Monday, September 03, 2007

Who is responsible for the lies

As marketers we have an interesting ethical tight rope to walk each and every day. On one hand we must present our employer's/client's products in the best light, focusing on the most beneficial positives. On the other hand we do have a responsibility to those which read/hear/see our marketing that what we say is honest.

But what happens when lies creep in?

Now, I am not talking about where we round up some numbers, etc. I am talking about a situation where we present information which we know is incorrect or at the very least is likely to be incorrect. Where does the buck stop?

I raise this point because at present we have a very interesting situation in Australia. The federal government and leading business groups are concerned that at the next federal election - which is due to take place in the coming months - the opposition will get in. And much of the support for the opposition party is coming as a result of industrial relations laws which the government created last year.

The opposition has, of course, said that they would repeal some of the legislation. So a marketing campaign based on an economic report, requested by the business groups and government, has been released stating what a terrible thing it would be if the opposition were allowed to have their way: lost jobs, out of control inflation, terrible things for the average punter.

But apparently, if you actually take a look at the report some of the numbers are a bit rubbery and don't take into account a number of things. The conclusions are apparently at best a guide. If you were a betting man, you would probably not put money down based on what the report says is the likely outcome. Yet there are obviously marketing people who have put together a series of crisp ads throwing around the conclusions from this report like they are facts. The average Australian whose experience of economics is what they learnt in high school is none the wiser. Someone involved in the campaign has got to have realised that what they are marketing is lies or at best answers to an entirely different question to the one they are putting at the top of their ads. But is anyone involved willing to take responsibility for this campaign and fix the problem?

Now I am using the above campaign as an example, but there are probably plenty of other examples if you take a look around you.

We should all take responsibility

It has only been in recent years that marketing has earned it stripes as a bona fide profession. This is partly because a credibility has developed around marketers. We are not shady people selling magic potions off the back of a truck, constantly moving from one town to the next.

We are, in general, professionals who well understand the various aspects of the businesses we are involved in, tapping into the financial, technical and customer sides of the business. We can be powerful people. But with power comes responsibility, which some of us forget at times.

We need to chastise those marketers who would give our profession a bad name and drag it back down with snake oil salespeople. But that means we all have a part to play. Let it be known that those who are unscrupulous are not part of our profession. Let us loudly voice our criticism of marketing campaigns which have dubious claims. We have worked too hard to let marketing return to the dark ages.