Social Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints

By William Lazer; Eugene J. Kelley | Go to book overview

promotional representations, adequate protection requires that advertisements be subject to as close an examination for deceptive representation as they are for deceptive price claims.

Insufficient emphasis has been placed in the advertising regulatory design on the importance of testimonials in influencing consumer choice. In the examination of the selective consumer it has been noted that his choice is influenced by a desire for group membership and by the opinion of leaders within these groups. It has also been noted that the consumer engages in selective exposure and selective perception, suggesting that when the consumer finally does accept an "opinion leader," the latter exerts significant pressure on the consumer's choice.

The use of testimonials in advertising takes account of this fact of consumer behavior, but the regulatory design does not. Those who are deemed to be opinion leaders and dominant members of groups are selected and paid for their "testimonials." Moreover, where the selected figure does not perform well, for example, on television, an actor is used to replace him. The consumer may be deceived into believing an "opinion leader" is evaluating a product or service. These opinions may be used by the consumer to substantiate the suitability of this particular item in his own value structure.

Currently, the basic legal requirement is that testimonials be truthful. However, if someone declares that he prefers "Brand X," validation of this statement is necessarily subjective. Adequate consumer protection requires more stringent regulations which should extend into evidence of truthfulness of this testimonial and disclosure as to the way in which it was secured. It is suggested that in using a testimonial no substitute attestors be allowed; and if payment has been made for the endorsement, the advertisement should so state. If evidence is available that the individual does not use the product (such as a cigar recommendation by a non-cigar smoker), his testimonial should not be permitted.


SUMMARY

In its efforts to protect the consumer against advertising abuse, the Federal Trade Commission has developed a protective network in the consumer interest primarily based on economic standards. There are gaps in this protection network, which result from the fact that the consumer does not appraise his interest solely in economic terms. Rather, the consumer develops patterns of buying behavior that reflect the influence of noneconomic values and the individual's cognitive capacity. The Federal Trade Commission should take cognizance of this "behavioral" man in its consumer interest activities.

It is recommended that the Commission become more familiar with and establish closer contact with the consumer through a Bureau of Behavioral Research, consumer complaint offices, and through the distri-

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