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False Advertising

October 28, 2012

So what is an advertisement?

An advertisement is a non-personal communication used to communicate information about a product or service.  The information presented can be in a story like format usually seen in food advertising or they can be a straight forward listing of the product’s benefits usually seen in pharmaceutical advertising.

Advertising has been proven to be very effective.  Established brands use it to maintain their relationship with their target consumers or announce new products and innovative brands (think Apple) get to make a big splash with their news.

I read a lot about ad spending in several trade publications and I’ve read that recently some companies are increasing their ad spending justifying it by the ROI they receive from it.  That’s great.  I’m glad that companies are doing that.  To me advertising is investing in your brand.

Nowadays the average consumer sees a lot of advertising (I’ve seen various sites make the claim that the number is 5,000 ads, but I can’t find definitive information on that so I’ll just be safe and say “a lot”) and there is pressure to break through the clutter.  Unfortunately, there are advertisers who let the pressure get to them to the point that they start falling into the pseudo-science trap.

A prime example is the area of lasik surgery.  If you ever have the time to read about the history of it; it’s pretty amazing.  The original technique which involved cutting the eye was developed in the 50s in Columbia.  It eventually evolved and incorporated lasers and now you have the surgery as it is today.

I think every eye doctor performs lasik surgery (some may just do one version, some may do both) and consumers are clamoring to get it done.  I personally know of 12 people who have gotten the surgery and I’m sure each friend knows even more people who have had the surgery.

As with anything this drives the price down, which is great.  However, I’m seeing a trend that is starting to bother me.  I’ve seen several ads on TV and in billboards claiming that lasik eliminates eye glasses.  Here’s a scroll out front of an  eye doctor’s office that I captured on the way to a meeting.

Really?  Laser Vision Correction will end my dependence on eye glasses?  Amazing!  I’ll skip the poorly worded scroll (consumers are “dependent” on glasses is a bit melodramatic) and address the statement itself.

There is no proof that lasik (laser surgery) will completely end your usage of glasses.  Depending on your situation, hyperopia or myopia, you may still need glasses to read if you’re hyperopic or to read signs on the highway if your myopic.  Also, there haven’t been any studies on the long-term effects of the surgery.

Not to mention that just because you get the surgery that you’re done because you still continue to age and anyone who has an old relative knows that the eyes are one of the first things that go when you age.

I’m not saying this Eye Doctor is breaking the Lanham Act of 1946 (the act that defined what false advertising is), but he is really skirting the lines into pseudo-science.

I would rather a savings strategy.  For example, spending $X on lasik will save  you $Y on contacts, contact solution and number of contact cases per year.  That you can prove and quantify and would make a very compelling case in times like these when people are looking to save where they can.  You could also speak up to a convenience factor like “not having to rummage for your glasses in the morning” or something to that effect.

I really hope this doesn’t become a permanent trend and consumers asks a lot of questions if they are considering the surgery.   I’d hate to start seeing lawsuits between patients and doctors stating that their doctors’ promises were false.  The surgery is safe and does help people, but a lawsuit would make doctors very wary about giving it and we all know where that will lead.

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