Articles > Deceptive Advertising
Understanding television advertisements
and the dishonesty behind the marketing strategy of
Don’t be Deceived
by Deceptive Advertising
by Glenn Becker
If you are old enough to remember the Cold War, you
may recall the contrast between the news of the free
world and the propaganda of the communists. The real
purpose of propaganda is to control the thinking of
the reader, so that he does whatever those who created
the propaganda want him to do.
The Cold War is over, and the truth of freedom defeated
the lies of communism. Yet Americans are subjected to
a flood of deceptive propaganda that is just as harmful
as the worst of the Cold War. We call it “advertising”.
Those who create advertising often do not care whether
the ads are informative, nor do they care whether it
is in your best interest to buy their product; they
care only about getting people to buy something they
otherwise would not and perhaps should not purchase.
Their goal is to manipulate you.
For example, I saw an advertisement for a “SmartBuy”
on a popular SUV. In very large type, it promoted a
surprisingly low monthly payment for such an expensive
vehicle. The purpose of this advertisement is to deceive
a person who cannot afford this high dollar vehicle
into thinking he can. Three years later, when the agreement
expires, he will suddenly discover that he never could
afford it. The terms require that he pay a huge balloon
payment, or turn-in the vehicle and pay a fee for each
mile over 10,000 per year, and pay for every little
scratch and ding. Of course there will be lots of them—why
would anyone get a rugged SUV just to drive it only
on paved streets?
Look at cosmetics advertisements: they show retouched
photos of unreal people with unrealistic poses wearing
unwearable clothes to get you to believe that, if you
buy their product, you will somehow look like the model,
or at least feel like you do. They are depending on
you to help them with their deception by deceiving yourself.
Many people willingly cooperate.
Our award for the most deceptive advertisement goes
to one that shows a sexy young woman wearing a skimpy
negligee with bold copy that says, “Time to get
back into the game.” This is followed by the name
of a divorce lawyer. I could spend hours counting the
deceptions in that one.
The most subtle deceptive ads are the ones that deceive
you into thinking that you need something that you really
only want. The Federal Government cannot protect you
from this kind of deception because God never intended
them to. They can eliminate ads that are proven to contain
false promises, but the very best liars know how to
manipulate and/or deceive without the deception being
detected. Please do not think that this is a slam against
the advertising industry—it is not. They themselves
are deceived into believing that their purpose is to
maximize sales rather than to serve (be a blessing to)
both sellers and buyers.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the
truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NIV). To
know the truth means to hear and accept a truthful message,
which requires a truthful messenger. Jesus promised
that God would “give you another Counselor to
be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.”
(John 14:16). He does not plaster his message on billboards,
nor does he interrupt your TV programs to force you
to listen. But He will speak if you ask Him to. Each
time you think of buying something, the Holy Spirit
can tell you whether this is something God wants you
to have. God does not just provide for your needs; he
also gives you some of your “wants”, but
normally not all of them. If you are not sure, just
ask Him. After some practice, you will learn to hear
God’s voice when you consider a purchase, because
God wants you to. When you know the truth, it is easy
to spot the lies. In fact, they become ridiculous, because
they no longer have any power over you.
It is ironic that advertisers spend years in school
and many more years on the job to learn the subtle art
of manipulating buyers; yet you can learn to overcome
their art in a very short time, using a simple communication
method that most of these professional communicators
will never understand. God uses the simple things to
confound the “wise”. His Word, the Bible,
provides over 2,000 scriptures that relate to wise use
of His resources. Let’s tune-out the manipulative
ads and tune into God’s success manual.