Brad Wollman is an Advertising Major at University of Florida looking to inform readers about how to become an informed consumer when exposed to deceptive advertising.

Brad Wollman is an Advertising Major at University of Florida looking to inform readers about how to become an informed consumer when exposed to deceptive advertising.

The return of General Motors

     At a cost of $3.5 million for a half minute spot, the expense equals about 15 percent of the total revenues GM brought in during the entire month of January. This year, General Motors attempted to take back their share in the auto industry with expensive Super Bowl commercials. While the commercials were funny, they also brought on a lot of controversy.

The commercials brought up the question of whether it is wrong to make misleading claims in commercials. The commercial in question states that General Motors trucks are more dependable then Ford and Chevy trucks.

National Legal and Policy Center author, Mark Modica, explains that no consumer test reports can back up the evidence in the commercials.

Here we can break down the legality of the commercial’s claims.  In order to see if the statement is a lie, you have to ask yourself what the definition of dependable is.  General Motors could argue that they have a warranty that is better then the other companies.  Is a warranty part of dependability?             

Flickr User: David Reber’s Hammer Photography

As a consumer, make sure to question every claim in advertisements. How did the advertiser come up with the information to make a claim?

Not every survey is accurate. Not every examination focuses on what you would think to look for.  While it is wrong for a company to trick a customer, it is always important for the consumer to understand how the claims made in advertisements were derived.

Product Placement

     This week I am taking a different focus on deception in advertising.  The focus is product placement. By definition, product placement is the practice of a company paying for its product to be placed in a prominent position in a film or television program as a form of advertising.   

The premier of the show is a great example of product placement. For example in the beginning of the episode, there are many “The Towns” billboards and ads throughout the show advertising for the NBC show. The episode ended with a birthday party, sponsored by Victoria’s Secret, a brand name that was shown prominently and multiple times throughout the scene.

While it is not extremely deceptive to put actual products into movies and television shows, it is something to keep in mind when shopping.  You have to ask yourself the following question; am I interested in a particular product because I have seen it in a lot of my favorite programs?

Product placement is a very smart tool used by advertisers to grab viewers attention. Many times product placement is free because the use of a product is mutually beneficial. For instance, BMW might want to display their car in a new film, but the film might also want the rights to use a beautiful car in their movie.

Other times, product placement can cost millions of dollars.  If Pepsi wants to be the official soda in a movie, they might pay a huge amount of money to make sure  Coca-Cola is not featured.

Flickr: User Joelh085

Google: The king of deception

    The most dominant force on the internet has been facing criticism for many different reasons recently. Google, the largest internet search engine, is currently facing charges for deceptive tactics in Australia. It is important to be safe when browsing even the most popular websites.

Flickr User: Techy87

The claims say Google search is likely to mislead or deceive a consumer searching for information on the competitor. Web users complained that when searching for one product online, links on Google would send them to competitors pages.

People pressing charges against Google made claims that specific results led to misleading information.  One user claimed that he searched for an Ipad and the results came up for Apple Ipad. He explains that when he clicked on the link however, it brought him to a page for the the Amazon Kindle.

The Kindle is a direct competitor of the Ipad.  The Australian court system found Google guilty. Last year, an Australian judge found that this was not Google’s problem because the search giant did not “make” the representations in the ads. The Full Court, however, found that “Google created the message which it presents.”

This type of deception may not have been an intention of Google, but it is important to look at any possible deception in a product. Whether the product you are selling is a physical product, service, or an application, it is critical to make sure that what you are selling is not misrepresentative of you and your companies brand.

Riding the wave of litigation

     It is important to remember that creating a deceptive advertisement has many consequences.  Not only can it ruin a brand image, brand loyalty and drive consumers to competitors, but it can also result in a lawsuit.  Dealing with a lawsuit can cause huge sums of monetary damage and ultimately push a company into bankruptcy.

