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Promoting the Image

Probably the last thing poor countries need is an advertising industry. But it seems no one is to be spared. According to a recent calculation by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) more than four billion dollars is being spent annually on advertising campaigns in poor countries.

In fact in some ways the developing countries are having a worse time than anybody else. The proportion of their television and radio time devoted to advertising is much higher than ours. About six per cent of radio time in the West is given over to advertising. In the Third World the figure is 20 per cent. We lose about five per cent of our television time to soap powders and deodorants and the rest; the Third World loses 12 per cent.

That the United States spends a lot of money on advertising will come as no great surprise. US corporations devote twice as much to advertising as to research and development. But on this measure of development the Third World is not that far behind: resources devoted to advertising are 70 per cent more than those for research and development.

Those who benefit most directly from all this expenditure are the advertising agencies, the majority of whom are multinationals - J. Walter Thompson, McCann Erickson, Lintas and hundreds more. And the money made by most agencies in the Third World goes into foreign coffers. More than 60 per cent of agencies in the Third World are foreign-owned and many more local operations work in collaboration with overseas agencies.

New Internationalist issue 084 magazine cover This article is from the February 1980 issue of New Internationalist.
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