Deceptive advertising

Deceptive advertising has long been condemned as unethical and harmful to consumers. This research makes a strong case that it is also bad for marketers. In experiments, it has been shown that advertising deception makes consumers defensive toward marketing messages, causing them to distrust advertising in general. Being misled by an advertisement leads consumers to respond negatively not only to further advertising from the same deceptive source but also to advertising from other marketers. These effects are broad in their impact and generalize to advertisers from different geographic regions, different kinds of products, and different types of advertising claims. They are also powerful in that deceptive advertising undermines the effectiveness of subsequent marketing communications, even when the advertised product offers strong benefits or carries a well-known brand. The negative effects of ad deception are also relatively long lasting in the sense that they are observed for additional advertisements encountered 24 hours after the initial deception. Advertising deception reminds self-protective goals, motivating people to minimize the possibility of being fooled again. This occurs through two distinct processes. First, when exposed to new advertisements from the source that previously deceived them, consumers actively counter argue the advertiser’s claims (biased systematic processing). Second, when the new advertisements come from another marketer, deception operates by activating negative stereotypes about advertising in general, which reduces the persuasive impact of subsequent advertisements (biased heuristic processing). The effects observed in researches suggest that deceptive advertising has the potential to be damaging to advertising in general and, by extension, to firms that rely heavily on advertising to sell their products. The findings make it clear that marketers have a powerful self-interest in upholding truth in advertising, not merely out of concern for fairness to consumers but also as a means of preserving the effectiveness of marketing communication as a whole.

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