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Commercials Crying Wolf: Why Advertisers (and J.Lo) Should Be Held Accountable

I’m going to start this blog off with a disclaimer: I absolutely detest Jennifer Lopez. She is a spoiled brat with a sense of entitlement she is neither talented, nor hot enough, to have earned.

That being said, I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard the news about her new commercial for the Fiat 500 (that’s a car) titled “My World.”

“Jenny From the Block” returned to her home, The Bronx, and talks about how life in this rough borough continues to inspire her to “be tougher.” The kids who look up to her run after the car as she passes through, hoping to grab a glimpse of their hero. One problem:

Jennifer Lopez was sitting in a soundstage in Los Angeles the entire time.

The commercial wasn’t a total lie. It really was The Bronx the Fiat was driving through, only Lopez couldn’t be bothered to return home (I guess there’s not a Prada store close enough for her liking). Instead, they hired a look alike to drive the car and spliced in shots of Lopez sitting in the driver’s seat, a green screen behind her to make it look as if she was moving.

We all know commercials blow things out of proportion, but where is the line? I think it needs to be drawn when an over-abundance of exaggerations confuse things like this:

A sweet and heartfelt commercial for Chevy. My first thought: “Wow! That Dad is a pretty good actor. He should be in more stuff.”

Sorry casting agents: he’s not an actor. This commercial is 100% true. This family man, a father of two, got his dream car back and seemingly almost had a heart attack.

You Negative Nancy’s might be thinking the same thing I did, “How did the dad not know? Didn’t the cameras and the microphones give it away?” A bit of a fib, his sons told him they were helping out with a documentary about 3 Generations of the American Family.

Still don’t believe it was true? I don’t blame you. It’s what years of putting up with blatant exaggerations, and dare I say lies from advertisers has led to. We’ve become so sure companies will tell us anything to get our money, that now we just assume we’re being taken.

It’s time advertisers start being held accountable. And it’s happening slowly.

Taylor Swift

Even T-Swizzle's face is capable of misleading people in ads.

A CoverGirl Ad featuring T-Swizzle (Taylor Swift, for those of you unfamiliar with being “hip”) was recently pulled because her eyelashes had been photoshopped to look fuller and more perfect.

Obviously, pulling the ad wasn’t the company’s own doing; It was called for by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Business Bureaus Claims. As ridiculous as that organization sounds from its name, it’s good to see somebody out there is policing companies.

Now if they can only find a way to get rid of J-Lo…

Have you ever avoided a product because of an advertisement that’s blatantly a lie/exaggeration? Are there any sweet and honest commercials that have stuck with you? Do you know how to defeat J-Lo? Post your thoughts below!

Image credit to babak136378 and photosbyae.


Alex Brodsky

Alex is a video specialist and blogger at Quality Logo Products, putting his media background and screenwriting training to good use. When he's not working, he enjoys tinkering with his fantasy sports lineups, engaging in cheeky shenanigans, and cuddling. He must also get all of his caffeine from pop as he can't stand coffee. You can also connect with Alex on Google+.

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I love that Chevy commercial, but like you, I totally thought that it was fake. After all, this isn’t the first (and it won’t be the last!) time that advertisers have tried to pull on your heartstrings to get you to buy their products and love their brand. However, the fact that the story was one hundred percent true made a lasting impression on me about this man’s love of his car. And that’s a lot powerful than attempting to forcibly create nostalgia with J-Lo. I’m not quite in the market for a new car right now, but when I am, I guarantee you that the Fiat won’t even be considered.

    • Alex Brodsky

      While I never had quite the love of my cars that this man had for his Chevy, I can definitely relate. I was sad when I had to get rid of my old Celica that had 273,000 miles on it :-(

      I also don’t think you have to worry about considering the Fiat. From everything I’ve heard, the car is a dud and probably won’t be around long. I blame J-Lo for that too. People avoided it because she’s a “B” Word.

      • Amanda

        It’s so awesome to hear people keeping their cars for the long haul!! Cars will run SO long if you take care of them. I’ve seen several cars have that many miles and more, running great!! =)

  2. Jenna Markowski

    While I disagree with your claims about J-Lo (I mean, I think she’s a babe), I do agree that it is insane that her starring role in the Fiat commercial seems more real than the ACTUALLY real Chevy commercial. I bet if you polled an audience, more people would say that the J-Lo ad was real, and the Chevy ad was staged. I guess that’s because people would assume that J-Lo DOES have the time and money to travel to the Bronx just to do a 1-minute commercial spot, whereas all of the time and effort that went into the Chevy commercial seems unrealistic for just your average Joe.

