Can ads exaggerate what products can do?

False advertising is a real issue, and it’s one that has misled countless consumers over the years. It’s illegal for a reason. It tricks people into buying products they never would have purchased otherwise.

But what about exaggerations? Can an ad exaggerate the benefit of a good or service? Or does that cross the line into false advertising?

Certainly, there is a bit of a gray area here. Exaggerations could be seen as a way of making a product look far better than it really is. However, to have memorable ads and to make a point, companies often do exaggerate.

One thing they do to make sure they get around false advertising claims is to push things so far that they’re clearly absurd. This way, people get the main idea of the product without thinking it really does what the ad shows.

For instance, a car company may make a commercial where the car goes so fast that it catches on fire and then creates a sonic boom, breaking the speed of sound. That’s obviously ridiculous. Most consumer cars barely break 100 miles per hour. The add is supposed to show that the car is sporty and fast, but no one really expects to break the sound barrier.

However, if the ad doesn’t go far enough, it could show that car cruising along at 150 miles per hour when, in reality, it can only go 115 MPH. This is more problematic, as it is still slow enough to be believable. Someone who buys the car to go 150 miles per hour — assuming they travel to a road where that is legal — will be disappointed.

Again, this is a tricky area, and companies and consumers don’t always agree on what constitutes fraud. It’s very important for those who think they have been intentionally misled to know their rights.

Source: The Balance, “Advertising Is Exaggerating The Benefit. Period.,” Paul Suggett, accessed Feb. 16, 2018