Why do so many HK advertisements lie so blatantly?

[Edit 19 March: see comments for details of clarification from the HK AF organisers, which shows that in this case it was bad wording rather than bad intent.]

I’ve just received this by email from the organisers of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. In it they claim “ALL performances achieved over 90% attendance”. This is a blatant lie. As I wrote previously we only went to one performance at this year’s festival, and I can say categorically that the attendance at Orpheus X on Sunday 24 February was at best about 60% when the show started, and probably 5-10% lower by the time it ended. It is conceivable, I suppose, that over 90% of the tickets for the show were sold but that a third of people didn’t turn up (perhaps in response to reviews of the earlier performances), but that isn’t what it claimed.

It is a great shame that the marketing culture in this town is such that blatant lies are regarded as perfectly acceptable. It extends from PR activity such as that email from the Arts Festival through to simple point of sale price claims.

To quote another specific example, Wellcome has reduced the prices on most of its wines following the budget, but they are hugely exaggerating the amount by which they have done so. Two wines we frequently buy are the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and red Rhône with a name something like Cuvée Prestige. For at least the past two years the Oyster Bay has fluctuated between $138 and $118. The French red has been absolutely consistently $89. Now they have reduced the prices to $99 and $85 respectively, but for some reason they are now claiming that the Oyster Bay was previously $178 and that the Rhône was $115. These are both again blatant lies.

There is a desperate need in this town for a “Truth in Advertising” culture shift perhaps “encouraged” by some decent consumer protection legislation and an oversight body with sufficient teeth to make it stick. Otherwise, this will continue to be just another aspect in which the “Asia’s World City” claim will continue to be held up to ridicule.

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4 Responses to Why do so many HK advertisements lie so blatantly?

  1. Digital Blonde says:

    I think you would be hard pressed to find truth in advertising anywhere in the world, its not just a technique used by advertisers which is specific just to Hong Kong

  2. Richard H says:

    The consumer council needs to be beefed up, and teeth need to be installed. Advertisers have been taking the piss for years in Hong Kong. Fully agreed!

  3. gweipo says:

    If they can’t control the slimming and other tonic adverts on the buses that transport the masses how on earth can we assume they’d bother containing the lies used on the upper crust?

  4. smog says:

    To be fair to the HKAF organisers, I must commend them for a very prompt reply to my email bemoaning their apparent exaggeration of the truth. One Dennis Wu, their Assistant Marketing Manager has clarified that when they said “ALL performances achieved over 90% attendance” what they actually meant in the context of shows that were performed multiple times was that they averaged over 90% attendance across the whole run. He provided the figures for the 4 performances of Orpheus X (100%, 100%, 95.6%, 67.1% (the performance we attended). So that does average out at just over 90%.

    So the issue in the case is the slightly different one of misuse of English in Hong Kong advertising. Here the intent was OK, but the wrong word was chosen: “performance” (in my version of English at least) refers to a single instance.

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