    I guess when it comes down to it, even if both ads had been staged, I would still like the Chevy commercial more. The fact that it’s a true story just makes it even more warm and fuzzy. Chevy’s doing something right. :)

    • Alex Brodsky

      The worst is that while she certainly has the time and money to travel home for the commercial, she WOULD be paid to go home (quite handsomely at minimum 6 figures). Get paid to go home AND get “inspiration”?! Who can say “no” to that?! J-Lo apparently.

  3. Amanda

    Wow! I had no idea that the Fiat commercial wasn’t real. I really liked J. Lo–but now I’m not so sure. If she was going to make a commercial that made it seem that she was still “Jenny from the block”, and set in the Bronx, she should have actually went to the Bronx. That makes her seem so fake and superficial! Not cool J. Lo. Plus, seriously, does anyone know someone that owns a Fiat?? I’ve never even seen one on the road–way to make themselves look even more like a bad idea. On the other hand, I love that this Chevy commercial is real!! Makes me feel good about supporting American cars and American dreams. =) Go Chevy Go!!

    • Alex Brodsky

      The Chrysler commercial with Eminem last Super Bowl was another good American car commercial.

      Unfortunately, some of these American car companies are better at making commercials than they are at making cars that don’t break down.

      • Amanda

        That was another good commercial!

        But I have to disagree with you–American cars are very dependable–as long as you maintenance them like you should (just like any other car).

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    Wow! You really had me going with that Chevy commercial. I honestly thought it was scripted. Nice to know I was wrong. Ultimately, it’s quite endearing.

    I was definitely taken by the J.Lo/Fiat commercial — at first. Too bad it wasn’t genuine. While I don’t necessarily share your deep-seated hatred of Ms. Lopez, I do agree that this type of advertising needs to be stopped. It’s misleading, manipulative, unethical, and just plain uncool.

    Excellent post, sir!

    • Alex Brodsky

      “Uncool” is the perfect word.

      Most commercials that mislead the consumers at least have a disclaimer in the fine print (i.e. a truck commercial on now with a truck sliding down a mountain and doing a barrel roll. The fine print then says “trucks can’t snowboard or do barrel rolls). It’s lies, but they at least admit it. When a commercial poses as true though they know it’s a lie, it’s just uncool.

  5. Jen

    The Chevy commercial is adorable, it brought tears to my eyes. The Fiat commercial is lame, Jennifer Lopez sucks. And Taylor Swift looks like a rat in every picture I’ve ever seen of her. They should pull all her ads so I’m not tempted to puke every time I open a magazine.

    • Alex Brodsky

      Yeah! J-Lo blows! I’m not a huge fan of Taylor Swift, but I honestly don’t have that much against her. She’s not going to be around for very long, so she might as well cash in while she’s big.

  6. Barbara Miller

    Talking about ads that pull at your heartstrings, the ones that are so hard to watch, but are legitimate, are the ones for the ASPCA and Humane Society. Sara McLaughlin (sp?) and Willie Nelson singing sad songs and showing the poor animals are really too hard to bear. I am a monthly donor to both, and my pets will always be shelter pets, but I have to leave the room or turn the channel every time one of these come on. Yet another reason to own a DVR. I know this wasn’t where you were heading, and I am right there with you about the auto ads, but this came to mind…

    • Alex Brodsky

      Oh my gosh! Those commercials are HEARTBREAKING! I can’t stand them either. I change the channel immediately, otherwise I might start balling my eyes out.

  7. Rachel

    It’s still hard for me to believe that Chevy commercial is real! It almost feels over-acted, you know? But, that would be because it’s real, haha.

    I hate those Ford press conference commercials, where “real people” are ambushed by a fake press conference. I’m sorry, but no one reacts like that if they walk into a room full of press people, and no one is that witty or thinks their car is that super-duper awesome when they start getting asked questions. It just feels SO fake to me. Definitely affects my perception of the brand.

    Great post, Alex! :)

    • Alex Brodsky

      I’m SO with you on that! Those Ford commercials rival Old Navy’s Mannequins as “Most Obnoxious Commercials on TV”!

