I guess Fleetwood Mac was on to something

’cause apparently advertisers are better off to stick with their sweet little lies.

According to an article from the CanWest News Service:

Forcing companies to come clean about false advertising claims makes consumers distrustful of honest sales pitches from companies with good reputations, perverting the purpose of corrective advertising.

I gotta say, that surprises me. CanWest’s Sarah Schmidt was citing a study by marketing experts from York, Queen’s and Carleton universities. They found that:

Corrective advertising […] undermines attitudes toward products sold by other firms, including items unrelated to the tainted advertising campaign and pitched by companies with strong brand equity.

Now, I’ve never worked in marketing or advertising. While running a newspaper, though, we ran several corrections. Sometimes they were a result of a reader pointing out an error but a few times we even took the initiative ourselves and corrected mistakes none of our readers identified (at least not to us).

Why? Because the conventional wisdom is that mistakes damage your credibility, corrections help restore it.

Granted, there is a different expectation of ‘truth’ from newspapers than from advertising (rightly or wrongly). So I might be comparing apples and oranges. But I am interested to hear from marketers and advertisers on this.


  1. I think credibility wins at the end of the day. If Apple makes an error in an ad, inadvertently (or “advertently”, for that matter) misrepresents, and doesn’t bother to correct the mistake, and people find out about it – that can be significantly more damaging than if they fess up. Does that confession damage the reputations of Apple’s competitors? I think it puts other companies on the hook, yes. But shouldn’t every company be subject to the same scrutiny? Shouldn’t we all expect that they will uphold a certain level of integrity? If not, then I’ll take my business elsewhere, thank you very much.

  2. I think you nailed it Susan. The potential backlash of getting caught in a lie is far worse than fessing up in the first place. That’s what drove our corrections philosophy at my paper. Better to come clean than to appear to be trying to cover something up.

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