You know I like to post about shady internet things because that’s what I’m interested in, but I figured, let’s talk about the implications of bad/unethical advertising!
Advertising is one of the factors that determines how customers respond to your goods and services. Typically, it’s expected the more you advertise your products and services, the more customers you will get. This isn’t necessarily true depending on the kind of advertising your business creates and the kind of customers you have. It’s easy to thoughtlessly pour inordinate sums of money into advertising, only to push out an advertising campaign that customers respond to negatively.
To avoid a disastrous scenario, it’s best to follow a set of ethical advertising practices so that you can attract the traffic of the target audience you want instead of alienating or offending them.
Don’t Make Exaggerated Claims
Ethical businesses are honest with customers about what their services or products are and what they are capable of, especially in advertising. This is an important advertising practice for legal AND moral reasons.
Legally, it’s safe not to make false or exaggerated claims about your products; otherwise, you might end up facing a lawsuit (ew, who wants that?). Morally, you’ll gain the trust of your customers if you deal with them fairly and honestly. The consequences of lying to or mistreating customers will be swift, and your business will suffer or #failwhale.
If you do make claims about your products or services, have them scientifically verified by research. Make that research available to customers so that they can see your claims are honest. So don’t say you’re the “best social media company in Edmonton”, unless you have proof, and don’t say you’re the most “affordable or cheap social media management” agency, unless you actually KNOW for a fact that in your city there’s nobody else who charges less than you… But also, if you’re the cheapest, there might be something wrong with your work, just saying.
A good number of advertisements have been put down on allegations of stereotyping a particular group of people. For instance, let’s take Carl’s Jr., whose ads and billboards are an old example of this kind of advertising. FYI for my Canadian readers, Carl’s Jr. is an American fast food chain that is well known for its burgers, yet their advertisements often display sexually provocative images of women with burgers. This kind of advertising is risky because it alienates customers who may not appreciate the way the women in the ads are portrayed.
If you pursue an advertising campaign that stereotypes people, your business might be seen as controversial, at best. In some cases, your advertisements might be seen as unethical. While creating controversial advertisements is legal and sometimes even drives up sales, it should only be done after careful calculation and consideration. For how jumping on the controversial bandwagon can be a success, just look at Nike.
Avoid Targeting Children
It’s essential to understand that children are viewed as a special and vulnerable group. They are innocent, and they may not be in a position to evaluate your advertisement objectively. Many organizations have used the innocence of children as a vehicle to advertise their products and services. However, most adults and children’s rights groups view this as unethical advertising because children are not rational enough to make a sound decision.
If your advertisements strongly target children, especially when your product or service is not strictly for children, adults will find that very suspicious. Research your target audiences for your products, and stick to advertising for them. If children are not in your target audience, don’t advertise to them. If children are in your target audience, be very careful about the messaging you create for them. If not, you could have some very angry parents on your hands, and ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. I always encourage targeting the parents for ads, because they’re the ones with the money in their pockets.
Respond Carefully to Customer Reviews
Modern businesses cannot run effectively without online advertisements. This means posting information about your products on various social network platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, etc. On social media sites customers have the chance to air their views about your organization and products. If customers are leaving negative comments or unsatisfied reviews under the advertising posts that you create, then it’s definitely time to take action. Ignoring things does nothing. Deleting them makes it worse.
Respond to disgruntled customers without lashing out at them. Take criticisms seriously and carefully. Open a dialogue with customers about what you can do to repair the damage that has been done, and how your goods or services can be improved. Once you have heard what customers have to say, make changes to improve your business. If necessary, take advantage of review management software so that you can manage customer reviews on multiple platforms at once.
By addressing customer complaints in a positive way, you’ll improve how your business appears to people who search for you online. You’ll also have the opportunity to change how your advertisements are perceived. Instead of showing a sea of unhappy customers, the search results will show your business treating customers in a conscientious and diligent way.
There’s obviously no doubt that ethical advertising practices play a significant role in how your business is perceived by customers and in determining your search engine ranking. When you use smart and ethical advertising practices (and this should include any content you have on your site/social media channels as well), that’s when you’ll notice you’re building brand advocates and dedicated customers.