In Search of AuthentiCITI

The premise of this ad for Citi is that a couple renovated their home, bought furniture with their Citi credit card, had the house repainted, and then “slipped away for a quiet weekend.” While they were away, their son painted a hideous mural on the garage door. When the couple returned, they used the money they got back on their purchases to pay for repainting the garage.

This is all great, except that it never happened. The mural on the garage was most likely Photoshopped. There’s no couple and no son.

TV commercials are full of this kind of fakery. How many times have you seen an actress in a commercial say something like:

I’m a mother, and I only want the best for my kids.

Or an actor dressed as a doctor, who says:

As a doctor, I’m concerned about…

These people claim to be something. In a sense, they’re giving fake testimonials. A man dressed as a doctor who endorses a drug on TV isn’t the same as an actual doctor endorsing it.

How much fakery is ok? Should an actor pretending to an athlete be able to talk about how an energy drink helps his performance? Should an actor pretending to be an expert on nuclear energy be allowed to give an opinion in a commercial against nuclear energy? Should an actor posing as someone who can’t make ends meet be allowed to endorse a political candidate?

Where do we draw the line?

As Seth Godin said in his blog in June:

…When we feel deceived or tricked, the game can change, and rapidly.

It’s easier than ever to mount ornate hoaxes and fancy subterfuges. And you can get away with it for a while. But often, and at the worst possible moment, the market might change its mind. It might stop enjoying the fakery and switch to scorn and anger instead…

An open question to Citi: Why not say what’s good about your credit card without having to resort to convoluted, fabricated stories to get your message across?

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