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Essay: Evolution in Government print ads issued in public interest

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  • Evolution in Government print ads issued in public interest
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In the present time applications of Visual art through Mass media and specially print media has emerged as a immense significant medium in our society. Role of media to generate awareness and to educate people has been through a lot of experimentation. By using instruments of visual art in a direct and indirect ways we can make public inform and to govern lives of community.

The following study attempts to examine characteristics and evolution of print ads issued in public interest by GOI (Government of India). Also an attempt to examine changing of strategy used in GOI print campaigns made for conveying health related messages in public. Starting with a brief history of print advertising and print advertising in India, then covering elements of print ad, GOI Health Communication strategy, GOI Print campaigns, Polio eradication campaign will be the major focus of this study. In order to understand celebrity endorsement and its impact in rural area the concentration will be on Polio Campaign. I choose polio print campaign because of its huge nationwide print campaign for mass impact. India is a land of one billion people and still counting and a zillion opportunities.

How does one communicate with this land where dialects, culture and even cuisine changes every 8 to 10 miles as one goes by. Production and creation of effective advertising has long been a concern of both advertisers and advertising agencies. There have been various rules of thumb for creating effective advertising since advertising began. In order to understand this better I have added a brief history of advertising in India. The history of Indian Advertising can be tracked down to the time with hawkers calling out their wares, right from the days cities and markets first began. The trend moves from shop font signage to street side sellers to press ads. In 18th Century, concrete advertising began with classified advertising and not to forget this was also the time when print ads appeared for the very first time in Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, which was India’s First newspaper. It was a weekly newspaper.

Newspapers are one of the best platforms for conveying information due to cheap medium, easy accessibility and also extended reach as well as high frequency of publication. Government of India has been using this medium to spread public health information and to raise awareness. Many times depending upon areas in our country, like in rural areas this medium plays major role in awareness.
The newspaper becomes the only medium for Government to approach the communities. So it’s important that health related messages should be highly effective and easy to understand at the same time. To bring desirable change in a community message should be conveyed effectively and strongly.

However, the history of India can not overlook the 200 year British rule over the country. Every aspect of Indian lifestyle, whether it is education, transportation, commerce, or advertising and communications, was affected by the foreign invasion. But, it was in such a time period that type setting shops, also called studios, emerged, marking the beginning of advertising created in India (as opposed to imports from England). These studios were set up for bold type, ornate fonts, fancier, and larger ads. These newspaper studios then trained the first generation of visualizers & illustrators.

The earliest of ads that can be seen, appeared in newspapers, in the form of the latest merchandise from England around the early 1700s. Other goods advertised then were patent medicines; the first brands as we know them today were a category of advertisers.


Advertising has been any business’s most important part since centuries, The very first print advertisement in English got printed in 1472 for selling a book of prayer. It’s very clear that the media today has become a very present force in India and abundance of advertisements is the result of free media. In print advertising history it can be explained by the offers which are posted in newspapers or sent through mail. It is one of the oldest medium of advertising and it has long history. During the time of William Caxton, in 1468, it started, when William promoted a book which had his first printed advertisement. Later in 1704 a person named Joseph Campbell started to include ads in Newsletter of Boston. After this, Benjamin Day got a book printed named New York Sun in the period of 1833, It was a mix of stories and advertising car. Later in 1910 the ‘Edward book of Women home book’ made a magazine ad code.

Since this time period print advertising started giving more attention towards design and glamour. Print advertising was only effective if people see them, when a person look through one or two publications he bent towards getting new details and also his observation starts which gradually increases about the things which interest him. This type of advertising attracts more people to towards products and services, when they see or read publications. These type of advertisements are mostly seen in newspapers, magazines etc.

A lot of planning by a group of individuals is done for this kind of advertising. By going through history of print advertising we get this idea that a group of creative people is needed to create ideas which further becomes an ‘ Idea’.

Another group of other people works on appropriately placing these ideas so that they can earn more money. Print media advertising is a prime part of minting money for a publication. Mailers are also a part of print advertising which consist of notice size white paper to postcards.

Now as we know, advertising has been a important thing for business for years, Its signs & symptoms are there during the early Roman and Greek civilizations up to the middle 17th Century. Earlier advertising was exclusively meant to be an outdoor medium. The local merchants used advertising to attract and interact customers. When the adoption of printing press went widespread, the publication of local newspapers started and they started classified advertising. Enterprising merchants used postal and press system to print the very first commercial catalogs.

