Big and Little Lies in Life and Advertising

I’m a Liar

That’s right. I admit it. I lie all the time. I lie so much, they wrote “Liar, liar, pants on fire” about me. As a matter of fact, my pants are smoking right now — and it’s not because I had chili for lunch.

Well, maybe the “pants on fire” part is not 100 percent accurate. My pants aren’t really on fire or smoking — but my rear end is very, very warm — probably because this leather office chair holds the heat.

Full disclosure: the office chair is not real leather. It’s vinyl made to look like leather. And I didn’t really have chili for lunch. Chili gives me heartburn.

OK, chili doesn’t give me heartburn, it gives me gas. Happy now? Geez, Louise, I told you I’m a liar.

But before you judge me, let’s set the record straight about you…

You’re A Liar

You’re a liar just like me. Oh. Yes. You. Are.

Want me to prove it? OK, answer these three questions:

  • The last time you got a notice while updating something on your computer on your phone that said “I have read and agreed to the above Terms and Conditions,” did you press “Yes?” Did you really read the terms and conditions?
  • The last time you typed “LOL,” were you really laughing out loud?
  • The last time you got a social invite from someone with whom you don’t want to hang out, did you say that you’d like to but really had to get home for some reason?

See that? You lie. You’re a liar. We all are.

Most of us feel OK about telling lies because they are “little” lies. We don’t tell big lies.

Advertising Liars

So is it OK if companies tell “little lies” in advertising?  For example, when actors portray customers in TV spots, most consumers say that’s a little lie and give companies a pass.

But just like with people, when companies tell “Big Lies,” it’s unacceptable.

Completely false claims are clearly “Big Lies,” and illegal. Advertisers are often punished for those.

But two types of “Big Lies” that slip under the radar are the lies of “pending disaster” and the lies of “pending riches.”

Both leave out the fact that the disaster or riches portrayed are neither pending or likely. The odds of either happening are statistically remote. The odds of either are on a par with someone playing his first-ever round of golf getting a hole in one.

The best examples of the “pending disaster lie” come from our local utility companies. Every six months I get mailings offering a protection plan to cover the cost of repairs to water and electric lines outside my home or in my yard.

The repairs are expensive. That’s true. And since it comes from my utility company, I must need it, right? But the vast majority of homeowners never need those repairs.

The best (or worst?) example of the “pending riches lie” is the “Lotto Dominator” digital ad often found on news and social websites. It tells the stories of several people who have won the grand prize in a lottery not once, but multiple times! You see their new homes and luxury cars and vacation lifestyles.

How did they do it? With the Lotto Dominator system of course — and you can have it for only $97.

It’s only when you scroll past a lot of dead space that you read a disclaimer that says the stories of these winners “are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.”

Big lies, little lies… we’re all liars. And that’s the truth.


About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Email questions and comments to GFF@FarrisMarketing.com and connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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