I don't think that advertisements are outright misleading, but they are often meant to be deceptive. There are regulatory bodies in most western countries that are present to protect consumers from misleading advertisements. Companies that do promote products in an overtly misleading way face stiff penalties or lawsuits. As such, many firms are extra careful to protect themselves from potential legal action.
For example, cereal boxes that portray an illustration of the contents inside will often carry a disclaimer in small letters reminding the consumer that the corn flakes as pictured on the packaging are larger than the actual flakes inside the box. Additionally, when pharmaceuticals advertise their medications on television, they will always include a disclaimer at the end, in which a voice-over will list the possible side effects that may arise from taking these drugs.
The entire advertising industry is certainly built around deception, in that it tries to convince consumers to buy products that they probably don't need and to choose one brand over another. Yet in all cases, marketing strategists are careful to ensure that their implicit deception does not trickle over into an effort aimed at consciously trying to mislead the public.
Clearly, the purpose of advertising is to create a favourable view of the product. They do this by stressing its positive aspects and downplaying or ignoring any of its negative features. In most cases, this will not be seriously misleading and consumers will develop a healthy scepticism about the claims made in advertisements after some exposure to them.
If an advert makes factual assertions, those facts have to be well-grounded. In most developed countries, there are agencies that regulate the advertising business. If a company makes claims it cannot back up, the agencies can often order the advert to be withdrawn or can impose other penalties. Of course, now and then a misleading advert does appear but it...
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