False and Misleading Advertising
False and misleading advertisements tend to blur the line between what a product can do and what the company wants you to believe it can do. The goal is to show how great a product is without actually lying or deceiving the public. The problem is that many companies have figured out how to exaggerate a product's benefits using techniques that border on the deceptive. The key is to identify these methods and then make responsible choices based on what the products true benefits and drawbacks. Consumers rights and protection groups can be found on line and encourage people to contact them with questions about misleading advertising and false ads that claim benefits that don't really exist.
Photoshop has become an ad agent’ best friend. A few clicks of the mouse can eliminate excess pounds, blemishes and a wide variety of issues that detract from a product. This is specifically true in the both the food industries as well as with weight loss and self-improvement. Super models and celebrities have their looks altered in every photograph in an attempt to portray a perfect image. One that a normal person could never attain without plastic surgery and a team of beauty consultants. When it comes to our food, beautifying products is the one way a company can make them more appealing. What the consumer sees in an ad is not necessarily look the same as what is served at the restaurant.
One celebrity who recently fought back against her management is Meghan Trainer. After one of her most recent music videos was released on YouTube, the young singer noticed her body had been excessively photo shopped to make her look thinner. She immediately had the video pulled and proceeded to release the version where she looked more natural. She claimed she wanted her fan base to know that she was proud of how she looked without the additional touch ups.
One of the main ways marketing strategists have found to sell products effectively without being completely dishonest is in labeling and how they word things. For example, "light" and "lite" are often used interchangeably even though they have completely different meanings. The key is to get the public to see the word and associate it with a healthy choice. The fact is, depending on which word is used, the product may actually be more harmful. If the manufacturer wants the public to believe the product has less fat or sugar, the appropriate word to use would be "lite". Instead, many companies use the word "light". By doing so, they can lighten the color of the food and keep the amount of sugar and fat at a level where the loss does not affect taste. Because they used the word light and it describes the color of the food, they are not technically being dishonest.
One of the most deceptive words in advertising is "natural". While the word is fairly harmless, advertising companies have stretched its meaning to the point of blatant deception. Many use the word natural when it comes to the source of certain ingredients such as sugar and flavorings. Foods that are "naturally sweetened" with sugar derived from sugar beets may be made to sound as if they are healthier than other foods because of where the sugar comes from. In truth, the sugar beets used may have been genetically modified and are actually more harmful to a person's health than sugar derived from sugar cane.
Flavorings and colorings also fall into this category. A flavoring may come from a natural source, but may actually be more harmful. Karageenan is one specific flavoring that is commonly added to foods to improve the taste. It is derived from a type of seaweed that is extremely high in sodium and other minerals that should be avoided in large quantities. Because there is no actual definition for the term "natural" when it comes to the food and beverage industries, companies do as they please as long as they stay within certain parameters.
Avoiding the Dangers
The key to avoiding the deception and misleading practices of certain advertisers is to be aware of the common areas where it is easy for a company to stretch the truth. Read labels carefully. Ask questions before you buy. If you don't get a sufficient answer at the store, call the number on the product or look it up online to find out if there are any reports of misleading advertising. One of the best ways to avoid deceptive advertising is to buy local. Purchase your foods from local farmers markets or area grocery stores and learn to make things from scratch. Don't let your eyes deceive you when it comes to believing everything you see in a photo advertisement. Customers protection groups can be found online that will help you sort through the deceptive labels and misleading pictures that are commonly associated with your favorite foods or the newest weight loss trends. Don't let an advertisement be the deciding factor in whether or not you choose to make a purchase. Do your research and be proactive. Learn before you buy and become informed about what is actually in the products you purchase.*
*This article provides broad and general guidelines and does not constitute professional or legal advice. You should not use this article as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any advertising, tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions.