Don't Lie To Me

Well, Obama gets another four years. No big surprise there. Though I can’t even conclusively tell you whether this is a bad thing or a good thing. Still haven’t muddled through all the lies, half-truths and misrepresentations served up by both sides. And frankly, I lost my motivation to figure out who was the bigger “manipulator of the truth”. Too much work.

See, it was my early high school days when Agnew was convicted in ’73 and then Nixon resigned in ’74. A rather inauspicious introduction to the vagaries of politics. I’ve hated politics ever since. All you have to do is spend 30 minutes viewing political ads on YouTube to get the gist. It’s just hard to like these guys.

False and deceptive advertising comes in many forms: manipulations of units/standards (data), manipulation of terms, incomplete comparisons, inconsistent comparisons, misleading illustrations, angel dusting (think about it), bait and switch, and undisclosed business policy. Politicians and political parties do all these things. Without hesitation.

Of course, we could never get away with that. The FTC has deemed misleading messaging illegal. Specifically, the use of false or misleading statements in advertising. Untruths. As advertising has the potential to persuade people into transactions that they might otherwise avoid. “Truth” refers to essentially the same concept, that customers have the right to know what they are buying, and that all necessary information should be presented clearly. The FTC protects the consumer from buying something that is not what it claims to be.

What twisted irony that noncommercial activity such as advertising for political candidates is not subject to the same scrutiny? And we’re not talking about aspirin here, it’s the Presidency! Politicians get to mislead, misrepresent, and confuse. And all within a short window that does not allow us time to learn truths. It’s unconscionable, this double standard, and that they get away with it. See, at the end of the run, one of the candidates always wins. Lies notwithstanding. Are we supposed to have a fact checkers on retainer during the race? Spend hours a day sorting out what was truth, twisted facts, or contorted half-truths? How does the average American figure it all out. Exactly,.. they can’t. Who is protecting the consumer for this most important purchase decision?

When consumers move through the political purchase funnel, the data is simply not viable. Inevitably, purchase decisions are based on advertising that the FTC would otherwise claim illegal. Advertising that horrifies most of us in the business. Attacking, brand denigrating work that no responsible CMO would approve. And most Americans made their presidential decision based on these sound bites.

Or on the last Saturday Night Live skit. Or maybe because they liked the cut of Romney’s suit, or Michelle’s shoes. Something important like that.