Truth And Advertising Rarely Mix

In the one of the Adrants Network forums, the question was asked, "Is truth in advertising dead?" It's a good question because one wonders if there ever was truth in advertising. Consultant John Morton thinks truth is alive and well and can be used as a powerful advantage over the competition saying, "Of course there's truth left in advertising. Good advertising, at least. I think truth and honesty in advertising is the secret weapon to reach our audiences today given the current landscape of hyperbolic ads that are out there."

Swivel Media Creative Director and International Experiential Marketing Association Director Erik Hauser thinks there's life left in advertising truism but the industry has an increased laise faire attitude. "Truth in advertising isn't dead, but the spotlight on the truth in most ads just keeps getting narrower and narrower by the minute." He feels advertising has become one big caveat that isn 't fooling consumers.

"There are too many asterisks in today's world of advertising. It will get back to basics when advertisers realize that people really do hear all of the harmful side effects of the medicines advertised on TV - no matter how soothing the voice is. Diarrhea is diarrhea."

One creative director points out truth and advertising have never been in close association. "One could argue that there really never was such a thing as 'truth' in advertising -- we're always presenting a colored version of the truth, casting our product in the best light, ignoring some of the, shall we say, less flattering things about the product."

Brand Central Station President and CEO Mike Bawden, noting media's contribution to the truth famine, thinks the rapid fragmentation and endless list of choices has yielded to content the audience wants to hear rather than what they should hear. "The rapid expansion of media bandwidth via the Internet, cable/satellite television and other channels has created a vacuum that has sucked up all the information available - fact, fiction and everything in between. This makes "the truth" almost impossible to define and, maybe more importantly, is conditioning audiences to only listen to the truth they want to hear."

Hammering the point home humorously is ad vet Harry Webber who explains the two faces of truth in advertising: Mobile and Absolute. "The objective in advertising is to appeal to a version of Mobile Truth or the Truth of the Marketplace. In other words, the truth that defines a given market segment's unmet wants needs and desires. We ask a sample of 1500 respondents their version of the truth about bad breath, dandruff or financial security. They give us 1500 opinions. We stoically proclaim that we now know the truth about what the consumer wants. We then craft our products and their selling messages to appeal to that Truth of the Marketplace."

Webber claims it's not a question of whether truth in advertising is dead. Webber says truth and advertising are entirely unrelated. "What we do has nothing to do with the truth. What we do has everything to do with what we assume our target consumer believes is the truth. To us, their perception is reality. And our perception of what those 1500 people believe is the truth is 'the truth.' 1500 'truths' out of 90 million."

Truth is a strange concept. Rarelt is it an absolute. In many instances, particularly in a capitalist, commercial society, truths are twisted to suit goals driven by financial objectives. "Truths" will be told, or ignored entirely, to insure actions occur that positively benefit the entity doing the telling. So what if too much beer causes a state of inebriation. In commercial society, drinking the right beer gets a guy the hottest girl. So what if the making of perfume might cause harm to animals. In a commercial society, smelling right gets a girl the hottest guy.

by Steve Hall    Dec-22-04   Click to Comment   
  

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