Seattle Trademark Lawyer - Jimmy Lewis v. Trident False Advertising Photo.jpg

The link above is an advertisement recently run by a company called Starboard Pro Wave. In the advertisement there is a faint impression of the Starboard logo in order to lead consumers to believe the Jimmy Lewis custom board was the 2011 Starboard Pro Wave board.  

Jimmy Lewis is currently suing Starboard Pro Wave. Even though there is no direct quote stating that the board in the picture is the one being advertised, it is alluded to and easily confused.

Many questions arise in a legal case like this.  Did the original owner have full rights to the picture? Was the picture stolen from the original owner? Is the advertisement truly considered deceptive?

All of these questions leave Starboard Pro Wave in an extremely difficult situation. It would be ideal if they could take back the advertisement, but the advertisement has already led many customers from Jimmy Lewis to Starboard Pro Wave.

Ultimately, it is unethical to use another companies product to enhance the image of your own company.  Starboard Pro Wave has not responded to claims by Jimmy Lewis. Jimmy Lewis is pressing charges against the company.

When you look at an advertisement, it is important to be aware that a picture of the product may be misleading.  It is impossible to tell quality, durability and other features from a picture. The answer to this weeks question about discerning deceptive advertising is simple. Do your research before purchasing durable goods.

We will have to wait and see what the result of this case will be.  For now, hit the beach and enjoy the beautiful surfing conditions.

Photo Credit: Flickr User: Altus

Unachievable Beauty

     A large cosmetic company, Helena Rubenstein, has been facing criticism for images in their newest advertisements. The photos show Demi Moore with flawless skin. The advertisements use Photoshop to airbrush Moore’s face and give the appearence of no wrinkles and perfect skin.

     The use of airbrushing in advertising has been increasing over the past ten years.  The airbrush technique allows designers to make people look much better then even make-up or plastic surgery ever could.

    Since the onset of the airbrushing technique, consumers and businesses have been complaining about overuse of the technique.  Many companies including L’Oreal, Sports Illustrated and others have been using airbrushing on people in advertisements.

    As a consumer it is sometimes upsetting to see celebrities with computer enhanced skin when in reality, not even the most beautiful people in the world could compare.

     Here, the company, Helena Rubenstein, takes advantage of the software called Photoshop.  They took Demi Moore just after she had been released from rehab and produced images that suggested false results of using their product. It is important to always be aware of the use of Photoshop in advertising.

    Photoshop does not have to be deceptive. When used properly, Photoshop and other photo editing software can help to create designs and photos that stand out and have a large impact on advertisements. Advertisements like these make it seem that society is losing sight of what real beauty is.

Magically Deceptive

     If you eat four bowls of Lucky Charms you will be fulfilling your whole grain nutrition needs for the day. This is the impression many cereal companies are feeding children.  By focusing the labeling on whole grain, General Mills is pushing false ideas on consumers.

When you turn the box around and look at the ingredients, it is true that whole grain is the main ingredient. What the box forgets to explain is that the ingredients also include marshmallows and sugar. In these marshmallows are sugar, modified corn starch, corn syrup, dextrose and gelatin.

What the consumer should be thinking is that eating four bowls of Lucky Charms will give you 80 grams of sugar and may lead to diabetes. This leaves the consumer with the following question.  Is it more important for the advertiser to be honest, or is it the consumers job to be more perceptive of misleading packaging?

There is a problem if people are choosing to be healthy, but end up unknowingly buying food that can create health problems. This illusion is comparable to the deception a magician uses when pulling a bunny out of his hat.

Photo Credit: Flickr User: Jenn and Tony Bot

People should be given the choice to eat unhealthily, but also the power to know what they are doing to their bodies.

Dr. Tony Gerk, of Northeast Colorado Family Medicine Associates, said that people don’t realize but Lucky Charms has more sugar then a can of coke.

