Since the evolution of communication, media has been used to transmit informations to those willing to absorb it. Now, using powerful technologies such as television or the internet, information has been made accessible to people in every aspect of our daily lives, trying now to influence our choices more than ever before through advertisement. However, for the most, the goal behind advertising is personal profit. Therefore, the things we are exposed to in advertisements are not always true; they often tend to make people try being someone else's idea of perfection while ignoring their own goals, and then conduct the consumers to deception. As for anything else, regulations on advertising do exist and are set by the Federal Trade Commission. But still, the problem of deceptive advertising does exist and is very persistent. My goal is to discuss the problem of deceptive advertising, by analyzing the strengths and the weaknesses of the FTC policies on advertising, the causes and effects of the problem and finally propose eventual solutions.
According to its official web site, ftc.gov, ”The FTC deals with issues that touch the economic life of every American. It is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy,” (“About the Federal Trade Commission”) advertising included. As any institution of this scale, the FTC has very strong policies regarding the field it deals with. And acts such as false advertising can be heavily punished by the law, according to the FTC’s many laws and acts.
However, regardless the numerous regulations that make the FTC’s strengths, it possesses a major weakness, since as far as the commission punishes unfair methods in advertising, and it fails to clearly define the word “unfair”. William F. Brown says in his article that the term “unfair methods” remains a generalization that the FTC must translate into usable policies, or standards by which specific methods can be judged (“the Federal Trade Commission and False Advertising II”). More specifically, it’s not always clear what would be included within the scope of the commission’s authority. This I would rather qualify unexisting part of the FTC policy, creates a gaping hole through which the problem of false advertising slips out. And I can truly see where this problem might apply: We can always see or hear from commercials all the benefits of a product, but, usually all the undesirable side effects are either written in very small caps at the bottom, so that no one can see or practically said at the speed of light, making them incomprehensible. From my consumer point of view, I can say that these are unfair methods; however, I can hardly see how the FTC is going to punish such an act, because in fact, everything about the product is there; regardless how the information is delivered.
Along with the FTC policy problem, there are more causes linked to the false advertising problem. For starter, I can tell from personal observations that America is a highly competitive country with a very capitalist nature. So much that in order to sell its products, companies will not hesitate to lie. For example, I still don’t know which phone company’s network is America’s fastest, especially when most claim to be (AT&T, Verizon, and t-mobile are really getting me confused.) Then there is also the people mindset that is problematic. By that, I mean people tend to respond to feeling rather than reason; a commercial full of fallacies, for example, will get customers to buy a product simply by being entertaining. I believe that people’s response to advertisements in America is different because of the way they are implemented. For every 10 minutes of a television show, there are 5 minutes of advertisement; it gives a 1/3 ratio, meaning that more than 30% of what people see on television are commercials. Even on...