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As someone who works full time at the agency founded by David Ogilvy, there are plenty of reminders of his wisdom on the walls. Even online, at least once a day I see a tweet come through with someone quoting one of his famous sayings. So I don't disagree with him lightly, but he did have one quote about dishonesty in advertising that I wish were true – but isn't:
"Political advertising ought to be stopped. It's the only really dishonest kind of advertising that's left."
Unfortunately there are entire categories of dishonest advertising and marketing today that are actively being unleashed upon consumers and plaguing the industries that they operate within. In many cases, the backlash against reputable companies is in reaction to the efforts of these bad seeds. Here are a few examples:
- Spam. Top of the list has to be spam of all sorts, which descends on people's personal and professional email addresses and causes major credibility problems for the entire field of email marketing.
- Miracle Cures. While the FDA mandates strict rules for reputable pharmaceutical organizations promoting real products that can make an impact in people's lives, miracle cures like Trigosamine http://www.trigosamine.com/ buy full page ads in the NY Times claiming 100% efficacy in clinical trials (no exaggeration) and promise to reinvent your life … all without needing any approval from anyone at all. It is no wonder the pharma industry has a trust problem.
- Credit/Financial Offers. From sneaky credit reporting offers signing you up unintentionally for useless "monitoring" to pre-approved credit offers that many blame at least in part for the recent financial crisis, there are no shortage of dishonest tricks when it comes to the unscrupulous within the financial industry.
Though I wish David Ogilvy were right about political advertising being the only dishonest form left, clearly there are others. If there were a cause the marketing industry would do well to take up, it would be to fight these forms of marketing anywhere they appear. As a marketer, don't work on them. As a publisher, don't accept ads from them … and as a consumer, don't give them any attention. Maybe we can still make Ogilvy right again.