The famous cereal brand is now trying to convince consumers that their brand is a healthy choice. One might wonder whether the companies slogan should be changed from magically delicious to magically deceptive.

"Siri"ous Consequences

     Many consumers were influenced by recent advertisements for the IPhone 4S produced by Apple Inc. The advertisements focus on a new voice-activated personal assistant called Siri which is the main new feature the previous IPhone did not have. In the commercial released in late 2011, Apple claims that Siri “has the answer for almost anything.”

Now, an Apple customer has filed suit against the company for false advertising. The consumer says the advertisements were deceptive and misleading. Many of the complaints about Siri involve the applications inability to interpret different accents or its inability to perform tasks with the ease seen in commercials.

Here is what the man filing this lawsuit forgot to mention. Siri is an application that is still in the Beta testing stage, meaning that it is still a work-in-progress. Another important fact not mentioned in the lawsuit, is the text on the bottom of the commercial. It reads “sequences shortened” when the phone is shown completing tasks with such ease.

There are clearly two sides to this argument. Apple’s advertising company has taken a risky choice of tactics to draw in customers and increase the products buzz. At the same time, the man pursuing this lawsuit has the right to be disappointed with the product. He also claimed that on top of the fact that Siri is not working well, his data usage has increased with the new phone.

Next time you watch any commercial, make sure to note any small text and also be prepared to do your research. It is never a bad idea to use the Internet to do your own research about products you plan to purchase. Websites and blogs like can help you make more informed decisions about products you purchase.

Here is a link to the commercial.

Annoying Online Advertisements

     In the era known as the Digital Age, the Internet has become one of the main mediums for advertising. When people surf the Internet, it is important to know what deceptive qualities to look for.

While pop-up blockers do prevent many annoying and deceptive ads from appearing on your computer, with the limited regulation over Internet advertising it is crucial to be extra observant. The link below shows one persons interpretation of the common pop-up advertisement.

One of the main things to look for is small print.  Just like products on the store shelf may hide the truth about ingredients in a product, Internet advertisements can use catchy images and words to draw you into a deeper scheme.

Jamster, an online ring tone source, is one website that has been using ads to make money off of consumers. The advertisement in the link below shows a catchy ad to buy ring tones.  What many consumers don’t realize is the small print that explains a contract you are entering into.  This use of a binding contract makes customers looking to pay a dollar for a song become locked into a monthly addition to their phone bills.

A website named “Jamster Scam” highlights the severity of this problem.  Turns out that even if you are a savvy shopper, it is easy to get tricked into buying services and products you do not want while online. Next time you see an advertisement on your computer screen make sure you know what the advertisement is actually trying to sell you.

Healthy Cigarettes

     In the past few years, many groups of people are speaking out against cigarette companies. At University of Florida, cigarettes and tobacco products were recently banned on campus.  It’s impressive how much legislation is involved in fighting for and against cigarette companies.

Because of the harsh criticism of cigarette use, the role of advertising is especially important. Good advertising helps to disprove critics and create value in a product.

The American Spirit Advertisement below uses deceptive language to sell their product.

David Kiefaber calls American Spirit, “the Ben and Jerry’s of cigarettes.” He explains that even though Ben and Jerry’s claims to use natural products, they certainly are using syntax to reach the consumer.

The advertisement below reads, “Natural Tastes Better.” It explains that the product shown uses all natural tobacco and suggests that it is a healthy option. The warnings that are required by federal regulations show the truth.

The first warning clearly states that despite having no additives, it is not a safer choice than other cigarette brands.  The second warning states that quitting cigarettes now greatly reduces health risks in the future.

As a consumer it is important to be aware that just because the facts are indisputable in an advertisement, they may be covering up more important facts that could affect you as a consumer.

Even the commercial in the following link is fighting against cigarette use, but at the same time it is helping Pfizer create a positive brand image for its health company. Next time you look at an advertisement be sure to understand why a company is sending you the message it chooses to use.{creative}&kw={keyword}