Misleading advertisement and consumers’ reality

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By ARINZE OKAMELU

TUE, FEBRUARY 14 2017-There is no gainsaying that advertisements play a major role in influencing the taste and preference of consumers’ choice for products and services. Though consumers’ choices for products and services are highly influenced by other factors like the quality, brand, price, and others recommendation, business organizations, knowing the importance of advertising, have over the years, engaged advertisements in a rather aggressive way (to increase market share against competitors), deploring humongous resources to it, highlighting the best part and elements of their products and services, including quality and prices amongst other concerns that they hope would appeal to their target customers’ satisfaction.

Christina Hamlett, a film consultant and a writer, simplified the essence of advertising to business in her article “Why Is Advertising so Important to Business?”  saying “As far back as Ancient Egypt, advertising has served a critical purpose in the business world by enabling sellers to effectively compete with one another for the attention of buyers. Whether the goods and services your company provides are a necessity, a luxury or just a bit of whimsy, you can’t rely on a one-time announcement or word-of-mouth chatter to keep a steady stream of customers” According to her “A strong commitment to advertising is as much an external call to action as it is an internal reinforcement to your sales team.”

Furthermore, without advertisement, it will be safe to consider any business as not existing especially in the minds of its target customers and clients. Therefore businesses can justifiably say they are advertising because of some fundamentals which include:

1.Promotion of products and services, including putting out to the public their exciting offers, or upcoming events, depending on the organization.

2.Awareness creation for a particular target demographic over issues which they may be unfamiliar with as well as educating them on the related benefits of their products and/or service to them

3.Comparisons of their products and services as against the “minuses” of that of their competitors

4.Retention and sustenance of loyalty of existing customers  by making a statement that “we are still solidly around” through maintainance of  regular ads, fliers, postcards, events and a dynamic website which are invaluable for long-term relationships, and also for attracting new customers

5.Morale boosting for her employees who have this sense of company’s presence in the marketplace, amongst others.

Beyond the above to the companies, consumers are known to be rational when it comes to patronizing (purchasing) goods and services as they tend to go for the products and services that guarantee maximum satisfaction of their taste vis-à-vis at the price they are willing to pay. They may consequently not patronize any commodity whose price is above the additional satisfaction that they can derive from the commodity.

So for companies, apparently focusing on appealing to the satisfaction “bud” of their customers, try to outsmart each other, engaging advertising agencies who employ creative techniques to design persuasive communication in mass media that promote “ideas” and/or “assurances” of products and services satisfaction delivery to consumers, to attract their attention and by extension, patronage.

However, most times these advertisements run short of what the businesses promise to deliver, in reality. The brand’s promise is usually at variance with the brand’s engagement with the consumers.

One can only imagine the angst that therefore comes after a consumer gets product and/or service and find out that it isn’t what the advertisers said it will deliver.  This is misleading Advertisement!

A typical situation played out recently at Ikeja area of Lagos; a male university undergraduate, named Tunde sought to buy a carbonated drink with a popular brand. Ostensibly influenced amongst other things by the stimulating advertisement of the brand on billboards, newspapers, television and even on the different social media platforms,Tunde approached a nearby mart close to his house and requested for his “beloved” drink. Upon getting hold of the drink, he noticed that that the content was not the same quantity measurement with what he sees on the different medium of the drink’s advertisement, especially on billboards, fliers and newspapers. Suspecting some ‘rip-off”, he demanded for a replacement. The seller, obviously familiar with such suspicion from previous customers, brought out so many more bottles for Tunde to choose from. On seeing all the bottles with the same content-quantity like that of the first bottle he has, Tunde felt bad, but had only two choices- to leave it or to go ahead to buy it.

Like I suspect many Nigerians would do and are doing anyway, Tunde bought the drink.  Whether Tunde was “right” buying a drink different in quantity from what he saw on adverts or not, is a matter for another day’s discussion.

