

  2. Got to love the tinfish ads though!

  3. There is sadly no regulatory body in this country, with any teeth at least. Unlike in other countries eg :http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/
    The advertisers target their copy at the level of sophistication of the masses. Which in SL is rather un-sophisticated, after all if the copy was too complex the punter might get confused and not understand - heaven forbid that where to happen that would be a waste of money to the client ! As people in SL become more media savvy, and let go of their conservatism then our adverts will start to reflect the adverts in "developed counties" until then it's rather unfair to compare in my opinion

  4. Why is it that everything in SL is archaic?

  5. One of the newspapers (Lakbima) stole this and published in their newspaper without my consent.

    That says a lot about us, doesn’t it?

    Janin, I have a theory about linear thinking (single minded advertising) in the West vs Complex ads in Sri Lanka, shall write about it later.