Advertsing’s Acceptable Lie

Hey, This doesn’t look like the photo!

Consciousness: true selfishness

By Bob Martin

Advertising’s Acceptable Lie

Truth in advertising is one of the most important rules in business. It’s what drives the ridiculously long disclaimers in automotive advertising and the list of discouraging side effects when the pharmaceutical companies hock their latest medical miracles. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear the side effects of some of these meds, I wonder if the ailment isn’t better than the cure.

So, I enter my favorite fast food restaurant and order that perfect cheeseburger pictured so deliciously over the counter. I take my treasure to the table and unwrap my sandwich to  find a squashed bun, most of the melted cheese sticking to the wrapper, catsup all over the place and a pickle stuck to the underside.


What happened to my picture perfect meal?

Food advertising is one of the few areas that can get away with picturing the impossible… the perfect sandwich. The difference between the picture and the product that just spent 45 seconds in Skippy’s hands is a lot of work and a little magic. That sandwich was under the guidance of a “food stylist” and a professional photographer. It probably also spent a few hours on a computer in Adobe Photoshop. Remember the incredible photo of the refreshing milk being poured over Kellog’s Corn Flakes? Did you know that milk was mixed with Elmer’s Glue to make it look thick and refreshing.

We all know that the picture is never what the food looks like, but it’s OK. We accept it. And surprisingly, we even understand it.

I went to a restaurant and saw pictures of some homestyle meals taken by the owner. It didn’t look great and when it came out looking exactly like the picture, I was disappointed. Strange isn’t it? I don’t know what it was, but I somehow felt a rule had been broken.

If your product is food, spend the time to make it look right. Don’t falsify the product, but make it look as good as possible within reason.

Remember… false advertising can be the death of any business, but putting your product in the best light is acceptable.

Next week… A camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

Truth in advertising is one of the most important rules in business.

Bob Martin is principal of Martin Creative Consultants, providing advertising consulting and services to manufacturing and retail businesses. His MCC VoicePros division creates  audio voiceovers for radio, TV, internet ads and presentations.

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One Response to “Advertsing’s Acceptable Lie”

  1. Greg_Pashke Says:

    Bob, the disconnect between the photo and reality hits me about once every 2 years when I'm enticed to visit a Subway location on the tantalizing prospect of finding the sandwich of my dreams. There is probably a fine line between creating a vivid image for consumers and being able to deliver on that implied promise. Most of the time I must be guilty of "over-expecting."

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