Double Standards in Advertising – Internet vs Traditional Media

Do you listen to the radio and watch TV? If you’re like me, you don’t. Terrestrial radio sucks ass, and TV is only worth watching with a TiVo, so its not often I hear or see commercials.

It seems like government regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission have their sights set on online advertisers. Every new story from the FTC is related to someone(s) doing something (allegedly) shady with the Internets.

But have you seen some of the advertisements that play on traditional media?

Debt Crisis in America featuring Obama

I don’t know if this commercial still runs, it’s a little old. But I know I’ve seen it a few weeks ago on TV, so it had some staying power.

Imagine the balls it would take for any online advertiser or affiliate to speak Obama’s name on their landing page today. Of course, people did this when grant offers became popular a year or so ago. Within weeks the FTC shut it down.

But that Obama commercial above? That’s been running for months since then, well into 2010.

And its not like they’re just tying Obama’s name to it. The entire commercial is produced to look as official and misleading as possible. It’s got a goddamn clip from an Obama press conference! The balls!

So What the Fuck, FTC?

Government regulation is a killer for entrepreneurs, especially online advertisers. In some cases, government intervention is necessary. When something gets out of hand, it’s time to put the old kabash on it and ruin the fun for everybody.

So if government wants to regulate advertisers, why don’t they focus on some of the shit that is advertised on TV and radio? Why do they focus on the people that are using the new media – the internet, THE FUTURE, rather than advertisers using old media?

Why Does Traditional Media Get a Free Pass?

Just talking out of my ass, but the main reason is that its very easy to track on the internet. People can take a screenshot, and there is Exhibit A. People can send a link to their friends or report it to a government agency easily.

With TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people that know how to rip a commercial from live TV or Radio. Who is going to sit around waiting for that commercial to play again? What government regulator lackey would sit around watching and listening the thousands of channels out there? None.

On the internet – its static. Always there. Always ready to be linked and documented.

Other Examples

I don’t want to out anyone’s specific shit here, but here are some more examples of double-standards in advertising. Discloure is the main element missing from radio and TV commercials. If you ever heard an auto dealer / car commercial, half of it is disclosure. About 90% of any medical commercial is disclosure.

But advertising “newer” things, that are common on the internet, rarely has disclosure.

Free Laptop – “You mean a Free Laptop?” “Yes!” “What’s the catch?” “There is none! It’s absolutely Free!” You can’t do that shit on the internet, kids.

Colon Cleanse – “Right now, as part of a special weight loss experiment, we’re looking for 20 people in your area to try a Free Bottle of ColonBlowX. Call now!” No disclosure whatsoever about whats in store for the buyer. A phone agent is supposed to give disclosure, but often they won’t. There’s no way to audit individual conversations. Call centers record calls, but at random. And if a call looks bad for that advertiser, “Delete!”

Debt – Huge on radio and TV. The Obama example above is just one example. To be fair, debt offers online rarely disclose what they really are – shady as all fuck.

Anyway – the point of this post is: Fuck the FTC! Stop hating on the internet. Go watch some TV and listen to radio, and you’ll find some shady shit to go after within minutes. For fuck’s sake, they’re advertising to your grandma during daytime TV! You don’t want them ripping off your grandma, do you FTC?!

  • Excellent post Barman.

  • Yeah I always wondered why those TV ads got away with blatant disregard for outing obama in their ad.

  • Excellent post man. I actually saw this commercial just the other night, and was thinking the same. exact. thing.

    Well said, my friend.

  • Hannah

    Really good post Barman.

    The only thing I kind of disagree with is the reason governments don’t go after the TV ads. With a simple subpoena they can get the ads from the networks they’re running on, no problem. Finding out the network is the same thing as finding out the URL an online marketer is using.

    I think it has more to do with perceived trust of the two mediums. TV has been around for decades, whereas the internet is in its infancy. For the past 10 years, all we’ve heard about from the internet is the latest about nigerian scams, people stealing credit card numbers, etc. We don’t hear that shit about TV. I’m too young to know whether or not we ever did, but lets face it, humans are bad enough at change that there probably were a few years of “oh god it’s going to ruin families!!” back in the late 50s.

    Nowadays, people trust TV. They know there’s not really anything to worry about, whereas they hear about these scams from the internet. Therefore, in order to be perceived as though they’re protecting consumers as they’re supposed to be, the government goes after the medium which most people tend to associate with scams over TV advertisements.

    Which do you think Joe Schmoe is going to prefer to hear as he goes to the polls: “We’re saving you from those scams on the internet” or “We’re saving you from those scams on TV”.

    Regardless of the reality, it’s always going to be the internet because it’s new and scary.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure the sentiment will ever go away completely, due to the simplicity of scammers to set up shop online compared to on TV.


  • ok, thats it… I am convinced barman has one of those Whammo Super-Spy/Stealth Telescopes and is ease-dropping in on our marketing mastermind… I am breaking out the little silver-triangular hat pyramids in an attempt to keep our next blog post from being leaked ahead of time…
    Way to go man… DEATH TO MARKETING IRONY!!!

  • SERIOUSLY!!! … we just started recording late-nite ads on various channels. Because we noticed banned google niches being run on… GOOGLE VIDEO !!!???
    there defiantly IS a different set of rules that standard formats have that internet is not… me thinks I smell a FTC/Google/Merchant account’s rat…

  • gonzo

    i worked at a newspaper where they hired a “reporter” to write automotive “Stories” that always prominently featured local car dealerships – that bought advertising…

  • Yeah, fuck them always ruining the fun. That sucks that traditional media gets overlooked.

  • Karl

    Thank god the barrier to entry for traditional media is much higher than online… or you’d have 100,000 morons living in their mom’s basements fucking it up for the rest of us, by applying tactics out of a guru “make money now” ebook.

  • Karl

    Forgot to add….

    You wanna see scammy? Just listen to Alex Jones pitch his “survival seed bank” right after he scared the shit out of you talking about the end of society.

    Or listen to Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity pitch gold, without any full disclosure mentioning that they’re invested in the gold company.

  • so, true. I just had a client a few months ago want me to fall for that stuff. When did emotions become the dominate force vs. commmons sense, logic and history ?

  • Don’t get me started on this shit. Big companies get a free pass for stuff they would lynch you and me for.

  • haha I havent been on this site in a month or so and the way you say things is hilarious. Good post traditional marketing is no more.

  • true that