Advertising people are viewed as liars, only marginally more trustworthy than car salesmen.
But the truth is that we actually don't lie to consumers. In fact, it's the consumers who lie to us.
Yes, we probably exaggerate a little. And paint products in their best possible light. But that's just salesmanship - as employed by every industry. We don't lie. In fact there are strict rules against that. Having worked (briefly) in finance and in journalism, I can tell you that advertising is a far more honest business than either of those professions.
People, on the other hand, do lie to us.
Russell Davies was reminiscing the other day on his blog about "Endless focus groups with company car drivers - constantly lying about why they drove the car they did."
I remember once going to a car research group myself, where they had given the punters some magazines to flick through. From the other side of the one-way glass, I watched a bloke spend several minutes studying a text-heavy ad. Then the moderator asked the group - just to get them talking - whether any of the ads had caught their eye. "No," said the guy I'd watched read every single word.
In research, the punters always say they're not influenced by advertising. That they buy on substance, not on image. And that they'd far prefer a car ad that simply gave them the facts - the car's price, engine size, speed, etc.
And then they go out and buy purely on image.
Hardly surprising, I guess. According to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without lying at least once.
In business, it could be even higher.
But this is never discussed. Because to accuse someone of lying is a highly aggressive manoeuvre. There's no way back for a relationship after that.
Nevertheless, it goes on. It must do.
So, next time you're pondering something someone has said to you - whether they be a consumer, a client, or a co-worker - don't forget to factor in this extra little possibility into your assessment: they may be lying.
Though of course, you yourself don't tell any lies at work. Do you?