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Fun with Media Fallacies

Fallacies are very common and almost unavoidable in every medium.  The internet is full of pop-ups, advertisements, spam emails, and fake websites.  While most of us may know to avoid opening spam emails, some websites are very deceiving.

You may see an ad for a free credit report with no obligation.  Sounds great, right?  You start filling out your information, but the next screen asks for your credit card number.  You thought this was free, so you start looking for the fine print.  There is none.  One small little link titled “Terms and Conditions” catches your eye.  You click on it and learn that the free report is only available to people who enroll in the premier membership plan.  You will not be charged today and will get your free report, but you have to cancel your account before the next month or you will be charged $39.95.  You are doubtful you will remember to cancel this program a month later, so you close the window.

(c) Sandra Sims | Dreamstime Free Images

Infomercials are rife on late night television, and some of them do use fallacies to trick consumers into thinking they need the product or will see some type of improvement if they use it.  Some of the infomercials run in 30 minute or one hour segments to give the impression of an official program instead of just one very long advertisement.  One major fallacy is the weight loss infomercial that stresses the product is only for “people that seriously need to lose 20 pounds or more”.  The average American is overweight by that amount or more, but the spokesperson is trying to give the impression that this is a powerful solution for a specific group.  The sense of importance and urgency displayed is a fallacy (and another reason I do not watch much television).

The people that create these advertisements, whether on the internet or television, all seek to do one thing: persuade the viewer to purchase their products.  They may use beautiful models, key phrases such as stress weight or baby weight, or show you before and after pictures of someone that has been improved or beautified because of their product.  One phrase that always seems to appear tiny but catches my attention is, “results not typical”.  They use the disclaimers as required, but they are so small compared to the smiling and happy spokesperson that they are often not noticed.  Using such a technique displays an assumption that consumers can be swayed into buying things they do not need.  The practice is tricky and unfavorable, but unfortunately that is what drives marketing campaigns.

If I ever think about purchasing something based on an ad or commercial, I always ask myself if I would have purchased it by only seeing it in the store.  Every time this occurs, my answer is no.  Think before you click.


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