Should Advertisers be Guided by Ethical or Legal Limits?

A few weeks ago Hyundai and its sister company KIA were found guilty by American Authorities of, shall we say, understating the fuel consumption of some of their cars. Some colleagues wanted to know why don’t advertisers stick to the truth.

Firstly, how do you define advertising. Keller says advertising is “any form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor.” Its primary objectives are easily recalled by the acronym DRIP – differentiate, remind, inform, persuade. But in an age of product parity, identifying one or two points of difference that will resonate with your target market can be very challenging. Aaaaahhh, the advertisers’ dilemma, for differentiate they must! And truthful they must also be.

Having looked at advertising let’s now look at truth. Now we must remember that advertising is an honourable profession, and that advertisers never lie. Right? Absolutely! Further the matter of truth in advertising is their watchword. And speaking of the truth, doesn’t it possess some degree of elasticity? After all there is elasticity in demand, and, since advertising should be about creating demand, why not investigate “the elasticity of truth.” And so they develop the hypothesis, design the study and engage in the examination of the elasticity of truth – seeing how far they can stretch the truth without bending it.

So here’s my question: what should guide advertisers in their search for a competitive advantage, ethical or legal limits?

Herman Alvaranga educates marketing and sales people.


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