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The Dark Side of Video Marketing — in the Shadow of False Advertising Practices

dark side of video marketing

Everyone loves videos — that much has become apparent nowadays. And we’re not just blindly assuming; here are some interesting facts:

Due to this overall popularity of video content, it was only a matter of time before marketers also learned to love and use video. According to a survey conducted by Wyzowl, 87% of companies utilize video content in their marketing campaigns. That is, in part, because research shows that videos increase conversions drastically. Just having one on your landing page can up your conversion rates by a whopping 86%!

But if videos are so fantastic for both consumers and marketers, what is this talk about a dark side? Well, unfortunately, just like many things in life, videos can be (ab)used to the detriment of the consumer. As much as we adore video content and love seeing it everywhere around us, it’s imperative to remember — people can also easily use it to mislead and misinform

So today, we will stray from all the benefits and value videos can bring and shift our gaze toward their grimmer side. We’ll take an in-depth look at the dark side of video marketing. But before we get to it, we first have to explain… 

Why Videos Are Such a Powerful Advertising Tool

There are many reasons, but here are a few notable examples:

They Are Interactive

The primary reason videos are prevalent advertising tools is that they offer a level of interactivity no other medium can. With the development of outstream video ad technology, a whole new world of possibilities opened for video marketers. Namely, some of these types of advertisements allow users to actively engage with the ads by performing an action on the screen. That can range from swiping in some direction or clicking a button to playing a minigame or even filling out a poll.

They Are Visually Pleasing

The second reason is that they are more visually pleasing than any other type of propaganda. That is because humans are visual creatures; we rely on perception more than any other sense, and videos cater to it. You know what they say — a picture is worth more than a thousand words. But what are videos? They are thousands of consecutive images moving one after another at high speeds. So how much are they worth? Well… you do the math.

They Affect Viewers on an Emotional Level

Videos also cater to viewers’ emotions more than any other medium. That is because they can convey an event or a landscape in a manner that easily resonates with the audience — something non-visual mediums can never do as effectively. They achieve that by making the viewers feel as if they were in the midst of it all. What do you think would leave a longer-lasting impression on you? An article discussing the issue of bullying in schools or a video of a child being harassed by their peers?

They Are Practical

Finally, videos are also practical — they offer consumers a way to learn the ins and outs of a particular product or to witness it firsthand before making a purchase. 

Now, here comes the problematic part — 84% of consumers stated that brand videos highly influenced their purchasing decisions. In a perfect world, all of this influence videos can have wouldn’t cause us to bat an eye. However, the reality is far from that. 

So we finally reach the burning question…

What If This Power Is Abused?

Since videos can so easily sway consumer decisions, advertisers can shape them in a way that misrepresents their product. That is, of course, done in an overwhelmingly positive manner.

“But wait, isn’t that what marketing is all about?” you might ask. “Showing your brand’s product in a positive light?”

Yes, it absolutely is; however, there is a vast difference between presenting your product in a positive light by showcasing its strengths and false advertising

The former is pretty much self-explanatory — you emphasize your product’s top functionalities and pass over its potential flaws. In contrast, the latter means misrepresenting your product’s traits, qualities, and functionality, such as size, looks, features, materials, etc. For example, if you’ve ever ordered something online and then received a product that merely resembled the photograph but was, in reality, something entirely different, then you were a victim of false advertising.

“But isn’t that illegal?” you might wonder. Yes, it is, and most countries have laws to protect consumers from such predatory practices. Unfortunately, the reality is that these regulations are rarely enforced. And even when they are, the cases against false advertising are challenging to handle. 

And why is that so particularly dangerous when you put videos into the equation? Do you remember when we talked about videos and their incredible power to resonate with the viewers emotionally? Well, emotions play a substantial role in consumer purchasing decisions. So when you combine the influence videos can have on customer emotions with false advertising, you get a potent and deadly concoction.

“OK, so pay special attention to shady video ads and companies. Gotcha.” If it were only that simple. Sadly…

Some Industry Giants and Large Enterprises Also Use Videos for False Advertising

Yes, it is true. And one of the most recent examples of an enterprise-level false advertising campaign that relied heavily on promotion through live streaming and video content was of Blizzard Entertainment’s remaster of their widely beloved game Warcraft III, titled Warcraft III: Reforged. The gist of what happened is the following:

At Blizzcon 2018, an annual convention dedicated to Blizzard games, an announcement and a reveal for the upcoming remaster of Warcraft III was made. The attendees were even allowed to play and live stream a demo version of the forthcoming release to get a feel for all the improvements and new features. However, a year later, the fans would have to face some severe disappointment.