About Print Ads/Visuals

In these days application of visual art via mass media has gained a lot of significance in society. Use of media in way to generate awareness, to inform and to supervise and control any community’s lives in many direct and in-direct ways- can be made much more impactful by using tools or principals of visual art. Mix of media and visual art has a vast area of opportunity to play a important role in country like India which has huge geographical area. Variety of Culture, 18 scheduled languages and social-economic disparity. The value of communication in making people mobilized as well as seeking people’s interest and involvement

In country’s development is well recognized. If the communication facilities will be great the modernization process will be very fast. A plan which indicates where the component parts of the ad like illustrations, text, headline etc. will be placed for effective communication is called layout. The layout plays a major role in performing psychological or symbolic function. The final print ad which is followed by the final layout gives the reader or viewer a very first impression of service, organization, product or individual sponsoring the print ad. When a layout is very formal it shows that the advertiser is solid, conservative and stable. To present the impression of any dynamic, innovative company or service a modern and informal layout is required. Image of ‘class’ and exclusiveness is represented by sufficient white space in any print ad most of the times. To give the impression of discount type of something white type on heavy black background or a layout covered with heavy elements is made. This type of things is mostly done in retail advertising. (Brian, 2012)


There are different elements of print ads which contribute in a formation of design which is created to attract customers attention. These elements together form a good treat to eyes which forces him to read the whole advertisement. These points are also put here in terms of psychology also.


The main aim of the print ads is to get customer attention and lure them for any service or product. For triggering any ad’s boom factor, the attention step is critically important. Most of the time strong headline is used for this purpose. Any advertiser has to keep these points in mind while creating one :

1. The message should be easy to understand
2. convince instead of entertainment.
3. Assume customer’s lack of interest
4. Provide relevant information
5. Be confident

Three Basic means to attract attention by Russel and Lane (1996): to use a combination of headline with visual, to use a headline alone or to use a visual alone. In an Ad the visual image should be in rhythm with the body copy and headline. In many of the print ads celebrities are used to attract attention. The glamour of celeb works in drawing customer’s attention. According to Rotfeld (2002) celebs are just used when there is lack of any good idea and mostly the celebs are not connected with the product for which they are advertising. But these type of print ads attracts people better than usual print ads.

Advertisers should not use vivid styles, sizes and pictures or else readers will ignore the ad, according to Sawyer(1995). There should be a continuous flow which will help the person in observation of all the important things in any print advertisement. A good print ad must represent what a problem any service or product can solve and how it is the perfect choice. One of the major aim of the print ad is to create a long lasting image of any brand or service. Color ads gain much success as compared to black and white ads.


Three different type of elements are there in a print ad, picture, brand and text. (Pieters & Wedel, 2004). Picture works in attracting the reader or person’s attention toward print ad. The brand element shows the visual scene of brand’s logo, identity, name & trademark. Most of the time a packaging or a logo is remembered by a person by a image which refers to that particular brand image. In some other print ads only a hint of something is essential for the brand. Two different ways are there for any brand’s ad. Either to emphasize on the ad for service or product or by showing the service or product in use. In newspaper and magazine ads a person attention is captured by seven seconds of text, six seconds of picture and four seconds of brand. The bigger visual will create bigger attention. The headlines plays a vital role in making of a nice print ad. It is very important to consider all three parts for making a good print ad, which are picture, brand and text.


Why colors are used in any print ad or visual? Beside making them attractive there are more different reasons to it. Like, representing people, objects, scenes with complete fidelity, creating good impression and fastening visual impressions in anybody’s memory, emphasizing some important part, representing objects and obviously attracting attention. In 1891 use of color in newspaper advertising was done for the first time. But now if we talk about today the whole scenario has changed, we can’t imagine our world without color. Colored newspaper advertisement are a essential thing to grab the attention. Consumers can often be motivated by colors, depending upon cultural background and personal experience. Lifestyle preference can be imparted by color preference. For example red, blue, yellow etc. which are primary colors when juxtaposed with white stripes exude decisiveness and are often used as team colors in sporting events. They are associated with sporting lifestyle. Yellow, light blue and green are some of spring colors which suggest a exuberant, fresh character. Deep violets, black and dark blue etc. are some of winter colors which represents chilly and cool attitudes.


