EDITORIAL: The world of fake ads

IN THE olden days, the most popular commercial tag line was ‘truth in advertising.’ It was a mantra that was always invoked or cited whenever certain products were misleadingly advertised or broadcast as cure-all in case the article or merchandise had claimed medical properties. 

Today, outside misinformation or fake news, the social media has become the playground of fake ads that exploit the popularity of influencers and personalities, even surreptitiously using misleading quotes or using the images as unsuspecting endorsers.

Fake ads in the internet are as bad an online pandemic as any distorted information you get from clickbait accounts. Because influencers often focus their attention on their overload YouTube or Facebook accounts, browsing offers that exploit their image and name becomes a non-interest unless a fan or sympathetic party starts commenting on it on the famous person’s account.

Though not interested in crawling the internet other than reading the news or doing legit research, we can comment on the profiles who have warned the public about this kind of scam.

Early on, Dr. Vicky Belo, the country’s No. 1 beauty guru, was linked to a hair grower that promised relief for falling year. But the takeaway from the online ad was the non-mention by the dermatologist of any specific product endorsement. What she was discussing are the causes and treatment of falling hair, which she also experienced at the time.

Just recently, actor Kris Aquino, now undergoing treatment in the US, was exploited and her image used as endorser of a supposedly miraculous mixed nuts product with popular Dr. Willie Ong’s image on it. The celebrity even went to the extent of convincing her lawyer to write the doctor to take down the account that was sadly not his.

Like Aquino, Dr. Ong has been a victim of fake online ads many times over. Apparently, the fake account admins want to bank on the doctor’s popularity and at times splice the contents of his million-subscriber YouTube account to suit their intent. Again, the takeaway remains: the doctor, like other bastardized influencers, does not mention the product with his photoshopped face on it. Obviously, the creator of the bogus account does know that Kris is allergic to nuts.

Just a few days ago, Eric Quizon, the son of the late comedian Rodolfo ‘Dolphy’ Vera Quizon, also came out in the news, reacting to the illegal endorsement made by a whisky firm which used a copyrighted image of his father in the packaging. He declared that “Banayad Whisky… is not associated, affiliated, or connected” with his dad or “the heirs of Dolphy.” 

The proliferation of fake ads becomes even more effective when the account owners employ the skills of an IT content creator or programmer with access to the voluminous online tools that can be used and exploited to present or project any online advert with believability. 

While there are old and new laws that can be used to hunt down the exploiters, the ease with which accounts can be opened and shut becomes a challenge. Even if the electronic fingerprints can be traced, the closing of the contested account can be made basis for arguing that the owner of the fake ad has complied, under threat of legal action, in the removal of an illegal and exploitative account. Still, the bad impressions created cannot be remedied overnight.

But fake ads are not just about exploiting popularity or stealing personal identities; they are also about selling products exorbitantly. Recently, another hair-growing product has been coaching victims to buy a product that, when paired with a shampoo, would result in hair growth in just seven days. Both items are a little over P2,000. But if you browse the online shopping accounts, the hair grower alone (without its combo) costs below P150, excluding shipping fee.

Let’s not forget that online offers are what makes fake ads thrive. Our ignorance, or simply our lack of enquiry, has made product-browsing on the internet a dangerous minefield of fakes. (PMT)


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