Monday, July 18, 2005

Unethical Practice in Advertising - #1 - Puffery

People ask me 'What does it mean to be involved with an ethical advertising agency?' and 'What is ethical advertising anyway?' I've talked about it a bit on this blog, but sometimes it's easier to define something by its exclusion.

People are savvy. They are a lot more savvy than most bad advertising gives them credit for. In this day and age, no one really believes anything that ads say to them. And smart ads don't expect them to.

But nonetheless, there are plenty of unethical gimmicks that advertisers use.

I will talk about one a day on this blog for the next little while, starting with puffery.

Puffery is the misleading exaggeration of a product or offer.

While a lot of the humour in advertising is derived from hyperbole, it is the deliberate misleading nature of puffery that 1. Consumers disbelieve and discredit instantly and 2. Use to discredit advertising as a whole.

Do you really expect anyone to believe that your product is the cheapest, best, most reliable, strongest, fastest or longest-lasting?

Pretty much any adjective beyond colour clouds over the eyeballs anyway. So what is the point of harping on your own superiority? Especially when research has found that implication is as persuasive as assertion.


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