Imagine a world without advertisement (ads). It is going to be a dull, boring and colourless one. Advertisement keeps us informed on what is happening around us and also entertains us. We get to decide from a bunch of similar products and services. Ads give us the choice of selecting from different brands of the same product or service. Some of us have a list of advertisements we like and ones we dislike. Some phases from ads have become engrained in our vocabulary. Every Ghanaian now calls a cellular phone which does not connect to the internet a ‘yam’. This highlights the power of advertisement. It is a form of creativity because in order for an ad to be popular it need to stir up some interest for the viewer/listener to keep listening, reading or watching.
Ads come in different methods and styles; ads through social media, by word of mouth, television, posting signs, posters on vehicles, on walls, and billboards. Individuals have the option of choosing from the lot depending on the product being advertised and resources available. On our roads and streets, we see huge billboards advertising various products and services. Posters on walls, sheets of papers are handed to us on the street, on the streets, in market places and public transport also constitute avenues through which people advertise their products or services. Whatever form or style advertisements adopt, they serve the purpose of educating and informing us on a brand’s products and services.
Accordingly, the advertisement industry should be regulated to enable them give out their best. Priority has to be given to the content of an advertise before it is released to the general public in order not to misinform or poorly educate the public. It is disheartening that some ads have content not suitable for audiences below the age of 18 such as explicit sexual content. Some advertisers focus more on the sexual content than the actual message. As a result, minors become exposed to violence, alcohol and sexual content which is harmful to their wellbeing and personal development with regards to their outlook and approach with the opposite sex. The situation is worsened when minors internalize and often recite the explicit message or tags contained in ads. Another issue has to do with grammatical errors in some of these ads. How do we get to learn the correct pronunciation and spelling of words if those around us are not properly spelt?
Ads are not only meant to sell products and services but a way of educating the public. For instance, selling of medicine in vehicles which is a common phenomenon is against the law with reference to a document release by the AMA in 2017. However, it is a practice that has remained part of our society for years. Medicines that can instantly cure fifty or more illnesses. Regardless, there is no regulations or public education on what is being sold to consumers from officials of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), besides the often poorly crafted message from medicine sellers in their attempt to boost patronage.
With regards to regulation of advertisement industry, a first point of call is the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), a government institution mandated to regulate the advertisement industry among other duties. In the year 2017, the AMA released a draft document ‘Smart Procedure for Outdoor Advertisement’ which carefully outlines the channels advertisers have to employ to legally post a sign, poster or mount a billboard. It is hoped that public education efforts on the document if it has not started will commence to inform and also guide the Ghanaian public with regards to appropriate advertising channels. Likewise, the Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) seeks to maintain standards in the advertisements industry. Over the years, this body has contributed immensely to the growth of the industry as well as assisted the AMA maintain standards in the advertisement industry.
As a nation, advertisement has contributed immensely to the development of most sectors of our economy. However, there remains significant work to do in developing the ad industry, as well as curb problems arising in the advertising industry. For now, we can boast of two institutions to help develop and maintain standards. However, every citizen’s efforts are equally needed to make this dream a reality.
By Mercy Somhayin Namateng
Center for Property Protection (CEPP).