The significance of truth in advertising

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The significance of truth in advertising

Did you know, zero gms of trans fat may not be a perfect 0? FDA regulations state 0.5 gms is permitted to disclosed as zero. Yet nutritionists believe that more than 2 gms of trans fat per daily diet can be harmful. How harmful? Who can say? But the notion that 25% of a harmful level is negligible seems to be an acceptable lie. (See: Are Marketers Out Smarting Us, by Stating Zero Trans Fat? http://everydayhealthforlife.com/zero-trans-fat-doesnt-necessarily-mean-zero/). Also, since the Organic Trade Association lobbied Congress to allow toxic additives in organic foods, you can probably only get true organic produce if you grow/raise it in your own backyard (See: What Does the USDA Organic Label Really Mean? http://www.care2.com/causes/what-does-the-usda-organic-label-really-mean.html)

Can we handle the truth?

Can placing a veil over the truth in order to gain acceptance really be considered a sustainable business model? Even if there is a standard return policy on most advertised offers, and a 1-year defects warranty, does the customer really want to make choices based on those caveats? Should shareholders be concerned that a high-speed advertising train might run out of track at some undefinable point when consumers flee having felt they were misled? Or, like the character Cypher in the Matrix, would consumers bask more happily in the glow of an illusion that whatever they are buying today is better than what they are replacing.

Truth is subjective

Self-image sets the tone for all forms of rationalization in making decisions. Self-image rarely aligns with how one is perceived, creating a perpetual ‘truth dichotomy’. For example, celebrities struggle when their public persona is not in synch with their self-image. Young, talented musicians sing about their personal frailties, yet the public demands role models of perfection. Take that idea into the democracy of consumer markets: when a brand overstates its claim in order to maintain its public persona it can fall from grace as easily as a Starlet of today becomes the Tabloid mockery of tomorrow.

Perception is Reality

In marketing and sales we would say it a bit differently: Expectations, once created, are like Promises. If you advertise to build customer expectations, you have to deliver on that promise.

Truth is also highly experiential and therefore highly subjective. While Customer Experience Departments aim to make the brand honest, it doesn’t mean the customer will have their expectations met.

Risk in advertising

Generating lots of awareness and response is not a true measure of success if the advertising sets expectations that are not sustainable. I am not talking about grounds to sue. Most mice-type at the bottom of the page protects the marketer. I simply mean where customers believed the ad and couldn’t sustain that belief in the product, either pre- or post-purchase.

On whom does the burden of truth  fall: the ad agency or the marketer? Does a creative ad deserve industry recognition if the brand that it represents sees a high rate of customer churn? To say ‘Yes’ puts the onus on the client. Is there any responsibility on the agency to do due diligence and inform the client when there is a misalignment between the advertising promise and the product delivery? When advertising is regarded as entertainment at the Superbowl, perhaps we have already accepted that it has entered the realm of fantasy and we have adjusted to that. But when it comes to hard cash that we feel was not well-spent, whom do we blame? The manufacturer or the ad agency.

Truth is hard to find

Advertisers, politicians, lawyers, real estate agents, journalists: we live in a world where Truth is constantly subject to distortion, concealed, deleted or being reinvented. But, isn’t it refreshing when an advertiser starts telling the truth? How do agencies manage this process? I believe that customer-centric marketing is the best advocate for truth in advertising. When major brands like McDonald’s opens up the kimono on how it creates ads and delivers its service we see consumers sit up and pay attention. I like that.

Written By   Jon|Advertising Truths, Relationship Marketing, Uncategorized|Comments Off on The significance of truth in advertising
Written By   Jon|Advertising Truths, Relationship Marketing, Uncategorized|Comments Off on The significance of truth in advertising

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Jon Sherrington

Owner, Strategist, Writer – Hydrogen Creative Inc.

May 1996 – Present

My role is to provide strategic marketing guidance to clients to ensure their objectives are attainable, remain in focus and the communications solutions work.

My expertise is in how to realign goals-oriented brands, products, services or businesses to customer values to build loyalty, frequency and continuity.