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We All Share the Blame for Deceitful Advertising

December 02, 1990

Bruce Horovitz' column, "Faked Volvo Spot Drives Another Nail Into Ad Industry's Credibility (Nov. 13)," focuses on the industry's gross deceit. But is it so gross that we notice? Apparently not. Most viewers would cynically agree that ads hoodwink the public and only be vaguely aghast that Volvo, Colgate, Campbell Soup Co., Pepsico and a multitude of other upstanding firms outright fudged their figures and their film.

The problem is that we are in a system of commerce that has institutionalized deceit. Both parties--the public and the advertisers--know that success is simply a question of who does the best job of lying, of dressing their puffery up in a form that we are willing to accept, if not as truth, at least as representative. Do we know that every price tag that reads $1.99 or $99.99 or $1,999.99 is a deception? Of course we do, and yet we accept it.

It shouldn't surprise a jaded public that the recent elections were expositions in obfuscation, omission and fear-mongering mind-mangling. At some point we simply turn off our mental receivers, shake our heads in disbelief and go back to complaining about taxes.

The problem is so inbred that even otherwise honest advertisers (is that an oxymoron?) can't consider swinging back in the direction of truth for fear of losing market share.

So while Horovitz and the rest of us address the itchy scaly rash, the disease quietly circulates below the surface, rendering us shallow, distracted and powerless. To quote Pogo, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"

ALLAN RABINOWITZ

Los Angeles

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