Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deceptive Advertising

There are obvious forms of deceptive and unethical advertising, which are actually illegal - such as bait and switch (offering one product at a very low price, but in an extremely limited supply to bring traffic to a store), false statements of fact, unsubstantiated claims or testimonials and misleading disclosures.

This kind of deceptive advertising is pretty much the territory of shady pharmaceutical companies and amateur 'do it yourself' advertisers for car dealerships and grocers.

For example:

Products that claim to be "cholesterol free" are nevertheless made with highly saturated fats and many products advertised as "sugar free," including Equal and Sweet 'n Low, contain dextrin (or corn syrup), which is made of calorie-containing carbohydrates, very similar to sugar in chemical make-up. These products are not safe for diabetics and/or mold allergy sufferers.

A 1992 study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that 60 percent of the pharmaceutical ads were rated poor or unreliable concerning the information they contained. Yet there is strong evidence these ads influence doctors' decisions about prescribing drugs.

In 1992, 150 health professionals examined 109 full-page ads for drugs in medical journals. The group found that more than 90 percent of the ads violated the Food and Drug Administration's standards in some way.

On the whole, however, advertising now is much more sophisticated. And there are other tactics that advertisers can use, puffery being one of them. Tomorrow, we will discuss another, the poison-remedy model.


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