In any print communication it is the most important element. By attracting the attention of reader they play a vital role in any print’s effectiveness. They give a fast and quick idea to the reader, mostly when its hard to convey the idea verbally. Good illustration and its appropriate use develops interest in viewer’s mind about print ad. It also makes communication more believable. Photographs and art work are the two basic tools of any Illustration. These days photographs are used mostly in print media publications. They are believed to be more real and authentic in comparison to artwork. Researches proves that pictures or photographs sells more than drawings. Most of the time artwork is believed to represent fantasy. But sometime cartoon work and artwork are used to enhance a certain feature of message. Diagrams in health concerned messages could be a useful medium of artwork in depicting or illustrating complicated messages. To put an idea across effectively the visual content should be focused and relevant.


It’s also one important part of communication or we can say it’s a another vital visual tool for conveying the message. An image which embodies any organization is called ideogram. It is a graphic symbol which is used to represent any idea or concept. Some are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention. Others convey through pictorial objects and also known as pictograms. Culture, background, education and sophistication play a important part in role of symbol in communication. Symbols may weaken or strengthen the communication on how and where they are used. And also depending on the level of understanding each involved person has about what specific symbol means.


To gain instant public recognition government authorities or organizations, commercial enterprises, individual person etc. use an emblem or graphic mark known as logo. It can be graphical purely or composition of the name of the organization. The importance of logo lies in its visual content, some studies shows that instead of text people relate and recognize image faster. (Ra, 2008) designing a good logo may require involvement of marketing and design agency. It requires a clear idea about values and concept of any firm, organization, authority or service. It also requires better understanding of the target group or consumer. The logo in any print ad should be used in appropriate place or else it can cause distraction and harm the impact of print ad. And it should be in right size also.


The layout of the print ads deals with different relationships, between top and bottom, left and right, horizontal and vertical. There exist the different layout and arrangement to catch the attention of the customer. (Moriarty, 1991)

Grouping and Unity are the combination of visual elements to make sense in print ads and the important things are boldly marked in ad. To create a gap between the elements white space is used. White space is regarded as blockade, but still it’s a vital component. Can be used as support or backdrop. It should be put outside for maximum use of its application. To tell a viewer from where to begin a good layout is necessary.

Simplicity, Contrast, Balance, Sequence, Emphasis are the other important element of a good layout.


If print medium had music, for sure it would be typography. Typefaces are decoded as we read. Each letter’s cut will transmit many signals to the brain. Typography underscores words with emotional presence, creates atmosphere, colors the way we want our message interpreted.
With the invention of Mac, numerous of new typographical techniques and faces have been spawned overnight.

Two Art directors have become the world’s master of typography, one is Neil Godfrey who dominated the British Industry and Neil French roamed the Asian stage.

Copy Style

Advertisements also have personalities like people, some say their message in a fresh way and they are able to make an impact. Some are boring so they go unsuccessful. Like for example, most of us might be polite to dull people but to a dull ad no one will be polite.

‘The written word is the deepest dagger you can drive into a man’s soul.’

Not only the print is the oldest advertising medium it is one of the most resilient also. Advertising witnessed transition from one type to another. Print exercise is an tempting charisma. It is the permanence of the page, the romantic chemistry of paper and ink. It is the only medium which we can touch and hold and the best part is communication here is one to one.

Objectives of this study

1. To analyze the existence of evolution in Government (Indian) print ads issued in public interest.
2. To analyze how successfully government print ads left an impact on reader’s mind as compared to commercial print ads of the private brand or service.
3. To identify and analyze the key factors influencing the consumer

Advertising in India

In India the first newspaper published in 19th Century which carried advertising, So since then it has been a long tradition in India. In India B.Datram & Company established in 1905 was the very first advertising company in india followed by few others mentioned below. (Ciochetto, 2004)

1. India Advertising Company (1907)
2. Calcutta Advertising Agency (1909)
3. S.H.Bensen (1928)
4. J. Walter Thompson Associates as Hindustan Thompson Associate (1929)
5. Lintas which is Lever International Advertising Services (1939)
6. McCann Erikson (1956)

Expenditure of advertising was estimated at $ US 300,000 in 1950’s. Due to influence of more socialist political environment of 60’s and 70’s companies to advertise were getting very little incentive, and the reason behind it was that the advertising was Non-tax deductible. 58% rise in number of agencies registered was noted in 1970’s. In the duration between 1969 to 1979 the agencies turned to 168 from 106, and not to forget this also included Indian agencies growth.

