The Chairman of the University of Liberia (UL’s) Department of Communication and Media Studies, Mr. Euriahs M. Togar, has made the call for the country’s advertising industry to be regulated.

Mr. Togar, who holds a Master of Science in Communication and Information Sciences from Tilburg University in The Netherlands, emphasized that such regulation should be aimed at putting to an end or minimizing what he calls the use of non-local persons’ images mostly in billboard advertisements promoting products on the local markets.

He observes that advertisers are increasingly using images in adverts to create brand awareness, familiarity with brand, to influence purchase intentions of consumers, adding that “To do this, marketers are using celebrities, attractive models, which he terms celebrity endorsement, or computer-enhanced images taken from the internet or free source, to the detriment of local talent development and Liberia’s economy.

He emphasized that comparatively, advertisements using celebrities or models provide a higher degree of appeal, attention and possibly message recall than those using non-celebrities.

The state-owned department chair for communication and media studies intoned that celebrity-endorsed ads, compared to free-sourced image ads, can be expensive, noting that “Hence, in a country like Liberia, where advertising is unregulated, socially irresponsible businesses and marketers will opt for free-sourced image ads, since they only have to surf the internet for best fits.”

He argues that using local celebrities or models in advertisements can have benefits for both advertisers and the Liberian society, citing as example, the scenario where consumers may more strongly and socially identify with local message source (local celebrity/model image) with stronger effect on purchase intentions or business benefit, while the same may yield economic rewards, inspire local talents, spur creativity, and result in the creation of an informal sector to mitigate the prevailing high rate of unemployment in the country, which he believes is a sure way of yielding societal benefits.

Mr. Togar, who is currently pursuing a PhD with focus on “the sociological impact of digitization on Liberia” at The Netherlands-based Tilburg University, disclosed that he is motivated by the potential societal benefits, to embark upon a campaign to call for the establishment of an ‘independent advertising regulatory body’ to end or reduce the pervasive socially irresponsible and insensitive behavior of businesses, especially local businesses.

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