A Talk On Advertising by Herman Wouk

A Brief Introduction to the Author

Herman Wouk, an American novelist, was born in New York in 1915. Of his novels, The Caine Muting and Aurora Dawn have been acclaimed the world over.

Point Summary

In ‘A Talk on Advertising’, Wouk suggests that the business of advertising is nothing but a facade. It may be the most flourishing business of the day but unfortunately, it is a nasty business. An advertiser goads people into buying things which glitter only outwardly and which are not wanted by them.

According to the writer, advertising as an activity is unproductive and wasteful. It corrupts everything that is sweet and beautiful. However, it is primarily the misuse of language as a means of propaganda in the advertising business that the writer disapproves of.

Advertisers, with a utilitarian approach, exploit nature, art, beauty and youth to promote the sale of useless things. The business of advertising thrives on deceit and trickery. The cheapening of our tastes in the wake of excessive advertising and commercialization disturbs the author. That is why he wishes to acquaint the reader with the reality of advertising business which is characterized by the sole consideration of selling.

Q.1. What does an advertiser do, according to Herman Wouk? Why does he ask advertisers to give up their business at once?

Ans. According to Herman Wouk, the business of advertising is crude and nasty. Ad advertiser is good for nothing fellow. He artificially creates demand for products which are not wanted by people. He urges people to buy useless things by offering temptation in the form of cheap and vulgar advertisements. Ad advertiser, therefore, thrives in the service of utterly useless things, for his sole object is to sell.

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The writer asks the advertisers to give up their business at once because they don’t render any useful service to the society. They have spoiled and polluted everything that is sweet and beautiful – language, nature, fine arts and youth. If an advertiser gives up his profession, it would not only save everything beautiful but also save consumers from being caught in the web of advertising.

Q.2. How are the advertisers fed? What does the author say about the feeding of other classes of society?

Ans. In ‘A Talk on Advertising’, the writer Herman Wouk writes scathingly about the business of advertising. According to Wouk, this business is unproductive. To earn their bread, the advertisers have to employ different marketing strategies. Their business demands that they dupe people into buying unwanted and useless things. The advertisers popularize unpopular products by propagating false notions about them. As a result, people are led into buying them. It is all a business of deceit and trickery.

As far as the other classes of society are concerned, they all perform services that are productive and worthwhile. A shoemaker makes shoes, singer sings, a pilot flies, an author writes stories – all these people do something, worthwhile to earn their bread.

On the other hand, advertising men earn it by what can be called a disservice to mankind.

Q.3. How does the author prove that advertising is unproductive and wasteful?

Ans. The writer Herman Wouk in ‘A Talk on Advertising’ says that the business of advertising is most unproductive and wasteful. An advertiser artificially creates demand for things which are quite useless. He tempts people into buying products which they don’t need. Advertising intoxicating products like tobacco on the one hand and products which are already in plenty, on the other hand, is an activity which, according to Wouk, cannot be called productive or useful, for the aim of advertising is telling lies for material gains.

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In order to grind their own axe, the advertisers destroy everything that is beautiful nature, beauty, language and youth. All these things are harnessed by these people to the promotion of business. That is why, according to the writer, the business of advertising is synonymous with trickery and deceit which has spoiled the miracle of life.

Q.4. What is the effect of advertising on language? What examples does the author give to prove his point?

Ans. The writer firmly believes that advertising has proved quite disastrous for language. Though a rare and divine gift, language has lost its sanctity because of the business of advertising. To increase the demand of a particular product, the advertisers distort language accordingly and grind their own axe. They use to praise a product for virtues it never had.

To prove his point, the writer cites numerous examples. A radio commercial is nothing but a vehicle for telling lies and playing fraud on others. Similarly, a trade name like Aurora Dawn is quite catchy but aurora and dawn, both have the same meaning. Such use suggests the growing commercialization of language. Shakespeare’s works are also falling a prey to the business of advertising. The writer considers language a great thing which has an ennobling effect on the souls of men. It is unfortunate that the advertisers are misusing it only to gratify their own selfish whims.

Q.5. What are Herman Wouk’s views on modelling? How does he express them?

Ans. The writer does not approve of modelling as it is a part and parcel of the advertising industry which lures beautiful but silly girls into becoming models only to disappoint them in the end. The advertisers, for the sake of material gains, use models, particularly young beautiful females, to promote the sale of products. However, only a few of these girls end up becoming rich and famous models. The rest of them face rejection and dejection. The writer describes this fashion world as an “unholy land”. The young girls undertake holy journeys to “the unholy land” but their quest for modelling turns out to be a dismal pilgrimage.

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According to the writer, the business of advertising holds out the promise of heaven on earth to beautiful girls but in reality, it spoils everything that is sweet and beautiful. That is why, this business is nothing but a heap of lies, a pile of frauds.

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