Advertising 24

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Advertising is used to promote goods, services, images, and anything else that advertisers want to publicize. It is becoming a major part of mass media. At times we may view it positively, at other times we may just neglect or ignore it. In order to attract audiences, advertisers use various techniques on their advertisements to make people aware of the firm's products, services or brands. Although the methods used by advertisers are infinitely, they have a common goal to persuade those who may become their customers to buy their products. An excellent advertisement will create a deep impression on its potential customers through particular techniques.

The hallmark of an excellent advertisement is an ethical one. What is defined as an ethical advertisement? An ethical problem in the contemporary business environment is deceptive advertising, which can mislead consumers and injure competitors. Though illegal in its most blatant forms, deceptive advertising can occur in subtle ways that are difficult to establish as outright deception, such as puffery, incomplete comparisons and implied superiority claims. While the problem is widely recognized, research about what makes consumers susceptible to deceptive advertising and how to prevent their being deceived by misleading messages is rare. So I think self-regulation is the only way to reduce the presence of deceptive products and services being advertisements.

Deceptive advertising and marketing practices have been around since the beginning of time and are still prevalent today. Sometimes it is done unknowingly by an advertiser, however, more often than not, it is done with the intent to mislead the consumer, making deceptive advertising a relevant marketing ethics issue. This paper will first define deceptive advertising and marketing, and describe different types of deception. Next, it will examine what makes an advertisement or marketing practice deceptive. A look into the deceptive advertising issues of the 1990¡¯s as well as reviewing the monitoring agencies, and addressing liability issues and the penalties associated with deceptive advertising will also be covered.

What is Deceptive Advertising and Marketing?

An advertisement or marketing practice is considered deceptive if there is a "representation, omission, or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer". The advertisement does not necessarily have to cause actual deception, but, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the act need only likely mislead the consumer (Federal Trade Commission, 1998 [on-line]).

Types of Deceptive Advertising and Marketing

According to David Gardner there are three types of deceptive advertising: Fraudulent advertising which is an outright lie; false advertising which "involves a claim-fact discrepancy", such as not disclosing all the conditions to receive a certain promotion or price; and misleading advertising which involves a "claim-belief interaction" (Assael, 1998). An example of claim-belief deception is the Warner-Lambert Listerine case. The label on the Listerine mouthwash bottle stated "Kills Germs By Millions On Contact" immediately followed by "For General Oral Hygiene, Bad Breath, Colds, and Resultant Sore Throats". This misled consumers to believe that by using Listerine, it could prevent the common cold and sore throat (Warner Lambert, 1978). Listerine had to redo its advertising and delete "colds and resultant sore throats".

What Makes Advertising Deceptive?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency responsible for regulating and monitoring advertising practices, there are three common elements they look for in deceptive advertising and marketing claims. First, there must be "a representation, omission or practice that will likely mislead the consumer", such as misleading price claims, or a oral or written misrepresentation of a product or service. Second, the FTC examines the...
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