Print Ads in India

while dealing with print ads It is necessary to keep viewer in mind. The low level of literacy could be the reason why any print ad become less effective or impactful in rural areas of india. A lot of visuals might increase its effectiveness. Now india becoming a succeeding country is picking up on literacy rate, this point is important and must be considered, In india print ads have great reach. We can see ads in market place where most of the people contact to each other. The visuals and the memory devices can still ensure the message delivery even if the language used in ad is English. The only way to reach local audience is to keep the ad Relaxed and simple and to the point.

The Advertising Standards Council of India

The Advertising Standard Council of India was formed on 21st Oct.1985 under section 25 of the companies act, 1956 as a non-profit body. The council has provided a list of guidelines to all its members to help them to regulate their behavior themselves. Membership of Advertising Standards Council of India is open to firms and companies in the following categories.

a) Advertisers of good and/ or services.
b) Proprietors or publishers of Newspapers, periodicals and other media that carry advertisement of services or good.
c) Advertising agencies.
d) Outdoor contractors, film/video/TV/radio producers/distributors block maker, printers and such other types of allied and ancillary trades and profession who assist in the creation or placement of advertising or in any manner concerned with advertising.

The advertising Standards Council has adopted a code for self-regulation in advertising. It is expected from all its members, whether they are the advertisers, advertising agencies, media houses, or outside contractors or suppliers dealing with the advertising work, to follow such self-regulatory norms and behave in a responsible manner.

As the code become increasingly accepted and observed, three benefits are expected to happen :

1. Fewer false and misleading claims resulting in more credibility.
2. Fewer unfair advertisements resulting in fairer competition.
3. Increasing respectability.

This code applies to the advertisements read or viewed in India by a significant number of people even if carried by media that are published or that which originate abroad.

Governments Advertisements in India

In India government ads are not considered as source of monetary assistance to any media outlet or publication. To this end, Only when the occasion or need arises none of the ads issued. During the financial year 2009-10 the government spent 2,4413000 rs. on advertisements. About 11,551 government advertisements were released to different newspapers throughout whole India. This included around 95,06,914 outdoor displays and 80,000 copies of printed materials, like calendars, speeches of the prime minister and other government publicity literature. The Indian Government advertising process is a complex process consisting of balances and multiple checks at each and every stage. From Ad’s creation decision to actual placement and analysis of the impact.

Indian newspapers are not subsidized by the government. Ads of the Indian government are not a source of income for newspapers. In fact the government agencies for example DAVP which stands for Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity gets 40% cheaper rates than the commercial rates from these newspapers. (Robert Grabow, p. 39)

A Bar chart visualization of what the government spent on print advertising in year 2009-2010 through newspapers.

Government goes Private

The government has to ensure that its policies and programs are properly presented and correctly interpreted through the press and other media to the people on whose support and good will it holds office. Around 11 to 12 thousand government ads are released in a year in various newspapers in all India on which government spend approx. 2,30,00000 to 2,40,00000 Rs. (Robert Grabow, p. 39)
In this modern time where commercial segment is trying to lure customers with their colorful & experimental print ads, Government is also trying to compete them.To increase the attention of public in their messages they are now hiring ad agencies.
Some Print ad Campaigns of government bodies has been done by private advertising agencies like Orchard, Dentsu, Taproot and percept etc.

For example if we take the ‘India Shining’ Campaign which ran across the country on a huge level, it was done by Orchard Advertising which is a Indian subsidiary of Leo Burnett, a U.S. based advertising Company. Orchard’s advertisement strategy was to counter the mood set by the ‘ India Shining ‘ campaign.

Most advertisements by congress did not use bright & many colors was mainly concentrated more on the poor.

Indian National Congress (INC) has awarded its entire creative and media mandates to Percept, ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand following a multi-agency pitch.

Commenting on the win, Amitava Mitra, chief operating officer, Percept, said, ‘Yes, Congress has chosen us to work on the campaigns for both these states. UP is one of the most important states for Congress; it’s not been in power here for the last 22 years, thus we have a very huge and challenging task ahead of us. We will develop the complete integrated campaign for the party. The decision to work with Percept was unanimous at the party level since the agency understood the objective well and had a tone and language in the campaign that was in sync with the thinking of the Congress.’

Rajiv Agrawal, executive creative director, Percept/H, added, ‘This is truly a satisfying win. It called for a different kind of understanding and sensibilities. While on the one hand, you had to understand the vision and the thinking process of the person leading the charge – Rahul Gandhi in this case, on the other hand, you had to address different audiences and, therefore, different problems/ issues at the same time, yet have a single-minded thought which cuts across. We had an interesting thought ‘ sensible, yet warm, honest, yet clutter breaking.’

