Exaggerating; Or Testing The Elasticity of Truth?



Very often people ask me, “why do advertisers exaggerate so much?” Quite frankly, finding a simple, appropriate answer doesn’t always come easily.

Firstly, how do you define advertising; and what are its primary objectives? Keller, of Strategic Brand Management fame, 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!

Now we must remember that advertising is an honourable profession, and that advertisers will never tell a lie. Right? Absolutely! Further there is the matter of truth in advertising. 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.” Hey we may be on to something here! And so they develop the hypothesis, design the study and engage in the examination of the elasticity of truth. Simply put, they want to know how far they can stretch it. And why not, if still legal?

So why do advertisers exaggerate? Do they really? Or is it guided research in pursuit of that elusive competitive advantage?


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