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WHY IS TRUST SO IMPORTANT IN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY?
Advertising can basically be described as one aspect of communication that is used to persuade the audience to act in a certain way with respect to commodities or even ideas. The most common use of advertisement is to make consumers purchase a particular product or service from a company organization. However such communications that contain a political or ideological message are still common in advertising. Advertisement is normally done via the media such as radio, television, newspapers, and the internet. With the emergence of new media, text messages are also used to advertise products, services, politicians or even text messages. It should be noted that advertising is paid for by the sponsor, the company or organization that seeks to communicate the message to the viewers (Connolly, 2009, p. 88).
Over the years marketers and even campaign managers have realized that advertising is a powerful tool for them to influence the masses; and this is why most organizations dedicate a significant percentage of their revenue to advertisement. When one takes a closer look at income statements of organizations, it can be noted that advertisement is a huge cost undertaking for organizations. Perhaps this one of the reason why advertisers will do anything just to make sure they have convinced viewers to act in a way which favors the sponsor. Anything in the above statement represents giving false information about the products or ideas being advertised, spreading murk about competitor products, and incorporating immoral images into the advertisement all these just to attract the attention of consumers. This paper will analyze the use of false information in advertisement.
The use of false information during advertisement is a real problem in the industry especially when it comes to ensuring work ethics. Advertisers seem increasingly pressured to increase sales in their respective organizations that they may end up giving false information to the market if only to achieve this. What is worse is the fact that a decline in sales revenue for most organizations is seen as ineffectiveness on the marketing team’s side (Clark, 2000, p. 8). Take for example a hotel situation where the chefs have prepared good food and the décor is just perfect. When clients fail to visit the hotel it is common to hear the market team being blamed for this even when other issues such as high living costs are responsible. It is due to such situations that most of these marketers are forced into giving false information if only to increase sales and consequently evade the blame being laid on them.
There is a time advertisements were seen as the sole truth, people believed product information they got from these advertisements with minimal consultation. But that time is fast fading with most people now having a negative perception towards advertisement and most of the information got from this important promotional tool being seen as a lie. The advertisement industry has been blamed for propagating smoking and alcoholism amongst other vices. People now hate the industry and not only see it as an intrusion to their space but also as a sector that propagates lies. This is however not good for the industry considering that it relies on persuasion; how can it persuade people who don’t trust it?
The industry has put in place several measures to try and recapture its image and how the public or consumers perceive it. Among these measures is regulation which is being done by even third parties such as the government to ensure that ethical conduct is maintained in all operations.
Regulation of the Advertisement Industry
In the economic circles and also in the marketing field, advertising is considered a necessity for economic stability. However despite its importance, advertising still has some social problems associated with it. These include spam which is a nuisance to many internet users. Also included here is the fact that advertisement is basically focused on using psychological pressure through identification of psychological problems the intended consumer is going through. According to psychological research is harmful to the individual. This is because the advertisers provide false information to the consumer that through a purchase of the advertised product, the consumer will solve their psychological problem. As expected, once the consumer buys the product they realize that it cannot satisfy their problem and hence end up having to deal with same problem, plus cognitive dissonance.
It is due to problems such as the one described above that regulation of advertising was started. This regulation is not only a concept in the United States but also in other countries. One example is South Africa which has the office of the Press Ombudsman to supervise the media which includes areas such as the advertisement that is communicated here. Many societies in the United States argue that advertising, specifically outdoor advertising is an intrusion into public space. In fact in places such as London and Sao Paulo, outdoor advertisement is faced with strict legislation to reduce the intrusion outlined above. Regulation of advertisement is done with the interest and good of the public being the main objective (Pricken, 2008, p. 51).
It is through regulation of advertisement that alcohol and tobacco advertising has been controlled. In Kenya, the government through an act of parliament directed all media houses that any alcohol or tobacco advertisement should not have themes that show machismo once a person takes alcohol or tobacco. The main reason for this is to stop the lies that advertisement has come to be associated with, lies that seek to convince consumers to buy even harmful products under the guise that these products are helpful to the customer. According to report released in 2004 to the European Union by the Kaiser Foundation, advertising fast foods to young ones was responsible for the increased obesity rate amongst children that was and is being experienced in the United States. Giving this report a closer look one can realize that one of the reasons for this increased obesity rate is that children do not always have the required cognitive capabilities to make rational decisions. This is why children find it difficult to separate fact and fiction in most of the fast food advertisement. The advertisement regulatory body in Greece seems to concur with the report compiled by the Kaiser Foundation; the body has banned advertisement, in mass media, war toys (Pricken, 2008, p. 57). This is because the body sees these advertisements as being in a way responsible for rising insecurity not only in the country but also nationally.
Even with all this regulation the question that one is left to ask is whether advertisement has really closed the line on the issue of providing false information to the consumer? Another hard question that should be answered before the judgment is passed on advertisement is whether the latter can exist without an aspect of fiction in then? It is hard to imagine a cold drink advert without those images of people feeling refreshed after the drink even when it is common knowledge that the images are in a way exaggerated. Every great argument has an assumption to it, and the one made in this paper is that lying in advertisement does not involve the fiction part but false information regarding the use or effects of a product or action.
