Lecture at University of Cape Town
The concept of internal vs external happiness was expounded by Professor Navin Mathur from the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur‚ India‚ who recently presented a paper in the Marketing Section of the School of Management Studies on the issue of Consumer perceptions about Ethics in Advertising. Seen after the lecture are UCT Marketing academics Dr Gert Human and Dr Mignon Reyneke with Prof Mathur of the University of Rajasthan and psychology student Shradha Mathur of the University of Delhi.

Professor Mathur’s talk was informed by his extensive research in the Indian consumer market and he alluded to the inability of legal processes and structures to govern ethical advertising in India‚ arguing for a system of self–regulation.

His research shows that Indian consumers are largely unsatisfied with ethical standards in advertising. Despite this situation‚ the number of complaints lodged with the ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India) over the last five years was less than 190. This comes from a nation with more than a billion people. Moreover‚ closer analysis reveals that of these complaints about 50% were submitted by competing firms. The results suggest that although Indian consumers are not satisfied with ethical standards in advertising‚ they do not complain about it. Reasons for this situation can be found on various levels‚ including typical emerging market demographics such as poorly–educated rural communities.

Drs Gert Human and Mignon Reyneke from the UCT Marketing section‚ who hosted professor Mathur‚ say his research is also useful in a South African context. The South African advertising landscape has a similar governance structure to that of India‚ but in general it appears more successful in promoting ethical advertising. Arguably‚ South Africans face similar challenges to ensure ethical advertising.

Notable from Mathur’s presentation‚ is the influence and importance of culture on ethics in advertising. The presence of multiple and complex cultures often means that there is variance in the interpretation of ethical standards in advertising across nations. This complicates the challenge for companies who need to export their message across cultural boundaries. Mathur argues that in this context an oriental philosophy goes beyond the western philosophy to promote ethical behaviour because it focuses on internal self– actualisation‚ aptly framed "internal happiness".

He notes that a western philosophy may well be limited in its ability to self–regulate advertising because it focuses on "external happiness". In offering a solution Mathur suggests that advertisers should do serious introspection and could do well by adopting an oriental–based philosophy by inculcating a spiritual aspect in advertising which promotes "universal trusteeship". Mathur bases this reasoning on the pursuit of happiness as the key objective in life‚ and says that by incorporating the age old Indian wisdom of Humata (Good Thoughts)‚ Hyarshta (Good deeds) and Hukhta (Good words) into advertising decisions all stakeholders can be "happy" with the ethics in advertising.

View Photos - University of Cape Town

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