Trap of Misleading Advertisements

Advertising is the most important element of marketing. Corporate houses frame innovative and dynamic marketing strategies to attract prospective buyers. The significance of advertising remains intact but the most prominent change in the marketing strategies of the companies in the last few years is the way and format of advertising their products. The budget of corporate houses for advertising and promoting their products has immensely increased over the years and at the same time; the pattern and presentation have also been changed. Companies get their advertisement copy designed by the professional advertising agencies and due to high allocation of budget; they hire popular celebrities as film stars, sportspersons or models to attract the class of customers. Since advertisements act as an important stimulating instrument to influence and motivate customers to buy; corporate houses put in best of their efforts to make the advertisements highly impressive. Some advertisements are made to touch the emotions of the prospective buyers while some develop the strong need of the product in their minds.

The output in terms of enhanced sales is largely credited to such attractive advertisements. This has put on a pedestal to prepare and showcase misleading advertisements as their one point agenda remains increased sale and market share. Not all the companies follow such unethical practice while advertising their products; rather some companies are extremely admired for their strong corporate social responsibility (CSR). Yet, some corporate houses play with the sentiments of the customers to have elevated sales. Either it is a skin whitening cream which guarantees the fairer skin in just few weeks or the deodorant which can make a man a favorite of all; either a chocolate with all the goodness of milk or an insurance company which promises to pay the insured amount in just few hours without any hassle; almost all the companies present their products in a way it is the best product that can ever be offered. In the words of Stephen Lecock, “Advertising may be described as a science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”

Anonymously, a particular print advertisement of a fairness cream has to be quoted here in which the girl has been shown from week one to week eight changing her complexion to one shade fairer every week. The problem does not lie in this presentation but with the face emotion which is also changing every week. The model does not smile at all in the first picture and the curve of her smile gets enlarged with each passing week. Finally, after eighth week, she is having a bursting smile on her face and the advertisement claims that she is now ready to achieve her goals and fulfill her dreams. If we analyze the psychology behind this advertisement, we get the message that only fair skinned and beautiful women can chase their dreams. Another advertisement with the punchline ‘White is Purity’ fetched wrath comments as circuitously it demeans black people. Such advertisements do not only become the cause of depression among the dark-toned women who may be much more wise, educated and intelligent, but also augment the rage among the natives of warmer states where the skin colour is comparatively darker due to climate and genetics. There are many more such examples which must be a cause of concern for the authorities and government.

In a very popular case, a young boy file a suit against a body spray company which claimed that the advertisement of the deodorant company was in bad taste. It claimed that the user of the product may have horde of women which he couldn’t. Though the case may sound silly and funny but we must look at its broader and deeper perspective and study the impact of this obscenity on the young minds of the country. Where would they head towards? The case considered it as the depressing agent for a 26 years old man and announced him a compensation of $26,000. Fortunately, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting took it really seriously and seven advertisements by different body spray companies were put under surveillance. The ministry had put it in an apt way stating that there must be a line between commercialization and indecency.

The matter of concern is that even the educated audiences become the victims of such false undertakings and believe the claims of junk food as healthy or may be toothpaste containing original spices. Surprisingly, the bathing soap which promoted itself as a beauty soap, usage of which can make it difficult for people to judge your age through all these years, has also started promoting itself as a health soap claim to be killing bacteria during covid-19.

Innocent and common people are trapped by these striking commercials which are adorned with the impressive audio-video effects and their much loved celebrities. The simple populace of the nation thinks that the product which is used by these fashion or business flag-bearers or icons must definitely be the best. They rely on those attractive advertisements and spend their hard-earned money with the hope of getting beautiful, healthy or popular. Sometimes, this hope lends them in trouble. There are various cases in the recent times which have come up where consumers have faced losses due to misleading advertisements.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has been safeguarding the rights and interests of the consumers for more than three decades now. It has been able to an extent to keep up the phase that ‘Consumer is the king of the market’. On the basis of its connotation of being successful in upholding the rights of the customers, it can be said to be successful. In some of the cases under the act, we have seen common man winning the battle against big business tycoons which boosts the credibility of the act. (M R Ramesh v/s Hero, 2003). With the advancement of technology, changes in buying patterns and behaviors, new virtual markets and new kinds of frauds; the act was also required to amend and alter its provisions. Though the act has been amended twice after its establishment in the years 1993 and 2002 but there was a call to remake it as per the current requirements. Thus, Consumer Protection Act, 2019 replaced the 30 years old act. The present act focuses more in this regard and strict penalties are imposed on the corporate houses indulged in such activities. Moreover, the action would be taken against the celebrities if they promote the products by praising exaggeratingly without practically using them.

Online shopping is the new normal where photography and videography skills make a great impact. The website glass cases the fancy pictures of the products and customers do trust on the quality of the product by its looks. The new act also plays a significant role to control the sale of faulty and fake products because the portal on which the product is sold would also be held liable for loss or damage to the customer. The e-commerce sites cannot escape anymore as aggregators. This onus on the selling platform has made the online selling even more transparent and fair. The product liability has also increased not confined only to the price of the product but also for the harm caused to the customer.

Few unethical sellers pitch traps to catch the common public and laymen for their own selfish purposes. The trap of misleading advertisements is one of them. They hurt the sentiments of the customers and sometimes the society as a whole. The efforts by the legislation along with the awareness of the customers can help to make the economic environment of the country more secured and trustworthy. New Consumer Protection Act has been a noteworthy step by the legislation in order to protect the customers against various threats and safeguarding their rights to make them king in the real sense. It has explained the terms like ‘unfair trade practices’, ‘misleading advertisements’ etc. in an elaborative way. The duty of the consumers also has an important place in the total scenario. Prospective buyers must remain cautious while taking impulse buying decision under the influence of the eye-catching advertisements and take a decision to spend their well-merited income. Advertisements are definitely the source of information, communication as well as entertainment but they should be within the limits of our culture and customs so that the trust and benefits to the customers remain intact and primary.

-Aarti Chopra (One of the Prize Winners of Article Writing Competition 2020 in the 25-44 Years Age Group)

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