The regulation discussed previously is an effort to ensure that the industry maintains ethical conduct in all its operations. One of the reasons these regulation is done is to ensure that the consumer is protected from rogue advertisers who will do anything to sell their products even when it involves giving false information. This section has laid a great emphasis on the need for ethical conduct and trust in particular in advertising, but why all these emphasis? A good way of establishing the significance of trust in advertising is by finding out the role played by the former in building of businesses and in particular brands.
The Role of Trust on Brands and Brand Building
A brand can be defined as the identification that an organization or its products and services have. It is what people see or perceive when they hear the product name or even that of the organization. Studies conducted in the field of consumer behavior show that consumer perception of a company or product is one of the greatest influencers for purchase of its products or services. It is hence important that marketers create a brand that depicts reliability, cost friendliness, and key of all trust. An analysis of service marketing show that services consumers require more persuasion than those who buy products. This persuasion and reassurance is necessary to confirm to the client that they are indeed making the right choice by buying the service. Hence it can be concluded that the client makes the purchase decision based on the trust the marketer or sales person has earned from them. Without this trust it would be increasingly hard to convince the client to buy a service as they don’t believe that the reassurances made are true. This is a major reason why organizations need to ensure that during branding of their services and products they maintain high levels of integrity. What happens is that if the market especially, the consumers, detect some lies in how brand has being marketed they tend to assume that all other aspects about the brand, product or organization are false (Pipher & Kilbourne, 2000, p. 29).
As discussed above, trust is important in establishing a brand but it is equally important in sustaining it. This is because a mistake may end up changing consumer perception about the brand. This is the reason why advertisers need to maintain this trust in their undertakings. This may sound just like another marketing cliché but a closer look at some strong brands that have been negatively impacted by giving false information during advertisement can show that it is not.
The Greenhouse Debacle by BP
Global warming is fast turning into a household name not only to the big companies but also to small scale businesses and even for children in their study. The main reason given for the phenomenon occurring is the use of energy that ends up polluting the environment; and in a world where energy seems to be synonymous with oil, a criticism of energy is criticism to oil. Among those that have been receiving a lot of backlash in regards to the use of oil, which is a pollutant and also depletes natural resources, are oil companies such as BP and Esso. These companies have of late been having advertisement campaigns to show their efforts towards reducing the effects of global warming. A recent one by BP involves a merger between the company and Arco. This merger was publicized as an initiative by BP to reduce the use of oil by increasing the use of solar technology by increasing the sales of solar panels to a record $ 1 billion each year. This target was set to be reached by 2010. The public almost believed the initiative as a positive move. But this was until facts emerged that the investments made by the oil company in solar technology were only 10% of the company’s total investment. This showed that the company was just playing to the public gallery by entering into the merger and was not keen on reducing oil usage in the world. The negative effects of this advertisement lie- the perception of the public towards the company and other oil companies has reduced. After the debacle, the company was seen as a barrier to reduction of global warming and as an organization whose sole priority is profit making no matter the consequences (Brown, Vidal & Rusbridger, 2001, para 3). Sales for the company declined significantly after the advertisement lie as people saw it as an enemy to their sustainability. Also other organizations were not keen to do business with it to avoid being seeing also as barriers to reduction of global warming. The public now believes that most of the green talk done by oil companies such as BP is not accompanied by green actions.
As indicated above, giving false information in advertising can affect a brand negatively. But why do these companies do this? Is it that it is now easier to lie in an advert than before? The answer is yes and the reason is because the world is now in a digital age where one can say something exists and people believe so simply because there is some supporting evidence on the internet.
Role played by the Internet and Social Networking Sites in reducing Consumers’ Trust in Advertisements
There is a time that the only business model known was ‘bricks and bricks’- one where a business had no virtual part such as a website. But with the digital age, most businesses now have a ‘click’ side to their operations. The market also seems to have contributed to this shift to businesses having a virtual aspect as most of them now prefer to purchase products from the comfort of their houses. This is a positive aspect of globalization but the only problem is that there is no regulation on the internet. This means that a business can run an advertisement containing false information on the internet without legal action being taken against them. The public has also been widely educated on the fact that most of the information obtained on the internet cannot be relied on.
Social networking seems to increase this mistrust towards advertisement as lack of regulation in these sites means that anyone can advertise anything here as long as they can pay the charges required by the sites (Jason, Stephanie & Bonin, 2010, p. 16). Most people have believed these advertisements and ended up losing money in fraudulent deals or buying services and products that do not meet the standards specified. This has resulted in the loss of trust in advertisement.
Advertisement is an important aspect of any business or organization; it influences consumer perception towards it and helps to increase revenue. This significance of advertisement is based on its power to persuade people to act in a certain way; but all this is based on the customer trusting the advertisement. Without the trust, advertisement loses its power to persuade and reassure customers to buy certain products and services. Based on what has been seen in the above essay, trust is an important aspect of advertisement- though it is being lost. It is therefore important that advertisers ensure that they give true information in their advertisement to uphold the good image of the industry.
Brown, P., Vidal, J. & Rusbridger, A. (2001). Guardian wrong to praise on Global Warming. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.medialens.org/alerts/01/010719_guardian_praise_biz.html
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