Global, international, national as well as local advertising are communication strategies that business entities employ to drive demand for goods and services at all levels of markets. International advertising strategies are tailored to reflect regional, national, and local market cultural differences and preferences.
Ethiopia is not totally new to advertising practices, at least in the post war situation where foreign and local business persons had been trying to sell their products to both the local and international Markets.
In Ethiopia's modern advertising sector, Wubshet Workalemaw is the pioneer advertiser and businessman who received various honorary prizes.
Over the last couple of decades a number of advertizing agencies have flourished in the country and their role particularly in the local market is ever growing
Until a couple of years back, Ethiopia did not have any legal instrument to regulate advertisements in the country until the promulgation of Proclamation on Advertisements.
Article 2 of a Proclamation on Advertisements (Proclamation No. 759/2012,) defines advertisement as "... a commercial advertisement which is disseminated through the means of advertisement dissemination to promote sales of goods or services or to publicize name, logo, trademark or objectives, and includes public and private advertisements."
According to the proclamation, advertisement plays a significant role in the economic, social and political development of the country, by influencing the activities of the public in commodity exchange or service rendering;
The proclamation also notes that advertisement makes "a significant contribution in establishing healthy market competition in the market-led economic system of the country. It also instructs against the non regulation of advertisements could lead to contravention with public interest and image of the country.
The proclamation also denotes the expediency of clearly defining the rights and obligations of advertising agents, advertisement disseminators and advertisers.
The proclamation was the first of its kind ever promulgated to streamline and regulate advertisement activities in the country. Despite the issuance of the proclamation, as young as it is, modern advertisement in Ethiopia is a late comer compared to the rest of the world.
This is quite obvious because given the lower level of private entrepreneurship in general and the promotion of free enterprise in the country, wider scale of advertisements was totally unachievable if not unthinkable.
However, in the late 19th century with the introduction of the first Amharic newspaper originally prepared by long hand, Aemiro used to come out with very few advertisements which were issued in the form of notices on various commodities for public consumption. Later on Radio Ethiopia started to broadcast advertisements on various commodities like Coca Cola and detergents like Palmolive and several consumer items.
During the imperial regime and to date a number of companies like the Ethiopian Airlines, Commercial Bank of Ethiopia sponsored a number of graduation school bulletins and magazines as well as numerous in house journals.
During the period of the Dergue, the public media was the only media and advertisements were restricted to very few commodities that are imported from abroad. Advertisements were resented and sometimes considered as propaganda tools for "imperialist ideology" or as instruments of imperialist cultural warfare"
In the advent of post 1991, economic liberalization and structural reforms in the economy opened up a wider space for the private sector by lifting the half a million Birr capital that was imposed on the public.
The current proclamation on advertisement puts legal prohibitions on the type of advertisements that are to either be broadcasted or printed on news papers. Advertisements are supposed to comply with the public moral and the laws of the country and be free from misleading or unfair statements and not to contravene with the legitimate interests of the public. (Articles 6 and 7 of the proclamation.)
The proclamation prohibits advertising on narcotics and cigarettes (article 25) and also prohibits advertisements on liquors with alcohol content of 12 percent and above.
Although the advertisement proclamation provides for the protection of the rights of minors (article 10) and in spite of the fact that the youth comprise 70 percent of the population, the proclamation kept silent on the scope of application of advertisements regarding the youth.
For instance, advertisements on beer specifically focus on the youth and seem to urge the youth to drink beer at any point in time. Although nominal notices like "not for sale for persons below 18". The notice does not prevent the youth from excessively drinking beer even if they do not buy, they could be invited by some irregular peer groups. Excessive drinking of beer is no better than drinking liquors.
Nowadays some advertisements on beer are staged dramatically with their link to athletics and other fields of sports. The sponsors finance such advertisements in good faith to promote their business and there is nothing wrong with this as the law provides. What matters in actual fact is the content that is the message they convey particularly for the youth. One advert shows an athlete running on course and the advert is linked to a brand of beer which seems to assert that if you drink a lot of beer you can run well. But of course one may run well after intake of a lot of beer but only for a minute or two after which he/she may collapse. Again advertisement is acceptable and encouraged bur content matters.
Although the law has prohibited advertisements of beverages above 12 percent alcohol per volume, the law seems to permit outdoor advertisements on billboards
for alcoholic drinks with 40 and above alcohol contents, disallowing it on TV and FM radio channels mat not pay off as they can advertise the alcohol drinks on billboards anyway.
A couple of years back there was an advertisement on EBC concerning the strength and quality of roof tins. The lady sits on the roof with her local coffee pounding wooden mortar and pestle and starts to pound coffee on the roof top. This was not only funny but also incredible as it was not culturally sound and also exaggerated to the extreme.
Most of the advertisements on Ethiopian media, particularly on the Ethiopian media attempt to adhere to the basic cultural values of the country but most of the advertisements are not based on adequate researches on the commodities on which they organize media adverts.
A lot of advertisements are currently conducted on online media but it is not clear whether some of them are actually licensed or whether ethio-telecom is aware of them. A lot of lotteries are offered online but the frequency of their messages is not only repellent but also fill in spaces in the cell phones of the public.
None the less, the haphazard and chaotic manner in which advertisements are conducted on vehicles with deafening loudspeakers is adding up to the already troubling noise pollution in the city with no choice for timing and locations.
Indeed the country has no lack of laws when it comes to advertising but it seems that the regulatory bodies entrusted with monitoring and evaluating the adverts seem to follow the famous policy of Mao Tse Dong "Let hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend" during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
The country needs regulated standards pertaining to their influence on local business and marketing