However, it is instructive to note that Nigerians are faced with similar choices like Tunde’s above everyday as they patronize their “adverts influenced” products and services. It is only a few that may opt out, as a good number would follow Tunde’s choice, perhaps because the way the society has made them vulnerable to accepting anything as the best available option. Where there is even alternative, most minds have been conditioned not to trust the other alternative.

Seemingly understanding this, businesses have concerned themselves more with increasing their market shares than offering products and services that are exactly related with the adverts that they are putting out to their consumers. They spend billions on adverts without putting relative amount in product and service development that would be at apiece with customers’ satisfaction.

“Tunde’s carbonated drink company”  isn’t the only company guilty of this; this misleading advertisement tendencies cut across all the industries (Banking, Telecom, Aviation, Eatry, Oil and Gas etc) as their Brand’s Promises do not add up to their Brand’s Engagements.

Aisha, a fresh university graduate who has been very conservative about changing her phone, saw a smart phone’s advertisement that swept her off her feet that she decided to “change”.  She took her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)savings and went for the phone. Behold, the satisfaction the advertisement promised was not what she got. According to her, “adverts are deceptive”. She nevertheless had to wake up to her reality.

This reality seems to be the order of the day for an average Nigeria consumer. Read some rather “comical” responses from some “victims” as they share their experiences below.

“These people lie and they are taking us for granted…how they could consistently be advertising their products claiming what they cannot deliver” Chinedu asked referring to a popular tooth paste that “guarantees white teeth”. Chinedu added “Despite that many Nigerians have been using it over the years, they still have yellow teeth”. Another respondent who gave her name as Francesca Omenye said “I once traveled to Abuja and checked into a hotel because of the way they advertise its facilities and services on fliers and newspapers…but when I got there, what was on ground was a sharp contrast from what they advertised. That was fraud and misleading” Francesca emphasized.

For Abdullahi Muhammad, he once contemplated going to court over a popular printer brand he bought that didn’t work as advertised. He had a change of mind when he was reminded by his friends that “our judicial system will take forever to adjudicate on the matter in addition to the legal expenses” he revealed.

According to Demola, “Even when one tries to seek redress in court, remember they encode their deceit in 4 words ‘TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY!”. Continuing Demola asked “What do you do in such situation and you know the letters and words in the TERMS AND CONDITIONS (T&C) are too long, and you know Nigerians don’t really like reading, so you can see that we are at their mercy”

Day in, day out, consumers bear this brunt without any seeming help in sight.

However, in a situation like this, one wonders the role of Consumers Protection Council (CPC), a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria, supervised by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, with the mandate amongst others “to eliminate “hazardous products” from the market, provide speedy redress to consumers complaints and ensure that consumers “interest” receive due consideration at the appropriate forum. Also one equally wonders the role of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) in the protection of consumers. It is good to highlight here that APCON is vested with powers to “control and regulate”the practice of advertising in Nigeria, in all its aspects and ramifications and also  to promote “responsible and ethical” advertising practice, “acts as the conscience” of society in matters of commercial communications and as a “watchdog” for consumers.

APCON is also vested with the mandate to manage the need and interests of stakeholders in Nigeria’s advertising industry. It however seems APCON is lopsided in managing the “need and interests of stakeholders” in that they are silent on the misleading advertisements some of its stakeholders put out to its public.

Above suggests that if the above organisations are committed to their mandates accordingly, there will be some respite, if not full protection from misleading advertisement, for consumers.

Nevertheless, it will be more comforting for business organsations, when competing among themselves for increased market share sizes, to consider the interest of the consumers more. It would not be a bad idea if deliberate efforts are made to make their advertisements (brand’s promises) commensurate to customers and consumers’ reality.

This is more so when one considers that “Customers are kings and queens in business, and should be treated with integrity”.

Arinze Okamelu, is a Media Entrepreneur, Marketing Communication/Business Consultant with passion for customer focused marketing and excellent brands’ value delivery.

Email:okag2000@gmail.com, Twitter: @arizonaija, Mobile: 08034547776

 

 

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