Friday, April 20, 2007

Advertisements: Too Good to Be True

Advertisements promote sales. But what if they involve lies designed to cheat consumers?

At a party televised live by China Central Television on Saturday evening to mark World Consumer Rights Day, typical fake advertisements were exposed.

An actor was shown for appearing in a TV advertisement in the capacity of a sexologist to convince viewers that a medicine he promotes could help men improve their sex life. A retired laborer was paid to play the role of another sexologist in the same ad.

The demarcation between true testimonials and drama was blurred. The advertisers knew exactly what they were doing when they masterminded the false information.

In another case, a well-known crosstalk performer was paid 2 million yuan ($259,000) to appear in a national advertising campaign promoting a weight-loss tea. This beverage was proved to be ineffective with ingredients not as advertised.

These are just two examples in a sea of false advertising. Keeping the ads afloat are high returns for both the manufacturers and media that publish the misleading advertisements.

Some supposed medical and health product ads are indeed too good to be true. But consumers in desperate need hope for truth in advertising. The ads target this particular group.

Even if these ads are just a small part of the industry, they eat away at the reputation of the entire advertising industry, shaking the public's trust in society. Being cheated by false advertising even once may lead consumers to become suspicious of all advertising.

False or exaggerated advertisements are bad apples in the industry and need to be eliminated.

Fortunately, the amended advertising regulations levy heavier fines and in some cases criminal penalties against these bad apples. With enforcement, these regulations will help make consumer rights a reality.

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