The Top Seven Ways Advertisers Lie to You
Every day, the average urban dweller consumes over 5,000 advertisements across various mediums including television, the Internet, the radio, as well as the physical space, like billboards and signage. Advertising is a trillion dollar industry worldwide, and with that kind of money being thrown around, you can bet those advertisers are going to use every trick at their disposal to find some way into your wallet.
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7. Endorsed by Who?
Have you ever looked at a product and noticed a stamp or seal which proclaimed that the item in your hand was endorsed or approved by some agency you’ve never heard of? That’s probably because that agency doesn’t really exist. Companies will often create their own agencies to endorse their products, giving consumers the false impression that the product has been given the thumbs up by an authority on the issue.
For instance, there's the "Smart Choices Made Easy" seal found on various food products in supermarkets across the nation. This seal and its implied health endorsement was created by one of the largest food manufactures in the world, and was designed to make consumers think that those products were, well, "smart" choices than other products which did not have that seal.
But the Smart Choices program recently made headlines when the FDA brought the hammer down because they realized that brands were applying the seal kind of liberally, and they took issue with their use of it on things like, you know, Corn Pops.
6. It Says "Deluxe" Right There on the Box!
Can anyone pinpoint what exactly defines a product as “premium?" Popov Vodka is a "premium" liquor – it says so right on the label – but anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to drink it will tell you it’s better suited to free up clogged drains than make cocktails. Advertisers rely on vaguely-defined terms to influence consumers' associations with those products.
What makes a food “Light” or a truck “Heavy Duty?" There are no clear legal specifications for these terms, so companies are basically free to use terms like these to convince consumers that a product has added value when it very well may not.
5. Buy the Numbers
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It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to juke the stats when it comes to the art of hocking product. The easiest way to do this is to use slight alternations of widely understood standards to make a number appear larger than it actually is.
For instance, when ISPs advertise Internet service, they typically use the “Mbps” and “Kbps” units of measurement, instead of the standard “Mb” and “K." While most people think of Megabyte when they see “Mb” (because that’s how almost everything is measured in the tech world now), what they’re actually seeing is Megabit, a unit of measurement which is rarely seen anywhere else. Since a bit is 1/8th of a byte, when most people think they’re buying a 5 Megabyte connection, what they’re actually getting is an 8th of that – 625 Kilobytes per second, or just a bit over half a Megabyte.
And of course, that’s the absolute maximum, and even that is typically far from normal performance. But those advertisers bank on customers’ lack of knowledge in hopes that those larger numbers will make their service appear more attractive.
4. This Product Will Fix Everything
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The use of suggestion is the heart and soul of advertising. As advertising evolves, those creating the adverts lean more and more heavily on psychological tactics to create subconscious associations between products and typical issues in people’s lives, even if the association is extremely vague, or just flat out incongruous.
When a company shows an advert where a mother is neglecting to pay attention to her children and offers quick-bake cookies as a time-saving solution, they are trying to convince us that these cookies will suddenly make us better parents, and that the potential 10 minutes saved baking cookies will equate to a better relationship with our children. A dysfunctional family won’t suddenly become a happy, cohesive unit because someone puts a plate of snickerdoodles on the table, but if you flash that idea in front of someone’s face enough times, it might just stick.