You see a TV advert for a new console game and think ‘hey, great graphics’ until, if you’re very sharp eyed, you spot the semi-opaque text hidden away in the bottom lefthand corner of the screen pointing out that the images in the advert are “not actual game footage”.
Translation: what you’re watching is essentially a 40 second computer generated cartoon, designed to make a ropey game look better than it really is.
Or your favourite show stops for an ad break during which time you hear that 83% of women agree that the advertised product is the best hair dye, anti-wrinkle cream, hair remover or fake tan. If you’re quick enough you’ll see that the tucked away disclaimer qualifies the statement by revealing that in fact only 83% of 46 people agreed with the statement.
Whole campaigns are being built around the views of a couple of dozen people and the only way you’ll know this is if you view every ad with the mindset that the voiceover claims are potentially misleading and focus your efforts on looking for the disclaimer.
Amazingly it’s perfectly within the rules to commission and broadcast a TV ad which makes claims that on-screen text simultaneously repudiates but of course product manufacturers know few people will spot the truth behind the impressive sounding percentages – after all, how many viewers are really aware that the ad interrupting their favourite show is an exercise in spin which would shame even the most seasoned politician?
But why are such qualifications allowed to be hidden away like this instead of being more honestly reflected in the seductive, forensically scripted, focus group tested, carefully mixed voiceover?
Sure, having to inform potential buyers that “37 women agree…” instead of the grander sounding ‘83%’ wouldn’t work so well for manufacturers but at least the ads would be more honest which, as consumers, is really all we should care about.