At Advertise.com, we naturally believe in the power of online advertising. But we also believe in honesty. Unfortunately, in this industry the two are not always synonymous.
In its 2013 report “Busting Bad Advertising Practices,” Google revealed that it removed 350 million ads in 2013 due to harmful or deceptive messaging. Meanwhile, as native ads gain popularity for their ability to disguise themselves as editorial content, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning advertisers that running misleading ads could cost them.
Consumers today are increasingly skeptical about marketing claims of all kinds, and this is a primary challenge that all online advertisers face. In some markets, a “whatever it takes” philosophy has prevailed by increasing click-through rates in the short term, which encourages many advertisers to make exaggerated, misleading, or just plain false claims in their ads.
When it comes to engendering the kind of trust that’ll reward your investment in online ads, knowing what constitutes a deceptive or misleading ads is critically important. Today, advanced targeting and ad format options make it easier than ever before to reach people—but with more impressions comes more scrutiny.
Earlier this year, a school supply retailer was fined for advertising “never-ending sale” prices for certain products, when in reality, the figures listed were in fact full price. And in response to a slew of ads featuring unrealistic weight loss claims, the FTC also launched a health-based initiative called “Operation Failed Resolution,” fining one advertiser over $26 million for outrageous weight loss claims. Amid the recent rise in popularity of native advertising, the commission is also cracking down on ads that aren’t clearly marked as, well, ads:
The image above (courtesy of the appsfire blog) actually shows Pinterest’s new native ad format. Would you have noticed the subtle “Promoted Pin” label marked by the red arrow?
An Ethics Checklist
With so many ways to come off as deceptive—intentionally or not—how can advertisers avoid misleading messaging? Here are some general guidelines to make sure your ads are honest and ethical:
In an era of advertising when credibility, transparency, and trust are imperative to success, marketers should aim to educate their audiences above all else. Don’t try to do backflips in the name of persuasion. No matter how much effort you put into snazzy graphic design and a catchy pitch, if it’s not honest and ethical, it can result in an avoidable PR or customer service crisis—perhaps the worst advertising “format” of all.
Since 2001, Advertise.com has offered competitive online advertiser and publisher solutions to companies around the globe. Our mission is to help advertisers achieve their best ROI with high-quality, cost-effective ad units, as well as provide our publishers with monetization tools that yield the highest revenues. Contact us to learn more or get started with your advertising campaigns.