When we see advertisements that deliver lofty promises and wonderful visuals, we assume that is what we’re getting. Sometimes advertisements don’t live up to our expectations though which can negatively impact how customers perceive brands in the future. People now judge brands and businesses based on their experiences meaning that if a brand doesn’t deliver in this format, a consumer will abandon the brand to seek a company that can provide them with the experience they require. With a society built around advertising that favours mobile-first technology and seamless marketing, there can be, at times, a gap between what a brand promises through an advertisement and what they are actually able to deliver. There are plenty of advertisements that don’t live up to expectations and you have to ensure that your brand isn’t one of the companies promising something on a customer journey that is undeliverable.

When Advertisements Don’t Live Up to Expectations: Lying Volkswagen

Famous for their sturdy and attractive cars, Volkswagen found themselves in hot water in 2016 after the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company. While Volkswagen claimed to be able to operate on clean diesel engines, it appeared that they had been cheating emissions tests for over seven years. While this may possibly be an innocent mistake, it turns out that Volkswagen had a much dastardly role in the narrative. Volkswagen had actually engineered software that alerted the vehicle to when it was being tested. This meant that the car intentionally reduced harmful emissions from the exhaust system, temporarily to ensure it passed the test. In summary of justice, this false advertising came at a considerable cost to the company’s trustworthiness. Not only was their brand reputation tarnished but they also faced a potential fine of $90 billion American dollars for breaking multiple environmental laws. A perfect example of when advertisements don’t live up to expectations.
vw advertisements don't live up to expectations
Volkswagen designed software to cheat emissions testing causing much uproar. (Image Credit: Julia Hochesang)

Get Skinny, or Not, with New Balance: False Advertising

New Balance is one of the premium shoe brands available for purchase to the modern person. With beautiful shoes and improving technology, their cult following has continued to grow over the years. However, they had a scandal due to false advertising back in 2011. In 2011, New Balance introduced shoes that had an array of features and big claims. This line apparently used a balance board technology. This technology was meant to encourage muscle activation in the various muscles in the legs which would lead to you burning calories from just wearing them. After some testing, it was revealed that these claims were unfounded and, in fact, these shoes could possibly cause injury. Not only were New Balance suffering from terrible pres but a class-action lawsuit was brought against them, resulting in everyone who had purchased the shoe being entitled to a $100 dollar refund. After paying out $2.3 million, New Balance learned the hard way when customers find out that the advertisements they were given did not meet up to expectations.
new balance bad advertising
New Balance came under fire for making false claims about the technology in their shoes (Image Credit: Elisei Abiculesei)

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice: Splenda isn’t Sugar

As humans who are largely sedentary, we try to find things that actively improve our health. While most of us adore sugar, it can have some major health consequences, so using a supplement with less damage is always preferred. Enter Splenda. Splenda was a popular sugar substitute that came to prominence in the early noughties. Their marketing campaign focused on the similarities between sugar and Splenda with their tag line reading, “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” which seems like a fair and honest assumption. However, the Sugar Association actually uncovered that Splenda wasn’t derived from natural sugar. Rather, it was a chemical compound that went through many stages of processing before becoming the household product it is known to be. This scandal caused the Sugar Association to file suit against Splenda, taking them to court and settling for a confidential settlement. This same result occurred when Splenda was taken to court by their supplementary sugar rivals, Equal. Another perfect example of when advertisements don’t live up to expectations. splenda not sugar

A Bowl of Rice Crispies Doesn’t Keep the Doctor Away 

Eating cereal in the morning is a common breakfast practice and the competing market to end up in customers’ bowls is neverending. Trying to appeal to the health-conscious as well as children, Kellog’s announced that Rice Krispies had immune-boosting properties in 2010. They came to this conclusion through their scientific research showing that their cereal was filled with vitamins and minerals. This was soon found to be false advertising and the FTC ordered Kellogs to pay a $2.5 million fine and a large sum of their products to charity to make amends for their claims.
bad advertisements rice krispies
Rice Krispies made false claims about how healthy they are for the human body, bringing a hefty fine for Kellogs through a lawsuit. (Image Credit: Wendy Rake)

How Can I Make Good and Realistic Advertisements?

Advertisements are a crucial part of society and we are absorbed by many companies displaying their services and products daily. It is important to note though that this comes with a great responsibility as WARC have found over 32% of people believe ads influence how they see themselves. With that in mind, run campaigns that are based on data. Increase your customer spend and build brand loyalty by creating advertisements that appeal to their desires without lying to them. Honesty is integral and being able to actively and openly communicate with them builds trust in your offering. Use advertising to educate your customers. Relay your experience through concise, clear cut copy that is tailored to their growth with you. Marketing campaigns based on these foundations result in success.


Customers have become more attuned to products and services with the development of technology, and it is important as a marketer to continuously deliver appealing and exciting advertisements without falsely promising them to customers. Focusing on customer experiences and delivering realistic information for customers to make investment decisions is the best way to encourage them to remain loyal to your brand while remaining loyal to the truth.

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