Friday, May 18, 2012

Truth in advertising? True.

         Students always seem to look askance at me when I tell them you can't lie in advertising. So do my friends. I guess everyone refuses to believe there are laws and government agencies that keep us on the straight and narrow.

         For example, the Campbell's Soup case. To make the veggies in vegetable soup visible to the camera for a commercial, someone suggested that before they put the soup in, they line the bottom of the bowl with marbles, for the vegetables to stand on. The government said no, that looked like far more vegetables than in a can of the soup. Campbell was heavily fined.

        A couple of days ago, thanks to the Federal Trade Commission again, Sketchers agreed to pay $40-million after the FTC and 45 state attorneys general accused the company of falsely advertising their line of "toning" shoes. It seems the weight loss and health benefits weren't true. The only thing that got toned were the customers' wallets.

         Sketchers made close to a billion dollars in sales from these fitness shoes, at about $100 a pair. Celebrities were hired to sell the shoes, including Kim Kardashian, Joe Montana, and Brooke Burke. The message from the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection? "Shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims." That's a quote from an official.

         I'm not even sure this will satisfy people who don't believe there are consequences for false advertising. When they're not happy they tend to say "that was sold to me" rather than "I bought that."

         I believe lying in advertising simply doesn't pay. Creative people I know tend to be scrupulously honest. Besides, they understand the penalties can mean the end of their careers. Not worth it.

         Advertising campaigns based on untruths ultimately fail. People are smart. Those ads that do survive for a while will pay the consequences eventually.

         The good people in advertising know they don't have to resort to trickery to sell things. The rest shouldn't be in advertising.

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