Friday, July 22, 2005

BedTime Mattresses - 819 West 1st Street, North Vancouver 604-812-9633

Deceptive advertising is like Pandora's box, as soon as I opened the door to look around, I kept finding more and more of it. It is literally falling in my lap. I was handed an 'inter-office' memo this morning which I will repeat. Basically, I am just doing this because I find it somewhat amusing, but the truth is, it's fraud. You can't send information out claiming to be someone you are not. It is illegal. I have no intention of being a media/advertising watchdog, especially in a situation like this one, where they are just being plain stupid, but at the same time I really want to finish up on my series into the mechanics of deceptive advertising. I think once people start to deconstruct what is going on in their advertising, they will put more thought into the kind of message they want to put out into the universe.

Or maybe not. It's kind of like knowing that farmed salmon is dyed red from its usually nutrient-depleted grey self, and is ferreted with lice. You still like to eat cheap sushi with pink ginger and wash it down with pink lemonade and red pistachios or McDonalds. You know its wrong, and it's killing you, and you sure do want someone to tell you the truth about it, but changing your behaviour, ah, that's a slower process.

So you can do what you want on your own time. But as for the Interoffice memo, it comes from Bed Time in North Vancouver. Unfortunately, they don't have a website, so I'll put it in the header so they will be able to at least show up on a search engine on this blog.

Inter-Office Memo

Memo - For Immediate Distribution

To: All Staff
From: Management
Date: July 21, 2005
Re: Productivity

It has come to our attention that there has been a decline in overall productivity. This may be due in part to your heavy workload, but chances are, it is because you are not getting a good night's rest. When you sleep, your body repairs and rejuvenates itself to prepare for the next day's workload and stresses. If you are not well-rested, this can lead to asthma, allergies and other sicknesses. If your mattress is more than ten years old, it is most likely infested with an enormous dust mite population, which also leads to a challenged immune system.

Next to your home and vehicle, a quality mattress is one the most important purchases you will make for your health and well-being. Below is information on a mattress sale happening this Friday and Saturday. This might be a great time for you to take advantage of below wholesale prices on high-quality, name brand mattresses. You deserve a great night's sleep!

Where: 810 West 1st Street, North Vancouver
When: Friday and Saturday, July 22nd and 23rd
Time: Friday: 4:00 - 9:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Information: 604-812-9633

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Poison-Remedy Model

Here I am reading the SPIN handbook - for those of you who haven't read it yet, it is the latest sales textbook regarding sales trends in the modern era. It is all about the poison-remedy model.

To illustrate:

Implication questions, such as: Will having bad acne effect your chances of getting girls? or Will your ineptitude at picking up women cause you to have no friends? or Will your lack of friends cause you to adopt a terrible disposition which will in turn make people distrust you? or Will people's lack of trust for you get you branded as an unseemly sort? or Will this predisposition of your character cause you to be judged and persecuted without due cause?. All for want of a good acne cream. These implication questions create pain or discomfort that can only be alleviated with a solution.

Implication Questions are the precursor to Need questions (the I and the N in SPIN), which we will get into later on.

Needless to say, I'll take a quote right out of the SPIN handbook page 123.

Implication Questions increase pain by extending the seriousness of the problems. A fundamental (ugh) principle of consulting, which applies equally to selling, is that good consulting keeps the client in moderate pain, but never allows that pain to become excessive.

In other words, give them pain, and then take it away. This model, while effective, is a bit dark if you ask me. Advertisers love it, though, and the truth is, it really isn't all that ethically sound. It doesn't bring any happiness into the world. And although there is something to be said for the tough love idea of smartening people up, and giving them a bit of a shake 'Hey! Get your blood pressure checked, fool! Do you want to drop dead at your own 40th birthday surprise party? What are you doing eating bacon 3 times a day? etc. etc. pairing it with excessive materialism is, well, not really our style here.

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Creating Malady, Unrest and Dis-ease

The predicted marketing wars amongst sleep aid drugs are raising alarms among critics who say ads touting medications for common problems - from heartburn to shyness - too often unnecessarily steer patients to prescription drugs.

"We've already started to see an enormous marketing push for these drugs, with insomnia now labeled the latest 'epidemic' threatening the health of America," said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School professor and author of the book "Powerful Medicines."

Avorn says many insomnia patients could find restful sleep by simply avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine or getting enough exercise.

"There's no money to be made advertising those simple lifestyle solutions, but there are billions to be made getting patients onto lifelong use of expensive medications," Avorn said.

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.