Thursday, July 21, 2016

Truth in Advertising; and Other Fantasies

Do you believe everything you see and read in advertising? No, wait. Let me restate that. Do you believe “anything” you see or read in advertising? If you answered yes to either question, it may be time for a reality check.

There is very little in the fantasy world of advertising that holds any resemblance to actual fact, let alone truth. Indeed, it is the manipulation of facts to the advantage of the advertiser that results in the actual sale of their products or services.

Let’s face it. The sole purpose of advertising is to sell you something that you may or may not need in order to make a profit for the seller. Even if the product or service is labeled “non-profit” or “Free offer” rest assured that someone, somewhere is out to gain some of what you have to their own advantage.

So, does that make the advertising game evil and/or despicable? Of course not. That is, unless they intentionally set out to deceive and swindle their customers, in which case they are lower than low. This is why the old adage “Caveat Emptor” (Let the buyer beware) is older than the dead language that spawned it.

Anyone should be allowed a reasonable profit margin for the things they sell. The question becomes, “Who determines what is reasonable?”  The answer? Quite simply, you do. By you I mean the buyer; hopefully, an informed and cautious consumer.

It should be obvious that there are a lot of advertisers out there who are ready to pounce upon an unsuspecting and uninformed public. If this was not the case there would be no need for so many regulatory commissions and agencies or consumer protection advocates all trying to defend the public against being ripped off.

Smoke and mirrors, deception, illusion, bait and switch, half-truths, near-truths, appealing to the senses, sexual titillation and innuendo, subliminal messages and, yes, even children and puppies are all available for use by advertisers to manipulate a waiting public and convince them to buy, buy, buy. It is such an onslaught that we can be overwhelmed at times.

Often advertisements make no sense at all. They are not meant to. The product for sale may not even be mentioned until the last possible moment, almost as an afterthought. Why? They simple want to make sure to grab your attention. They want to make their product memorable through association. The more outrageous the ad, the more likely you are to remember it. Eventually, through repetition, you will begin to make the association until the time comes to purchase their product. Doesn’t matter if theirs is the best choice. It will be the one you remember. Results? Product sold.

We have all seen these television commercials. People acting outrageously, idiotically, even moronic all in the name of having a good time so that you will associate their product with the fun and excitement, hoping that, if you feel good through association, you will remember them when the time comes to open your wallet. Personally, I have a real aversion to buying a product advocated and endorsed by idiots. But that’s just me. Apparently, I am in the minority as the ads persist.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves? I have complied a list of a few tips that may be helpful.

1.      Be skeptical. Any offer that sounds too good to be true probably is not true, at least not completely.

2.      Be practical. Ask yourself, “Is this something I really need?” in the overall scheme of things would your money be better spent on something else? Consider alternatives.

3.      Compare. There are always alternatives. Compare prices matched with value. Can you get the same thing somewhere else for less?

4.      Read reviews. For most products you can find reviews by others who have rated it. These reviews may be mixed, but should give you a better picture of the flaws and advantages of making the purchase.

5.      Delay. Don’t make impulse purchases. Mull it over for a day, a week, a lifetime.

You may be able to come up with additional tips on your own. Nevertheless, if you consider these five, you will be well on your way to making more informed decisions and protecting yourself against the fantasy of truth in advertising.


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