What’s Misleading Anyway?

Recently, Sony came under fire from the FTC for claiming that its new product was “game changing” when, in fact, it was not. Without getting into too many details, the problem essentially was that Sony was making claims about the new cross-console capabilities of the new handheld gaming device that were not actually verified or true. This was considered to be very misleading to consumers and because of this Sony had to give those who bought this device a $25 or $50 voucher depending on if they bought games and accessories. But to add to the problem, it also came out that Sony’s agency Deutsch LA which was handling the launch of the new device, had asked its employees to promote the hashtag #gamechanger. But the problem here was that the employees did not disclose themselves as employees, they appeared to everyone else on social media as fans of the Sony device. This is also misleading and goes against the FTC guidelines for endorsements that require disclosures.

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I found this all very interesting because I had just studied all of the FTC guidelines for endorsements and misleading advertising. I was surprised that they took so much action in this case because usually they will only do so if the misleading words are dangerous or extremely detrimental to the consumer. Since FTC guidelines are not laws, but just that, guidelines. To me it doesn’t really seem like the slight misleading of what a device does is misleading enough for Sony to have to shell out thousands of vouchers. If anyone was to be penalized I would think that it would be the ad agency, Deutsch LA who should have to suffer the consequences, so they were the ones who made the decisions and as advertising professionals should be aware of the guidelines laid out by the FTC.

Another issue raised here is when is it up to the consumer to decide if advertising is simply being hyperbolic or if it is being completely true with the consumer. Sometimes I feel that consumers are patronized a bit when it comes to things being deemed “misleading”. As people that are exposed to advertising everywhere we look we are aware that the objective of these ads are to get us to buy the products, so obviously things will be exaggerated. But is it fair to penalize a company out of thousands of dollars for exaggerating the qualities of its product?

Morrison, M. (2014, November 25). FTC Says Sony, Deutsch LA Deceived Consumers | News – Advertising Age. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from http://adage.com/article/news/ftc-sony-deutsch-la-deceived-consumers/296004/

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One thought on “What’s Misleading Anyway?

  1. FTC fines remind me of the huge fines I’ve seen against NBA players, coaches, and owners (the most recent example if Donald Sterling). You’re right, guidelines are not law but like any organization that tries to regulate, there needs to be a way to regulate that will hurt and therefore deter “misleading” ads, etc. I think it is fair to fine when it comes to misleads in the form of outrageous promises and claims, namely those from beauty and cosmetic brands (anti-aging creams, do they really work?). FTC crackdowns are appropriate in some cases, I believe.

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