  8. amy

    Great post, Alex! I also had no idea that J Lo’s scenes were shot on a sound stage in L.A. Transparency is a powerful brand attribute, and after this I probably won’t believe anything J Lo ever says (not that I ever did anyways).

  9. JPorretto

    I’ve always had the suspicion that J. Lo was as fake as fake gets, (“Jenny from the block” my ass!) so this just confirms it.

    On the other hand, I really wanted to believe the Chevy commercial was real, because it was awesome. Just friggin’ awesome. Now, I wouldn’t exactly have the same reaction if someone said, “We found your 1989 Mercury Sable!” but I get it.

    • Alex Brodsky

      Then you didn’t truly appreciate the Mercury Sable for all of it’s glory. 4 doors AND 4 windows?! Talk about luxury!

  10. Chris Peuler

    I can’t remember If I have ever avoided a product based solely on how it was advertised, at least consciously, I can’t speak for my subconscious. My problem with the way advertising does it’s business stems from more of a debate centered around cultural capitalism and its effect on a social spectrum. Basically these companies aren’t aiming to sell just a product, they are aiming to sell you an idea, and both of these advertisements reflect that ideology. If you noticed neither commercial mentioned the cars they were trying to sell, or the car company itself, they just aimed to put a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart the next time you think about either company. To that degree, I don’t really think Jenny not being on the block matters in terms of what these companies are trying to sell you, in fact, both of these advertisements are fraudulent to a certain extent; you aren’t buying ‘Jennifer Lopez, and her inspirational Bronx’ when you buy a Fiat 500, and purchasing a Chevy doesn’t net you some random guy’s personal memories. Yet they are still trying to sell you the ‘confidence’ that comes with purchasing their product, they just aren’t giving you any tangible information that could actually be of use to you. That, in my opinion, is what they should be held accountable for: trying to sell you something without actually telling you anything.

    • Chris Peuler

      But just to clarify, I totally think the Taylor Swift commercial is bullshit, and a clear example of false advertising. I’m more so just flabbergasted (totally just used that word) by advertisements that literally tell you nothing about the product whatsoever. It’s insulting to our intelligence, and you can’t blame them for false advertising… you can’t even say that they advertised anything. I feel so dumbfounded after I see those commercials. It’s like watching a lava lamp.

      • Alex Brodsky

        I agree with what you say about the companies selling “the confidence” of the product. To an extent, I agree that it’s fraudulent. However, everything a consumer buys is subjective. Since both commercials used were for cars, I’ll roll with that theme: While one customer might love the quick acceleration of a car, another might say the acceleration is too sensitive and could be dangerous.

        Keeping that in mind, advertisers have no choice but to advertise to the “confidence” of their products. Otherwise the television (or streaming internet) viewer would be forced to suffer through twice as many commercials: one for the Fast & the Furious fan who loves the acceleration AND one for the concerned driver who comes to complete stops at every stop sign.

        As far as “tangible information”, you’re 100% correct. Neither of these commercials contained any. Most commercials today don’t, and I agree this is what companies should be held accountable for. Although, some of the most memorable commercials/advertising campaigns also didn’t contain any tangible information, but because they were funny/entertaining (re: Budweiser Lizards for example) I’m willing to look past this.

        Call me a sucker, but I’d rather watch an entertaining commercial than an informative one.

  11. Eric

    Endorsing a product is one thing. If it helps pay the bills, or if it’s helping out a charity, why, sure, Mr./Ms. Celebrity, by all means.

    But I definitely have to feel perturbed when advertising tries to trick a consumer into believe there’s some sort of authenticity, there. The first time I saw the commercial, my first thought was, “Why in hell would someone like Jennifer Lopez drive a FIAT?” Guarantee you she’s not rolling around in one on a daily basis. Much less, on the mean streets of New York.

    If they have an honest relationship with a product or brand, please, let them speak on behalf of it. If they’re simply faking one for a check? Don’t waste a consumer’s time.

    Ironically, I think the strongest endorsements are made by folks who don’t work as spokespeople, and – simply out of mere association – sell somethign simply by being seen wearing or using it. Knowing they bought it on their own time, with their own money, without cameras present? That’s a much more convincing endorsement for me.

  12. Kyle

    One of the biggest lies I ever seen on tv is the commercial for Deal Dash! Running such scams should be illegal, and yes it is a scam! To advertise that you can buy such products so cheap, what they don’t tell you is the cost you incur just to place a bid!!!!

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