Advertising non-personal communication of information, usually paid for and persuasive in nature, informing about products (goods and services) or ideas or concepts by identified sponsors through various media. There was very little advertising practice in Bangladesh before independence. Due to inadequate industrialisation, demand for specialised advertising agencies was very limited. Pioneers in the field such as Bitopi, East Asiatic (now Asiatic), and Interspan entered the market almost simultaneously in the year 1967. Their clientele comprised multinational companies like Lever Brothers Ltd., which had started to increase the range of their products. Other advertising companies started operating after independence.

There is no formal way of tracking of advertising agencies in the country. According to formal media sources, a total of 150 agencies are registered with Bangladesh Television, while the number exceeds 500 when both the formal and informal sectors are considered. However, more than 70% of the formal market share is held by the top nine advertising agencies of the country. These agencies, in descending order of market share, are Adcomm, Asiatic, Bitopi, Unitrend, Grey, Interspeed, Popular, Madona, and Matra. Other advertising agencies claim only about 13% of the market share, while the rest (17%) is accrued to in-house advertisement of business firms and enterprises.

Advertisement media in Bangladesh can be classified into two categories based on the placement strategy - Above the Line (ATL) category and Below the Line (BTL) category, each claiming about 50% of the total revenue. ATL includes newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and satellite and cable television. Placement strategies under BTL includes event management, in-house advertisement (company performing own advertisement) at point of purchase, outdoor advertisement (billboards, hoarding, neon signs, and bell signs), innovative activities (jatra, street drama) and advertisement on vehicle bodies or fliers. The market size of the formal advertising agencies accounted for about Tk 2 billion in 1999, while, in-house and outdoor advertisements by manufacturing or service providing companies and the informal agencies (non-registered agencies and individuals) accounted for about another Tk 1 billion.

The tariff structure of advertisement varies depending upon the type of media and the time or space used. A 30-seconds advertisement on Bangladesh Television is charged Tk 9,450 at peak hours (7 PM till the end of days transmission) and the amount increases by surcharge (50% for fixed time, 70% for immediately before or after the news, 80% for mid-breaks in films and 100% for mid-break in news). Rates are almost half during transmission hours before 7 PM. The commercial time allowed to a sponsor in a 60-minute programme is up to 180 seconds and the rate charged per episode or programme is Tk 80,000 early time, Tk 100,000 for peak time.

Bangladesh Television offers a discount of 25% on advertisements of books and magazines not containing any advertisement and activities of registered cultural organisations and voluntary organisations. Guidebooks for admission tests and competitive examinations, test papers and publishing houses do not get this discount facility. Bangladesh television however, imposes an additional surcharge of 60% on spot and sponsored advertisement for all products, which are produced or assembled outside the country. Rates charged by the Bangladesh Radio are much less: Tk 600 for each transmission of a 15-seconds advertisement from 1st to 51st time. Bangladesh Radio charges Tk 45,000 for sponsorship of a cricket match and Tk 30,000 for that of a football match. Advertisement tariff for newspapers varies between Tk 400 and Tk 800 per column inch in inside pages; it is about three times higher in back pages.

The growth of the advertising industry since 1967 demonstrated a direct relationship between the economic growth of the country and purchasing power. Informal advertising agencies are continually springing up in competition with formal ones.

The clientele of advertising agencies primarily comprise of private national companies (PNC), multinational companies (MNC) and non government organisations (NGO). The MNCs comprise more than 60% of the media share followed by the PNCs compising 25%. The major client of the print media is the government. The advertising business is governed by the competition prevailing in the market; products having high competition advertise more. Also, consumer goods hold higher portion of the advertising budget. Also evident the industries having a very high local demand depend on advertising. Export oriented companies have gradually started to use the expertise of the advertising industry especially in the area of brochure development.

The legal aspect of advertising is controlled by the government through a requirement of the media to sign contracts with advertising agencies or the advertiser for all types of advertisements. The general terms and conditions of the contract are to conform to laws and regulations relating to printing, publication and mass communication. The Ministry of Information is the primary controlling authority and may decide to change all or a part of the terms and conditions of contracts with the advertising media. Advertisements related to drugs, cigarette, and the like require prior permission of the Ministry of Health. Also, the government has set an ethical code of conduct, although not adopted as a legal document, for advertising agencies and for the media. The code urges the agencies to refrain from advertising products like alcohol, cigarette, baby food and cereal, undergarments for men and women, and contraceptives (except birth control pills). The media in general is expected to abide by social norms and moral value, refrain from direct attacks on any religion, person or organisation, as well as from obscenity and vulgarism, and from using historical leaders and political leaders in advertisements. [Syed Farhat Anwar]