Deception and Advertising
Does a Big-Mac every look like what it does on television? Does anything on television look or work like it does when you purchase it?
Your answer to that would probably be no. As a result, the question we have to ask ourselves is "is what these companies do ethical?"or "are they trying to deceive us?'. Since the dawn of television ads have always been somewhat misleading. In the fifties smoking ads portrayed that cigarettes were perfectly healthy.
Is it illegal or not. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the freedom of speech amendment, places restraints on the government regarding the regulation of advertising. As a result the Federal Trade Commission was established to regulate deceptive advertising. The question remains,what is considered deceptive advertising and who decides? Well those questions are mainly decided by the commissioners of the FTC. Resulting in a few people dictating what is and what is not deceptive. The FTC has created policies of what is deceptive advertising. (1) there is a representation, omission, act or practice that is (2) likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and (3) the representation, omission, or practice is "material." Now what do they mean by "material." This refers to the fact that the FTC will only regulate deceptions that are important to the consumer.
The basic approach of the FTC is that is an advertisement conveys a message that differs from the reality of the product, that is deception. This requires the FTC to look at the evidence in two different ways. (1) evidence concerning what message is conveyed to the consumer and (2) evidence that relates directly to the products capabilities. But how they decide what product to look at and what evidence do they use? In one case it is up to the consumer. They rely on surveys that are distributed to the consumers. The other way is to conduct test on products themselves. For example, fuel mileage on a car; is it actually what the commercials advertise?
What do they so with a product that is found to be deceptive. Most companies, when found out they have deceptive ads, usually agree to change and follow FTC regulations. But what if they do not? Then the advertiser will face three possible repercussions.
- a Cease and Desist Order, which makes the advertiser to stop
- an Affirmative Disclosure Order, which forces the advertiser to include more information on the product
- a Corrective Advertisement, this is another commercial which forces them to correct the deceptions in previous commercials.
All companies refer to their products as being "the best" or "the greatest". This though is not deception, but is used as a loophole for most companies. The companies state that people need to use their common sense and good judgement, and not always believe what they see. The FTC has created laws to defend against this.
We all know that advertisement is deception and deception is advertisement. Companies rely on use to use common sense. Things will always look better than they are. How many of you have watched an infomercial and believed that the product will work? Not many I'm sure. If you think that you can use a kitchen knife to help with your pluming by cutting through a lead pipe then move into the kitchen and slice bread with ease, you deserved to be deceived.