The well-known polling agency TNS Factum recently completed the latest chapter in an on-going study mapping Czechs' relationship to advertising in the media. The poll, which began over a decade ago, traditionally asks how Czechs feel about ads - whether they feel there is over-saturation in the media, what standards they expect, how they feel about the display of sex, and whether or not they are ultimately influenced by the ads when they go to the store.
The latest numbers are in and have revealed that Czechs, like most Central European countries, have remained generally tolerant about advertising - at least as far as content is concerned. For example, the poll indicates that 36 percent of Czechs are open to the use of sexual motifs in ads provided there is some kind of a logical connection - an ad for a swimsuit, shampoo, or sporting goods, would presumably go over better than a blonde in a bikini cranking up a chainsaw, or the family snow-blower. Meanwhile, an additional 13 percent of Czechs say they enjoy erotic motifs outright. 21 percent say that while not crazy about sex in ads, they remain tolerant - which gives a picture that Czechs are tolerant on the whole.
Where they draw the line - is media saturation. A full 80 percent of Czechs say there is simply too much advertising on television, while 72 percent indicate their mailboxes are overflowing with printed ads. That, perhaps more than anything else, helps raise some pretty negative views.
"I hate advertising and I don't buy products based on advertisements."
"I prefer commercials in magazines, because I like getting more information about products! It has to be something special to catch my eye."
"I've seen too many ads in the past."
"I've read that in a few years brand diversity will be greater than biological diversity in the universe..."
"I hate them! Really, I hate them!"
"If anybody wants to place an ad, I think it's quite right!"
An interesting aspect is that the majority of Czechs, like consumers in many other European countries, generally deny they are influenced by ads at all - an interesting paradox considering how many commercials they absorb. Jitka Vysekalova, the head of the TNS Factum project - suggests Czechs are perhaps caught in something of a denial.
"There could be several explanations, hypothetical of course. First of all, there are people who don't even realise they have been influenced, second there is a section of society that simply doesn't want to admit the truth. They don't want to feel they have been manipulated and believe 'I can't be someone who was influenced by an ad'! In my opinion the number of people who bought products on the basis of advertising is far higher than our numbers reveal."
For all those who remain unhappy with advertising's impact on their lives it seems it ultimately comes down to individual diligence and individual choice. Don't want to see the ads at the beginning of films? As Jitka Vysekalova says come fifteen minutes late, adding if you don't like what you see, you can always exercise your choice not to buy.
"It's the same with all ads - you can always turn off the TV or flip the page. We are free to choose which ad to appreciate and which to ignore, and in the end it is only up to you whether or not to buy a product based on what you've seen."
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