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What Are the Different Types of Fallacy in Advertising?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated May 16, 2024
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Some different types of fallacy in advertising are false causes, appeals to tradition, and false authorities. False causes occur when someone blames an effect on an unrelated cause. Appeals to tradition are arguments stating that old things are better than new. False authority figures are often celebrities or well-known politicians who endorse a product, service, or government action but have no expertise on the subject. In some cases, the fallacy is less direct, as when companies use a buzzword, with no official definition to describe a product.

False cause and effect is a common fallacy in advertising. This kind of fallacy occurs when the advertiser implies or outright states that an outcome was caused by whatever or whomever they are promoting or discrediting, even though there is likely no connection between the two. A politician or paid actor might say, “Global warming was not a problem before this man was elected.” This is a fallacy because one person’s election did not cause global warming. In fact, global warming might have been a problem before the election, but no one considered it a problem or was aware of it until after the election.

Another kind of fallacy in advertising is an appeal to tradition, which occurs when someone states that “x” is better than “y” because “x” is older. For example, an advertisement might state that a household cleaner must be highly effective and safe because people have been using it for generations. Sometimes older or traditional actions or products are actually inferior or no better than new ones. Unless the advertiser is selling antiques, the product is probably not better simply because it is old.

False authority occurs when ads encourage consumers to buy an item because a celebrity endorses it. This celebrity might be a musician, television chef, or professional football player who knows little about the product and is being compensated with money or free products. Sometimes people put more trust in celebrities than in degrees, titles, and years of experience.

One common source of fallacy in advertising is the use of buzz words, which are words that seem to have a clear meaning but do not. For instance, products are often referred to as "green," and the word green is used to describe something that is eco-friendly or uses reusable materials. Green can be seen as a buzz word because it can mean many different things, however. Something that is labeled by an advertiser as "green" may not actually be eco-friendly or use recycled materials. It may be labeled as this way for some other reason or no reason at all.

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Discussion Comments
By FlwerChild — On Mar 05, 2014

New and improved is a buzz word I don't understand. How can something be both new *and* improved?

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