Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Truth in Advertising: A Refreshing Approach

With an enduring perception of consumer advertising as rife with exaggeration and half-truths, the American public has over time been desensitized. We’ve tolerated a certain degree of “dishonesty” because it has become commonplace in TV, radio, print and even electronic ads.

But what has contributed to this situation? Tobacco advertising has certainly had an impact. In the annals of advertising history, smoking was typically depicted as fun or seductive. Cigarette manufacturers continued their glamorous portrayal of smoking even as evidence mounted that it caused numerous ill effects—until, of course, they were forced to change their behavior.

The cosmetic industry has been even more blatant with their claims. Even with constant exposés on ineffective products and less than remarkable results, purchasers continue to view these products as the equivalent to the fountain of youth. So, while we know we are being tricked, we continue to buy and use these products thinking we’ll find the one that does work.

The pharmaceutical industry is another case and point. We continue to look for a magic pill, a panacea for what ails us. Many over-the-counter and prescription drug ads have come under fire for false or misleading claims. But the nearly $3 billion spent each year on prescription drug campaigns says that people are being influenced by this advertising. Truth in Advertising: Rx Drug Ads Come of Age

Earlier this month, we witnessed a new approach to product advertising. With the release of the much heralded, first FDA-approved, over the counter diet pill, Alli™ , consumers were given a harsh dose of reality instead of smoke and mirrors. They were told that this pill could prevent the body from absorbing fat in some foods if, and only if, they became active participants in the diet process.

In an advertising campaign that is expected to cost more than $150 million in the first year alone, GlaxoSmithKline’s ad agency says, “The campaign is aimed at a jaded consumer.” It doesn’t offer a magic bullet, or in this case, a magic pill. It encourages lifestyle changes. In order for the pill to be effective, people need to eat right and exercise more. A unique solution? No. But certainly an honest, refreshing approach to promoting the product!

On the mini-site created in conjunction with the product launch, GlaxoSmithKline boldly states, “It’s time for an honest voice. A promise kept.” Is this the beginning of a new era in advertising? We hope so.

Obviously, the best advertising advice is to tell the truth. Honesty is indeed the best policy. It creates a trust relationship with your target audience that outlives any immediate gain realized by quick-hit ads relying on half-truths and exaggeration. And while it may take some time for this approach to catch on, if you follow this bit of advice, you’ll at least enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a clear conscience.

No comments: