Advertising controversies

Advertising controversies

While complaints against advertisers are commonplace around the world, a number of international examples have made headlines.

General complaints


"See spam (electronic) for more information."

Spammers are generally seen to be selling goods in a dishonest manner. Unregulated pornography, pirated software, illegal medications and other black market goods are often advertised by means of spam in a manner that portrays them as being honest and cheap, or otherwise of high quality in comparison to similar goods.

Door-to-door salesmen

Door-to-door salesmen (occasionally also women, although less frequently so) are perceived as being dishonest, manipulative and forceful. In the United Kingdom the stereotype of these salesmen is that of a man in a well-trimmed suit offering alternative gas utility services or window glazing. This derives from historical examples of firms employing independent salesmen and paying them on the basis of sales figures. With salesmen desperate to earn the highest commission possible, this has led to some rather heated encounters, some leading to forced entries or outright violence, and occasionally with the police involved. In Britain, this practice is now heavily regulated as a result.


A number of timeshare firms, particularly of British origin, send salesmen into popular holiday resorts to attempt to sell timeshare properties. Given the elevated cost of such endeavours, the salesmen have often engaged in practices widely considered immoral. A common practice is the use of the gamecard. These cards are similar to lottery cards, where, for example, the participant scratches off three panels to reveal symbols, If these symbols match, the player has won a prize of some description. In the case of many timeshare sellers, however, these cards are doctored such that all of the cards are "winning" cards. The salesman then invites the client to come and collect his or her prize, and brings them to various timeshare properties, pressuring them to sign a binding contract, that will often require them to hand over large sums of money.

Cold callers

When a company randomly calls a person to sell their goods, this is known as "cold calling". Often the random call will be explained away - the calling firm claims to be trying to reach someone else, but proceeds to offer their wares anyway. The number is usually obtained from a number of sources - either it is generated at random, and numbers are tried until a valid one is found.

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