Can You Make More Money With Truthful Advertising?
As politicians and journalists howl and moan, overly-sincere commentators worry out loud that we are in a “post-fact” era.
Well, grow up, kids. I spent my youth in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where the running joke was: “How can you tell if a politician is lying? … If his lips are moving.”
But let’s talk about a group is held to a higher standard, unbelievably enough: marketers and advertisers.
Starting with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, we have been asked to tell “the truth” and we’ve been threatened with penalties — ranging from fines to jail time — if, in the fine estimation of the government, we don’t.
We can howl and moan ourselves, but we’ve got all three branches of the federal government — Congress, the courts, and the agencies in the executive branch — ready to look over our shoulders and wag the fingers of their heavy hands at us, at any time.
I don’t think it’s all bad. I’ve seen some sociopathic marketers in my day. I don’t think it’s all good, either. I’ve heard of many regulatory abuses aimed at marketers who don’t deserve it.
Here’s what I’m thinking about today:
Starting with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, marketers and advertisers have been asked to tell “the truth” and we’ve been threatened with penalties — ranging from fines to jail time — if, in the fine estimation of the government, we don’t. What role do “truth” and “facts” play in advertising? In copywriting? Especially, in promotions that work?
I remember one of my greatest mentors, financial copywriter Don Hauptman (who was very fact-based and not a hypey writer at all — and, who had controls that lasted for decades) once told me:
“There are some areas for flexibility. No man is ever wrong for saying his wife is the most beautiful woman in the world!”
Good one, Don! (I’m paraphrasing him, but that’s the essence of what he told me.)
Finding The Balance
To be sure, there are many ways of saying the same thing… presenting the same product… making a pitch for the same offer. If you think you have something of value to potential buyers, you want to encourage them and not discourage them to try out what you’re selling.
But what do you think about facts and truth — in advertising? In marketing? In copywriting?
Where do you draw the line?
How do YOU decide how to present information in a way that, as far as you can tell, will be both legal and effective for conversions… and (assuming you’re not a sociopath yourself; let’s hope not )… lets you sleep at night?
David Garfinkel is a veteran coach of professional copywriters and business owners who are familiar and comfortable with direct response marketing. To apply for copywriting coaching, business mentoring, or copy critiques, visit Garfinkel Coaching.