The Congress party has opted for many of the same people who were behind its advertising campaign for the 2009 elections, picking Dentsu and Taproot to join JWT as the agencies that will handle the Rs 500 crore contract. The party made its choice last week, said more than five people aware of the decision. They didn’t want to be named. It was reported earlier that JWT had been chosen by the party to run its ad campaign. While the three agencies have been barred from speaking to the media by the party, the people familiar said Dentsu and its unit Taproot will handle the above-the-line (ATL) communications or those with a mass focus. Dentsu picked up a 51% stake in Taproot last year and both agencies made a joint pitch. JWT will handle the activation or on-ground events for Congress. The party is expected to spend nearly Rs 400 crore on ATL messaging that includes television, print, radio, outdoor and digital and around Rs 100 crore for the on-ground activities. The party will be looking to the ad agencies to burnish an image that’s been battered by corruption scandals and criticism over inaction on policy changes for much of its term. Experts said the Congress party will be looking to the food security legislation, the Right to Information Act, the direct transfer of benefits initiative and others as its main campaign planks for the election, besides indirect, subtle attacks on the opposition party over its secular credentials. ‘Rahul Gandhi wants to use ’empowering the common man.

For the last election, JWT created a three-month campaign for Congress backed by the tagline ‘Aam aadmi ke badhte kadam’. The campaign took place in three phases with some 250 films and radio spots in 22 languages. Special films were also made to reach out first-time voters with the slogan ‘Yuva Bharat ke badhte kadam’, leveraging Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and the late Rajiv Gandhi’s contribution to the country’s development. They have a tough task ahead of them, given the current image of the party and the popularity of the BJP’s Narendra Modi.

On a similar track Bangalore traffic police also hired a private ad agency for its campaign. Bangalore traffic Police has been running an outdoor advertising campaign using disturbing photography to shock people out of talking to their friends and families on the phone while they are driving. Men and women are shown grimacing as blood spurts out from their telephones. The tag line: ‘Don’t talk while he drives’
The Campaign was developed at Mudra Group, India, by executive creative director – Joono Simon, Art director – Vinci Raj, Copywriter ‘ Akhilesh Baghri, Photographer Mallikarjun Katakol with retouching by Satish.

Advertising for a good cause.

Cancer in India.

A survey by Indian Cancer Society in year 1978 in Bombay (which is known as Mumbai now) revealed that awareness of symptoms, causes & treatments of cancer was very low. Then the Indian Cancer Society asked O&M to mount on advertising campaign. To change the attitudes from fatalism and ignorance to optimism and understanding was the main motto of the campaign. Only then could people be persuaded to have regular check-ups at the free clinics of the society. The theme was one of hope : Life after Cancer’Its worth living. The advertisement showed real people who had been cured and within 2 months the no. of check-ups given by the clinics tripled.

It says most of the people are attracted towards any print ad most of the time due to colors and creative visuals or any Celebrity image.

Hence my further research was more concentrated on Visuals, colors and elements of design, which in combination make any print ad interesting.

There was also study of consumer psychology behind this, Bright images, bright colors, creative visuals or use of any celebrity’s image grabs attention more. And Colors and images are the first thing which attracts a person to a print ad.


Thus the elements of design plays main part in grabbing the attention of reader. Your advertisement should be very different if you want more people to be interested in it. However since starting private advertising agencies/companies were very experimental and unconventional in their treatments of print ads, the competition is getting tough these days due to the Internet Age. But print has still its charm.

By above data we can say that government is trying hard to convey its message in public widely and effectively and that’s why government is hiring private advertisement agencies. They are doing something different from their routine working, they know in this modern world your print ads should be catchy enough to stay in mind for a while. Many of their advertisement campaigns were successful and famous in metro as well as small cities and in aged ones as well as youth. By their efforts people now have started giving time & thoughts to their ads.


(n.d.). (2013, October). Retrieved from
Ciochetto, L. (2004). Advertising and globalisation in India. Wellington, New Zealand: EASA., p.-t.-h.-c.-d.-f.-c.-u.-p.-a.-u.-e.-c. (n.d.).
Malin Edlund, H. N. (2006). The Use of Print Ads for an International Brand. Lulea University of Technology.
Robert Grabow, S. D. (n.d.). Government Advertising Policies:Some Findings from Around the World. Columbia University, New York.

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