- Our Work
Does anyone believe anything they read anymore? Have we become so cynical as a society that we’ve come to believe it doesn’t matter if what we say is true or not, because no one believes anything they see, hear or read, anyway?
I attended the annual conference of NESHCo (The New England Society of Healthcare Communications) last week, and sat in on a session about ethics in hospital advertising. Much of the discussion centered on use of unsubstantiated or misleading language in advertising. Of course, it’s not just hospitals; all businesses tend to use:
The speaker indicated that among 200 hospitals surveyed about the topic of ethics in advertising, 60% of them felt their competitors used misleading and/or false claims in their promotional materials and 75% of those surveyed felt the issue was a serious one.
My take? Most companies use superlatives in their promotions – they present themselves and their products and services as the “most,” “first,” “newest,” “leading,” or “only.” They call themselves “world class,” “most experienced,” and, sometimes, “revolutionary.” In fact, I’d bet a box of cholesterol-laden donuts that the 75% of hospitals that think misleading claims in advertising is a “serious” problem have produced a few pieces of their own touting various services as “best in the region” or “first to have the new-fangled ABC Scanner.”
The real question? If you are NOT using superlatives – not putting your company, products and services in the best possible light – why advertise? Imagine a promotional piece that states: “We offer adequate services provided by average employees.” So, let your pluses shine! But from an ethical standpoint, just make sure any claims are defensible.
And remember, most potential customers are smart enough to apply a little perspective on all this “crowing.” They are neither taken aback by the boldness of the claims, nor 100 percent certain of their credence. Mostly, they already know that companies are simply trying to put their best (unsubstantiated) foot forward. And, a customer’s determination of any company’s claims will be based on more than a misplaced superlative!
I’d love to hear your perspective.
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