Deceptive advertising is an important part of the marketing business. It must be subtle, else it violates the trust of consumers and risks destroying a working relationship. Advertising walks a fine line between the propaganda of truth and fiction. It's good for us to be aware of some of the most common types of advertising.
A common type of deceptive advertising is any commercial that gives incorrect or misleading information regarding a product's price. The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces laws against deceptive advertising practices, reports that ads must fully disclose the price that a consumer can be expected to pay for a product and present any discounts, sales or markdowns in an honest way. For example, if an advertisement claims that a product's price has been lowered 20 percent, but the advertised product never sold at a higher price, the ad may be deceptive.
Simply put, you cannot hide fees to make your product price sound incredible. For example, if you offer a laptop for sale at "only $199!" but there's a bunch of add-ons that the customer must pay before they can take the product home, then you're in dangerous territory. Most businesses get around this problem by placing an asterisk after the headline price which directs the consumer to the small print. But if the terms don't match up, or they are not clear, then your advert may be classified as deceptive.
Another common type of misleading advertisement is the bait-and-switch, in which an advertiser makes a claim about the price or availability of a product while never intending to actually sell the product, or to sell it for a much higher price. When customers respond to the advertisement, the seller exploits their interest to try to sell them the product at a higher price or a different product.
MOST FAVORABLE CASE
While it's generally deceptive for an advertisement to mislead consumers about price or availability, deceptive ads also are those that make statements about quality or origin that cannot be substantiated. For example, an advertisement cannot claim a product was "made in the United States" if it was actually manufactured in another country. Similarly, advertisements may be deceptive if the product has defects in quality that are not fully disclosed, or if an advertisement implies that the product may be used for a purpose it is not adequately designed for.
Another thing to watch out for is photography. If an image in an advert or marketing claim portrays the product in its best case scenario, and there's no way the customer is going to get that product specification for the advertised price, the the advert could be deceptive. For example, you should not be showing an image of a double-thick, juicy burger if the product on the customer's plate looks very different.
Bogus credentials are a common technique. Recently it has become popular to stress environmentally friendly credentials so we must take care whenever an advertisement has environmental claims. Terms like "recycled," "biodegradable," "compostable" or "environmentally friendly" are a warning sign unless specifically substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. These claims can be slippery too and companies often advertise eco-friendly because some part of the product carries an environmental attribute but other components do not. For example, a box of foil can be advertised as recyclable, without specifying whether it is the foil or the box. In fact, foil isn't recyclable so it's only the box but meanwhile the product is selling itself to you by playing on an expectation of what you'll infer.
1. Straightforward Ads: The reader is told what the product is, what it does, how much it costs, where you can buy it. Many newspaper ads are of this type. They do not try to influence the reader, they only give information. (Is this approach the most honest?)
2. Special Offer: The reader or viewer is offered a money-saving coupon, a free prize, or a chance to win a contest. Cosmetic companies offer free gifts with a minimum purchase. This technique is also called red herring. Many states have restrictions on these offers, and the federal government has investigated some of the contests. (Is it better to buy a product because you know it is good, or because of something else you get with it?)
3. Eye Appeal: A photograph or drawing shows how good the product looks through colour, design, shape, etc. in order to suggest how good it tastes, smells or feels. In cartoons the drawings are exaggerated drawings called caricatures. These caricatures can be positive or negative.
- Argument For the Man/Woman: When the physical features of a person are drawn in an attractive way to deliberately take the reader's attention away from the issue under consideration.
- Argument Against the Man/Woman: When the physical features of a person are drawn in an unattractive or ugly way to deliberately take the reader's attention away from the issue under consideration.
4. Happy Family Appeal: The message used to sell cleaning products and foods is often: "Your family will be healthy and happy if you use our product. Show how much you love your husband and kids by shining your floor with our wax or giving them the vitamins in our bread."
5. Experts Say: Since chefs are experts about food, people will trust one of them to recommend a brand of food. Basketball players can be trusted to recommend tennis shoes or sports equipment. This is also true of other professions.
6. Bandwagon Appeal: The message is: "Our product is so good that everyone buys it. You should too." (If a product is very popular, does that necessarily mean it is good?) Comes from 19th century political campaign slogan "jump on the bandwagon."
7. Appeal to a Target Audience: This approach targets a specific group of people and then creates an ad that appeals to this audience. The various approaches are youth appeal, appeal to maturity, appeal to teenagers, young children, men, women, professionals, etc. Advertisers suggest that their product is for this specific target audience and will use pictures, slang, music, etc. that appeals to the type of person targeted.
8. Snob Appeal: This is a reverse of the Bandwagon Appeal. Its message suggests: "Buying our product will make you better than everyone else--especially since other people can't afford it." (If a product is more expensive, does that mean it is better?)
10. Something New: Something new can be added to a product to make it better - or to make it sound better. Many products now advertise that they contain oat bran, that they are lower in fat or cholesterol or use the word "light" in the packaging. (Are the magic ingredients in a product necessarily new, effective, or unique to the brand being advertised?)
11. Humble Approach: By admitting that your product is not the best or is not the most popular, you can attract attention to your ad, and you can help convince the reader or viewer that you are doing everything you can to make your product better. Your company tries harder.
12. Statistics: Often a good way to sell a product is to include statistics about the effectiveness of the product or about the number of people using the product. (How are these surveys carried out? Can you trust the company that manufactures the product to give honest results? Would the company mention a survey that showed unfavourable results?)
13. Ecology/Public Service Appeal: Some products are advertised as causing less damage to the environment than others. Sometimes the company tries to win favour by the good things it does--sponsoring drug abuse programs in the schools, helping its employees improve their standard of living through medical insurance--since the viewer may decide to do business with a company that seems to care about more than just making a profit.
14. Sex Appeal: This is one of the most common appeals. It is used to sell the strangest products--from perfume to car mufflers! (Why is it more effective to advertise soap as a way to be sexy and popular than simply to say it will get one's face and body clean?)
15. Humour: This is a good way to make people have good feelings about a product or at least to get them to watch or read the ad. Some humorous ads have become famous although their effectiveness in selling products has been questioned. Sometimes humorous ads use personification to turn a product into a human or partly human character (i.e. often used to accompany children's Saturday morning T.V. shows).
16. Emotional Appeals: This technique plays on people's fears, joys, sadness, etc. The telephone ads that "reach out and touch someone" show people sharing tender, nostalgic or special moments over the phone. Sometimes these ads play on people's fear of death or the unknown.
17. Card Stacking: To present only the good points of your product. If you discuss another product, you only present the bad points. A long time ago, Brand X was used to name a competitor's product. Now, actual brand names can be used.
19. Playing To Prejudice: To jump to the easiest, quickest, most obvious conclusion without enough examples to support it. (Your teacher can't speak French, you can't speak French, therefore, no one in this class can speak French.)