All Aboard the Hype Train

Videos are just perfect for building hype — a tool marketers all too often use to raise the demand for their products. But hype is a dangerous asset, as it can backfire if not delivered on. And that is why Warcraft III: Reforged’s marketing campaign left such a bitter taste in many people’s mouths and why the world will remember it as one of the most deceptive advertising campaigns of recent years. In short, here’s what happened…

A Tale of Lost Trust and Broken Promises

We’ve already addressed what false advertising entails earlier. So now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at just why the consumers felt deceived in the case of Warcraft III: Reforged. Here is a side-by-side comparison taken from IGN’s YouTube channel that illustrates just how the advertised product looks next to the delivered one.

The differences in both quality and perspective are blatantly obvious, but some might argue that the two look similar enough. Well, if this example were the only one to go by, a case could perhaps be made in Blizzard’s defense. However, aside from this video material, the company cut out many promised and advertised features from the release version of the game. Some of the things that Blizzard Entertainment announced (and even showcased) but didn’t deliver were:

  • 4+ hours of new, cinematic cutscenes
  • new and improved UI
  • a full campaign overhaul with changes to the main story 

All of that, among many other reasons, is why the game currently holds the lowest Metacritic user score of all time. What’s more, it even became a meme in the online world after the launch of a Warcraft III: Refunded satirical website.

You can now probably see how Blizzard used video material to influence consumer decisions in the unfortunate case of Warcraft III: Reforged. But this whole fiasco at least serves as a fantastic learning experience for both marketers and customers. The former can learn from others’ mistakes to avoid deceitful advertising practices, while the latter should realize they must remain wary so that they don’t fall victim to false advertising.

More Examples of False Video Advertising

We hate being a negative Nancy here, but there are far worse examples of false video advertising than the previously mentioned. Namely, some members of the mobile gaming industry have been particularly fond of these practices.

With the abrupt rise of the mobile gaming market, many companies have been increasing their marketing budgets. After all, with an industry that experts forecast will be worth over $174 billion by 2021, as found by Influencer Marketing Hub, an increased need for advertising doesn’t come as a surprise.

But what are these companies doing that’s considered false advertising? Let us briefly illustrate…

Misrepresentation of Gameplay and Game Functionality

The most frequent transgression many mobile game video ads commit is the misrepresentation of gameplay and game functionality. That kind of misinformation undoubtedly falls under the definition of false advertising. 

A notable example of that would be the ad campaign for Lords Mobile. YouTube content creator i3Stars made a side-by-side comparison of what the ad showcased and how the gameplay really looks. The differences are genuinely jarring. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find his video here.

Stealing Video Content

An even worse infraction is in the case of some advertisers stealing other games’ video content for their advertising purposes. By doing that, not only do they mislead consumers, but they also infringe on IP copyright

An excellent example of such practice would be the mobile game Dragon Awaken, which used a video from Project Awakening — a console title still in development — by Cygames. They used the video as advertising material meant to showcase their product’s gameplay. As compared by content creator Upper Echelon Gamers, this is how the gameplay, in reality, looks next to the stolen footage.

Now, as worrying as all of this may sound, things are not as bleak as they seem. There are ways for consumers to protect themselves from falling victim to false advertising without much hassle. So here’s…

How to Protect Yourself From False Advertising

There are two surefire ways to safeguard yourself from false advertising:

  • Do thorough research — Yes, this does take some time, but it’s essential to inspect the company and the product in more detail. In other words, never settle for just what you see on an ad. Our advice is to look for user reviews and live product demonstrations by credible sources, research other products that the said company offers, etc.
  • Wait before you buy (do not preorder) — If the product in question is not out yet, don’t preorder it due to hype generated by the advertising material. Instead, wait for its release and then check out other people’s experiences with it. That way, you’ll avoid paying for a faulty or unfinished product.

There’s a Black Sheep in Every Flock, but Don’t Let That Get to You

As we have showcased in our article, there are anti-consumer and dishonest practices in video advertising out there. However, our examples are more of an exception than a rule. As we’ve shown above, you can easily protect yourselves from these predators with minimum effort; you just have to remain wary. 

In the end, videos are still incredible, and their potential is almost infinite! With that in mind, it would be a shame to let cases such as these ruin our experience, wouldn’t it? After all, videos bring people together, and they help marketers breathe life into their products. If you ask us, these are reasons enough to keep striving toward making new content and using it to its fullest.

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