Advertising: Making consumers aware or deceiving them?

Over the years, the importance of advertising in marketing a product or service has increased drastically. In some cases, it has become the face or identity of a brand. Nike’s legendary “JUST DO IT” ad-campaign is the flag bearer of ad-linked  identity and has stood the test of time. The same can be said about Apple’s “Think different” campaign.

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But when it comes to advertising, it is not all unicorns and rainbows. In many cases, advertising has often led to misleading and false claims by companies and brands which shake up consumer confidence about the genuineness of such ads. The terms “scientifically proven” and “guaranteed results” are thrown around in almost every advertisement nowadays.

New Balance’s “toning” sneaker is one such example of false advertising. The shoe boasted of a hidden board technology which activated various leg muscles and burnt extra calories while walking and running. The litigants found out that the shoe was instead injury prone, without any secret technology and have demanded $5 million as indemnification.

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A prime exhibit of a brand using faulty advertising to tempt buyers to purchase their goods is Burger King. The company has been found guilty on innumerable instances of advertising their burgers to be larger than they are. The burgers get touched up by photoshop and are frequently very dissimilar in appearance to the burgers that the chain supplies to its consumers. (Poulter, 2010)

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Fast food industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades. A major chunk of the rise in obesity over the past few years can be attributed to this. Fast-food chains rely heavily on advertisement for their marketing and promotion. On average people weigh 6 kg heavier in 2015 than they used to in 2005 and 10% more adults are overweight or obese than in 1995. (Aihw.gov.au, 2016)

Consumers, especially children and teenagers, make their minds up about a product or brand based on the advertisements. The biggest and most eye-catching example of this is the fizzy drinks industry. Pepsi and Coca-cola have faced flak from public health organisations for the extremely high sugar content in their drinks yet it hasn’t affected their sales one bit. Here, a case can be made for skimming over important information from the potential consumers rather than feeding false information. How a product looks in an advert and how it actually is differs a lot.

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Discounts and sales are another issue with advertising. They are basically demand stimulators. This often leads to people buying things they don’t even need but still buy because it’s a good deal. There has been significant rise in household spendings and debt in Australia between 2000 and 2012. The household debt to net worth ratio has also gone up from 22.5% to 26.5% between 2008 and 2014. (Pimco.com.au, 2014)

Hidden surcharges and fees on products is also a major part of false advertising. The sole purpose here is to lure the customers and force them to take interest in the product. Once they have the customer’s attention, the probability that the customer buys it increases remarkably.

Such issues seem petty from the outside but when taking into account public interest, they turn into multi-million dollar lawsuits. These practises by companies lead to doubts and hesitation in the mind of the buyers. Thus, consumers need to scrutinize before making a purchase.

“However,  experts say drops in consumer confidence don’t always portend a fall in consumer spending.” (Scherer, 2005)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Poulter, S. (2010, July 21).Advertising watchdog finds burger king guilty of telling a whopper over serving size. [online]. Retrieved from:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1296485/Advertising-watchdog-finds-Burger-King-guilty-telling-whopper-serving-size.html
  2. Aihw.gov.au. (2016).Overweight and obesity (AIHW). [online] Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2016].
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bloomberg, 31 December 2014, Global | PIMCO. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.pimco.com.au/insights/viewpoints/viewpoints/a-look-at-rising-household-debt-in-australia.
  4. Scherer, R. (2005).Consumers turning wary. [online] The Christian Science Monitor. Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0928/p01s02-usec.html
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