Are you ad-proof, or do you occasionally find yourself taken in by a claim or aspirational image in adverts? Some of you are already wise to the tricks of the trade.
We noticed that some community members take a slightly more cautious approach to adverts, but surely not everyone is so ad-proof?
Picture the scene. A car drives fast down a sunny coast road miraculously free of other vehicles. Or how about this: an impossibly glamourous couple laughing and dancing at four in the morning through the streets of Paris.
You get the idea. Neither of these adverts makes a claim about the product. In fact, neither tells you anything much about it – the wheel trim of the car nor the smell of the after shave being promoted.
And none of us really believes a new car will ensure a life of sunshine and no traffic lights. Or that the sniff of a new aftershave will have Hollywood stars hammering at our door in the middle of the night.
Still the subtext is clear. Buy this product and get a taste of this wonderful, glamorous/exciting/dangerous (insert your own adjective) lifestyle.
That kind of subliminal advertising is one thing, but there are also plenty of product ads that make more overt claims, inviting you to enjoy shinier hair, whiter teeth or faster broadband.
As far as such claims go, Which? Conversation member Malcolm R is firmly in what he calls the ‘pinch of sodium chloride’ camp, as he put it in our discussion of claims made for shampoos:
‘As far as marketing is concerned, it has been going on for thousands of years. A supplier will tell you all the positive features of a product, but is unlikely to advertise the negative ones. If we don’t know by now to take advertising claims with a pinch of sodium chloride and use our own judgement and instincts (helped, perhaps, by exposures from Which?), we never will.’
Or as Derek P, puts it:
‘Might there be a clue to the veracity and value of some of these claims within the first four letters of the word sham… poo!’
Watch the wording
We’ve been very sceptical of some marketing. For example, when we looked at the science behind toothpaste claims, our experts compared two toothpastes that claimed to give whiter teeth in a week and saw no evidence to back up the claims.
Some ad claims are of course carefully worded. We’ve been campaigning against those broadband ads that say you can get a speed of ‘up to’ – ads that are technically OK if only 10% of customers can actually get that speed.
I like to think that I share the firm common sense of many Which? Convo members in casting a cold eye on advertising claims.
And yet. Aren’t we all a bit susceptible? With me, it’s eye wrinkle cream. Being a chap of a certain age, I confess to having at least two brands of cream on my bathroom shelf that claim to tackle those fine lines around your eyes.
It’s not really that I expect they’ll make me look or feel 20 years younger. Not really. But you never know. The hope still lingers.
Claims that crumbled
Some advertisers do run into problems. Food giant Kellogg’s, for example, has been banned from telling consumers that its Special K cereal is ‘full of goodness’ and ‘nutritious’ in UK ad campaigns.
And there are those ads that go disastrously wrong.
When some cigarettes called Strand were launched, a big TV ad campaign was produced to publicise them. It showed a dark, wet, deserted London street scene in which a raincoated character, played by Terence Brook, looking similar to Frank Sinatra, lit a cigarette and puffed reflectively. In the background played a tune, The Lonely Man Theme and a voice announced ‘You’re never alone with a Strand.’
It may have sounded good, but sales were so poor that Strands were soon taken off the market. The trouble was that people associated smoking Strand cigarettes with being lonely and who wants to think of themselves as lonely?
So do you think you can be convinced by advertising? Would you choose a product or perhaps a brand purely based on an advert? Or do you consider yourself a bit more sceptical when it comes to advertising claims?