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Deceptive Advertising: Discussion of Real Experiences Essay

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2022

It is true that many reasonable individuals, if not all, have fallen victim to one form of deceptive advertising as they go about purchasing products and services and with no prior knowledge that they could indeed be buying into a well orchestrated trap of deception. In most instances, those who perpetrate this vice have full knowledge that deceptive advertising is prohibited by federal laws and could in fact lead to costly legal suits when unearthed. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting consumers from such fraud and deception (Cross & Miller, 2009). However, as it will be demonstrated by the following real life accounts, most deceptive advertising go unnoticed due to a myriad of constraints facing the FTC, including inadequate funding, perceived lack of political will, and new and more complex techniques used by companies to perpetrate the vice.

The FTC finds an advertising deceptive “…if first, there is a representation, omission or practice that, second, is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and third, the representation, omission, or practice is material” (Richards, 1990, p. 106). However, real life accounts demonstrate that this definition is flouted on daily basis by greedy companies and service providers operating in the U.S. and abroad. For example, U.S. consumers are often bombarded by various beauty products and accessories that claim to have been endorsed by a general practitioner, a health association, or a renowned beauty therapist (Siegel, 2008). These advertisements main aim is to appeal to the consumers to buy more of such products by creating factually untrue and potentially misleading representation that the products are indeed 100 percent safe. As such, the companies enhance their sales revenues at the expense of the health of unsuspecting consumers as many who have used these products achieve outcomes that are different from what would normally be expected if they had reasonable knowledge before purchasing the beauty products. Companies need to realize that they expose themselves to hefty legal penalties under the U.S. federal laws by engaging in such practices (Cross & Miller, 2009), not mentioning that they risk losing their reputation.

Recently, Zynga – a game development company – was enjoined with Facebook in a legal suit that sought “…roughly $5 million in damages for their use of false and misleading special offers which have helped generate enormous profits” (Chalk, 2009, para. 1). It was claimed by one consumer that the advertisements promise participants free in-game money or items only to end up experiencing high charges either through premium cellphone subscription services or unrequested mail order items. Consumers were enticed by the promised hefty offers to take part in the games, but they were not told that there will be some charges applied to their accounts (Chalk, 2009). To borrow from theoretical frameworks, such deception is characteristically implied rather than explicitly stated , leaving consumers with a set of symbols which is vulnerable to two or more interpretations and one interpretation is inherently false (Cross & Miller, 2009; Siegel, 2008). A textual analysis of such type of advertising will definitely reveal that the inaccuracy is material and intended to deceive a reasonable consumer. Again, this is wrong under the U.S. federal laws as it amounts to advertising deception.

Lastly, we have been bombarded by instances of health drinks promotions that promise to give consumers the body and shape of popular movie and TV celebrities. Many consumers have drunk immeasurable quantities of these drinks, but the have only reaped extra body mass and frustration by not achieving the physique demonstrated by the pictures in the advertisement. While it is hard to categorize such advertizing as deceptive mainly due to the conceptual challenges of what constitutes deception (Cross & Miller), it is clear that these images are included in the advertisement to influence the consumers purchasing decisions, not mentioning that some of these images may in fact deceive a reasonable consumer. Consequently, the operating framework of the FTC needs to be strengthened in an attempt to prevent deceptions hidden in imagery and other unfair business practices.

Reference List

Chalk, A. (2009). Zynga sued over deceptive advertising. Web.

Cross, F.B., & Miller, R.L. (2009). The legal environment of business: Text and cases – ethical, regulatory, global, and e-commerce issues, 7th Ed. Mason, OH: South Western Cengage Learning

Richards, J.L. (1990). Deceptive advertising: Behavioral study of a legal concept. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc

Siegel, P. (2008). Communication law in America. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Deceptive Advertising: Discussion of Real Experiences." March 31, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/deceptive-advertising-discussion-of-real-experiences/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Deceptive Advertising: Discussion of Real Experiences'. 31 March.

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