An advertisment which does not accurately describe the product or service which it is selling. False advertisments today usually have to be quite blatantly wrong to get anyone to respond to them, since most advertisements now contain either some subtle degree of falseness or highly subjective descriptions. This is the result of evolving marketing departments which are constantly tesing the waters to see what we are willing to tolerate, and then to market just below that threshold.

There seems to be three different degrees of false advertising: advertisments which bend the truth, subjective false advertising, and blantant false advertising. The first two may be considered more to be misleading or deceptive advertising than false advertising, but they can lead up to false advertising if they manage to get out of hand.

A good example of the kind of false advertisments that bend the truth can be seen in any advertisement for a fast food restaurant. You will usually see a picture of a food item which was perfectly prepared, which you can *never* get when you actually go to purchase. The "food" you see in these ads is usually not even edible since the advertising agencies use cosmetic chemicals to enhance it's visual appeal. Examples of this nonedible food are corn flakes in a bowl of elmer's glue, and soap bubbles in a cup of coffee.

Other times you just get highly subjective ads that are based on someone's opinion or testimony. An example of this is the "Best search engine on the net" claim made by every search engine. It doesn't mean anything, since it's usually a quote from someone who they probably paid off (if they seem significant), or it could just be anyone's opinion (perhaps the company's president's mother). Most advertisments use subjective descriptions of their self-promotion so that they can describe their product however they want, since they could just claim that they were quoting someone instead of making a literal product claim.

Of course there is also blantantly false advertising, which categorically is the same as the above two types, except that it has crossed the line that people are willing to tolerate. An example is a color scanner which claims to scan "36-bit color images", but can only scan the range of 30-bit color and saves the files in 36 bit. Of course blatant ads usually need something to be literally wrong in order for you to do anything about them, such as an advertised price that was not met, or a quantity of included items.

I don't really watch much TV anymore to get exposed to very many advertisments, but I have been catching more and more ads which border on false advertising, and are perhaps pushing the envelope further by desensitizing us to it, allowing us to tolerate more of it before we take reciprocal action.

Items which I believe are usually marketed under false advertising:

  • All fast food restaruants
  • Anything by that "Igia" company that sells beauty products. "Sign up now and get free paraffin wax for life. Only 4.95 shipping and handling per pound".
  • Magnetic bracelets (or any of the new holistic magnetic therepy derivitives). If they would just be more straightforward that these things aren't proven to work for most people, instead of finding the 3 people who experience placebo effect to give testimony, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Most exercise equipment that requires an entire infomercial to sell it.
  • more to come as I think of them...

I know this is sort of a tangent rant, but I also hate those advertisments that say "Respond in 20 minutes to get an extra bottle of Goober®'s car cleanser for free!". While this isn't much of a false advertisment claim since you don't lose anything since they give it to you no matter when you call, it's still irritating that they use a lie to rake in the impulse buyers.

There doesn't legally seem to be much we can do about false advertising since there's not usually anything solid to go after in most of these ads. Perhaps the best thing to do is to parody these deceptive ads online and point out to everyone how wrong they are. In the cases where there are obviously deceptive ads, it would be great if people would start writing letters to these companies to obtain an official response to the disparity between advertisment and product. Perhaps this would make a great website, to post these letters and their responses. I could imagine there would probably be significant entertainment value in the corporate response to my letter to McDonalds where I ask why I never get a Big Mac like the ones I see on TV.