Advertising, an annoyance the average American deals with every single day. Advertising is “1 tr. to promote (goods or services) publically to increase sales. 2 tr. To make generally known” (The Oxford 14). By definition alone, it doesn’t sound so bad: bringing information to the public, sharing products, etc… Yet when money comes into the equation, things go crazy. Advertisers will say almost anything to sell their products and get ahold of that elusive green paper. False advertising is the siren that catches many foolish sailors… So in that case, it’s probably best to assess what you’re buying in a coherent, thought out manner.
False advertising has been a problem since America began, a slippery fish that the government tries to get ahold of. But one of the problems with pinning down this particular hindrance is that it’s hard to define. There are two main deceivers that an advertiser can use where its trademark is concerned. A trademark is “a word, name, or symbol that a seller uses “to distinguish … [its] goods… from those manufactured or sold by others” (Dillbary 331).
First off the name of the product itself can be misleading. For example, using “the mark “Simply Stevia” in connection with a sweetener that is not made from the plant Stevia. In such a case, the seller is engaging in outright fraud- the name of the product (its trademark) explicitly suggest that the product possesses an ingredient (i.e., an extract from the plant stevia) that it does not” (Dillbary 328). How is this harmful, you may ask. Well, is not the title of the product the initial conveyer of information? Don’t the trademarks “chocolate delight” or “beef jerky” immediately tell you what you’re buying? Most people do not look much farther than the name of the product; so if the name doesn’t coincide with the product, consumers are being misled into buying something they do not want.
The second way of misleading consumers is through a “fanciful mark” (Dillbary 328). That is, by a product becoming associated with a certain quality. For example, Splenda is a sugar that is associated with consumption of people with type 2 diabetes. Imagine if the manufactures of Splenda (Johnson & Johnson) suddenly changed their ingredients so the product was no longer safe for people with type 2 diabetes to consume. Results would be disastrous, all because of a connection from the name of the product to a safe sugar for diabetics.
Now for items such as “food, drugs, medical devices, and other health related products” (Kenagy 15) advertisement monitoring is enforced; although, not without dozens of loopholes. Drugs, for instance, must have each and every use, which the producer can advertise on, approved by the FDA. However, producers can promote unapproved uses of the drug through their physicians and scientist who “can discuss research into off-label uses via medical journal articles, and they can respond to physicians’ request for information about such uses” (Greenwood 280). These...