Is Advertising an art of Lying ?

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on May 10, 2011

Ad 1: A dark and dull girl applies a fairness cream and within a week becomes a celebrity.

Ad 2: A boring nerdy guy uses a deodorant and the prettiest girl falls for him. 

Ad 3: A person who is scared and petrified, drinks a soft drink and is able to overcome all his fears. 

Funny isn’t it? Yes indeed but a white lie. 

An average person is exposed to about 3000 brands in a day through advertising of various forms. All brands are shouting on top of their voices to get noticed. Some brand is making you appealing once you wear it, one brand is making you braver by just riding it.

Is Advertising Lying ?

Liquor brands are even smarter, they use a technique called to easily lie that drinking this particular ‘soda’ ( read liquor) will make you stronger and much more successful in life that you were or can be without this brand.

However, there are very few brands or products who market in an honest way, showcasing the actual value or offering of the product. “We are XYZ brands, we are a bag, Our bags are strong, made of good leather and costs ABC rupees/dollars”. There was a beautiful ad by suitcase manufacturer Samsonite showing the strength of a strolley in slow frame rate. The same was the USP of the product.

So is advertising mainly about lying where the one who creatively lies the best, takes the customer? Or is the customer totally ignorant and just looks at the ad without looking too much into it?

Ads show big celebrities saying that this product will make you look like him/her. Do you buy that? Many do buy it that’s why there is a very thin line between advertising and lying.

Companies advertise to tell their target group about the new or existing product from their stable. This seems simple when there is only one or two players in the market. Both tell the basic features about their product in the simplest possible manner.

But when the competition gets tougher, so do the rules of the game. A few more players in the market give the customer more choice to switch brands. Instead of two brands, imagine four brands. Thus all four would use the power of advertising to tell about their product. 

Now just imagine a fifth player coming in the market with similar advertising but also adds an element of style in its advertising along with the basic features narrative. It instantly hits the customer and he notices the fifth brand from the crowd. This is called differentiation or more generically Positioning the way Al Ries and Jack Trout defined it.

Similarly players keep joining the market with similar product but different way of presenting it.

Style, stamina, bravery, appeal, success, celebrity etc are just few of the dimensions that would be explored and the real game of lying will begin. They will extend these dimensions further. More creative copies, more indirect messages, more lying.

These days advertising is not confined to just TV or Print but also online. We see a lot of advertising claiming that they will make you earn millions just on clicking the ad or you can earn so much by playing the game. Such cases are blunt lies of advertising.

There are two types of lying in advertising

1) Creative Lying : Such lying uses marketing concepts of Positioning, differentiation, POP (Points of Parity), POD (Points of differentiation) etc to sell their products(pun intended).

2) Blunt Lying : Such lying is used in online advertising similar to examples we used above. Its main motive is to befool people into mistakes and earn money through it.

Just as an example of honesty in advertising, Coca Cola’s brand Sprites campaign ‘Sprite Bujhaye only Pyaas, Baaki Sab Bakwaas’ was a genuine campaign which was straight, honest and even helped Sprite establish itself in India as top soft drink brand.

Advertising is not to be taken in literal sense always but many times people do take them literally especially the ones with stunts or bikes. Such ads are also part of the ‘lying’ ads and end up putting a disclaimer in the ad like ‘Stunts in the ads are done by Professionals and should not be copied’.

Customer never asks the question that when the company is claiming that the boyish guy who is doing all stunts on the bike is actually a professional (or is using a body double) then this is just a ‘well positioned’ ad and not reality. That particular bike is not going to make you hero overnight.

Still such ads and many other ‘lying’ ads will keep touching our lives on daily basis. It’s time for the customer to be more intelligent and take the decision wisely using the tools available. Use the advertisement  just for knowing the brand and the product not literally fall for it.


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