Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Advertising is the propaganda of capitalism

A bit off-topic, but it struck me the other day that quite a lot of companies get pulled up for dodgy advertising. The most recent case I noticed was RyanAir (boo hiss) getting banned from repeating its claim that only the "very rich or very slow" get the Eurostar to Brussells, as opposed the glamour of flying with RyanAir. The only problem was that when you factor in the reality that the airports serving both cities are quite a bit out of town, the claim that flying is quicker turns out to be rather unfounded.

That reminded me that RyanAir was also pulled up for claiming that air travel accounts for just 2% of carbon emmissions. Again, a misleading claim.

Then I also spotted this rather excellent ticking off Kraft, for the makers of Dairylea. The firm had claimed one of its Dairylea products aimed at kids was "packed full of good stuff", when they really should have said "packed full of saturated fat and salt", a minor slip.

And to round off the recent run of such stories, HSBC was criticised for running an ad suggesting that their customers would not incur charges for using ATMs overseas, when in fact they would incur charges for using ATMs overseas. You notice the slight difference.

I'm sure we all expect advertisers to put the best possible gloss on what they are offering, but in these cases well-known public companies have run adverts which put across messages that are almost the opposite of the truth. Using the plane is slower, not faster. The food has bad stuff in it, not good stuff. Etc etc.

Maybe this kind of propaganda ought to make it onto the radar of responsible investors? If the company is indulging in such blatant disinformation in public, what's going on behind closed doors?

PS. A quick plug for the ITF Ryan Be Fair campaign site here.

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