Monday, November 23, 2015

Truth in Advertising

I love advertising.  I wish I had gone into that line of work, actually.

In the United States, we have "truth in advertising" laws.  These laws basically define what the truth is.  So, when describing a product - let's say hamburger - you can say "Never Frozen" even though the hamburger had actually been frozen.  This is because the word "frozen" is defined by science differently than its defined by law.  When you and I say "frozen", we mean one thing, but advertisers and product labelers are saying something else entirely.

The same goes for a whole string of "bullshit" words.  All Natural.  New.  Improved.  Healthy.  Most of these words have legal definitions that vary from what you and I think when we hear the word. Think about this:  How can something be both "new" and "improved" at the same time?  That really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?

There is one bastion of truth in advertising:  pharmaceutical advertising.  First of all, promoting prescription drugs directly to the general public is fraught with moral landmines.  [The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries on earth that allow direct to consumer marketing of prescription pharmaceuticals.]  The limits imposed in exchange for the ability to advertise have pretty wide ranging effects.  Having to list all those side affects makes for some riveting commercials, [NOT!].  Does anyone know what the "purple pill" does?  They never actually say, but we know it may cause bloody poop.

But when you think about it, these ads are proof that at least someone understands what is really meant by "truth in advertising".  The pharmaceutical ads are required to go beyond truth all the way to disclosure.

What makes them so different from other products or advertising statements?  What if other companies were subject to the same rules as pharmaceuticals? Would they say things like:
Our prices are lower because we buy substandard product from overseas factories which benefit from child labor and then we under pay our employees and use Medicaid as an employee benefit.  All for you!
The meat we use in our food has been processed right up to the point where it is not even considered meat anymore by the USDA.  Then we back it off just a bit.  The enables us to keep our prices low. Come in today and get two for the price of one.
We have improved our product.  Look, its got a new box.  Nice, huh?
This product is all natural.  That's right, even the food coloring, which at one point was determined to be too dangerous to be a prescription drug.  But, don't worry it passed the USDA food safety screens just fine.  It's derived from petroleum by-products from the refining process, and we all know that petroleum comes from the ground, and the ground is natural.
That might make television commercials more interesting, at least.

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