As I was searching through Bon A petit, a magazine that specializes in cooking, an invigorating ad caught my attention. It was a picture of a young blonde woman, with a look of absolute joy on her face as she is swinging in the park. Next to this picture, the ad read, “Feel the freedom at FreeSamples.com. Log on and choose from a bunch of goodies-everything from cappuccino to cosmetics. It’s all free, and it’s yours for the taking. So add a little fun to your day at www.FreeSamples.com.” Next to those words were small pictures of Physique Shampoo, Cascade detergent, Tide, and Mrs. Dash.
I logged onto the website and immediately had to register an email address and a password before I could even check out the samples. The ad in the magazine did not state that you needed an email address or even submit one; this would qualify as an omission therefore leading to deceptive advertising.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $10
After I hesitatingly gave my email address I had to answer about fifteen questions such as, “What was the combined income for all members of your household in 2000 before tax? What is your marital status?” Had I known that I was going to fill out a survey, submit personal information in order to get the free samples I would have not logged on to the website.
After I submitted all of my personal information, I then was taken to another page that had only two products to sample, not a bunch that the ad proclaimed. I thought maybe I was not looking hard enough for the samples so I clicked on an icon that said cosmetics, hoping to find some shampoo samples or make-up, and it said, “ currently there are no products for the sample.”
So I tried all of the categories: groceries, food and beverage, pets, houseware, and again no products for the sample. I felt cheated, after submitting a market research survey of personal information for the website, I anticipated “a bunch” of products like the ad said only to find two offerings. The samples that the ad showed in print were also not anywhere to be found.
The next advertisement was for Aroma Fit, a healthy body treatment fragrance by Lancome. A young female model is pictured in the ad along with words that cry out “Pure pleasure for your senses, pure treatment for your body.” The ad states another exaggerated claim, “Result: An amazing sense of total well-being. Skin seems to glow with good health.” This to me was obvious puffery. Claiming to give consumers an amazing sense of well being based on a single beauty product is not only a subjective opinion but also an exaggeration.
What about people who are suffering horrible diseases, will this product give them a sense of well-being? Or someone who is clinically depressed, will it take them out of their saddened state? I doubt it, and I doubt that this would cause most consumers to go out and purchase this product as a cure to achieve well being.
Deceptive advertising caused me the consumer to think I was getting “a bunch” of free samples when in fact there were only two. Also the ad omitted some important details about what you do in order to get free samples. The ad on puffery on the other hand just promised me a sense of well-being, by their subjective opinion and exaggerated claim.
In the case that I researched, Gillette filed a suit over Norelco ads for deceptive advertising. According to Gillette’s filing, Norelco’s ads depicted shaving with razors as a painful event and Norelco used offensive, exaggerated and distorted statements and visual images clearly intended to disparage Gillette.
I found this to coincide with the definition we received in class. Norelco used exaggerated visual and verbal images to affect the consumer in such a way that the consumer will decide to not buy Gillette’s product. Gillette is seeking a declaration against Norelco and wants them to not print or air any more ads. Also, they are asking for all of Norelco’s profits derived from the ads, as well as damages sustained by Gillette.
LEXIS-NEXIS, “Gillette Files Suit Over Norelco Ads”,
http://web.lexis-nexis.com, November 18, 1996.
Bon Apetit, “FreeSamples.com”, September 2001
Vogue, “Aroma Fit”, August 2001
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