Does This Bug Anyone Else?

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I’m all for creative marketing.

I’m all for pushing the envelope, having fun and doing what’s necessary to stop people in their tracks and pay attention…while still being ethical and respectful.

I love drawing people in with a bit of shock and awe, surprise, value, information, offers and promises that are clear and can be delivered on.

But, driving around NYC the other day, I noticed something that really bugged me.

Variations of the sign on the left.

Is it technically and legally okay?

I guess so.

But, still, it bugs me.

Because it’s designed, with special emphasis and de-emphasis on font size, to very deliberately to create a perception that, at least to me, takes advantage of the way people allocate their attention while driving.

So, what is it that’s bugging me about it?

And, does it bug you, too?

Share your answer in the comments below…

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39 responses

39 responses to “Does This Bug Anyone Else?”

  1. Oy vay! Just drove by … Ugh similar signs for our municipal election. Commented to my car mate (aka husband) that they were offending my design sensibilities. I struggle with the unbriddled vie for votes with tired slogans ” I will work for you!”. I’d like to vote on whether we should scrap the permissionless marketing.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Natalie Currie and Rich LoPresti, Ryan Sumstad ✔. Ryan Sumstad ✔ said: It's a little misleading especially as you drive by > RT @jonathanfields: Does this bug anyone else? – […]

  3. Jodi Kaplan says:

    It’s misleading. The font size creates the impression that they’re charging only $8.45 to park for the entire day. What they’re really doing is charging $8.45 to park for half an hour (at any time during the day).

  4. Like most “in your face”-type marketing, this one is designed to draw in the reader (aka driver) with the huge numbers…and then there’s the “small print caveat” that most readers (aka drivers) won’t notice because they’re thrilled they found “a bargain”. I not only detest nonsense like this, I abhor it.

    I’m like you in that I’m all for creative marketing, a bit of a creative twist, etc. However, nonsense like this is, to me, extremely misleading. If I EVER did anything close to that with my jewelry, I would put myself out of business. These dolts get away with it because, apparently, there are no ethics in the folks that promote this way.

  5. Julie_k says:

    Agree on the grounds of visual pollution. However billboards, Burma shave signs, bumperstickers et al have the same intention.

    • DeeAnn says:

      At least Burma Shave signs were entertaining and are still revered as ‘art’.

  6. Franklin says:

    Last Sunday I took my family to brunch at the Marriott Hotel in Baltimore. Parking not being easy there, we opted for the valet parking special that the bellman mentioned at a price of $8.00. When I went to reclaim my car 4 hours later, the charge was $40.00. Seems the bellman didn’t mention that the $8.00 special was only for three hours and that after that, they charged the full day rate. I was so livid that I will not return to that hotel for any reason. When we went out to wait for the car to be brought to us, we saw a sign, similar to the one pictured, positioned far enough away from the driveway that you couldn’t see the small print, where the day rate policy was spelled out. My return business probably doesn’t matter much to the monolith that is Marriott, but if they continue to treat people this way, how can they continue to attract business? Mystery to me…Thanks for the provoked thought, Jonathan. Great post!

  7. This blatantly deceptive form of advertising bothers me a lot. This is not creativity, in fact it demonstrates a lack of creativity in designing the product and/or the message.

    Deception is pervasive in product, service, and political advertising and that is bad both for consumers and honest and ethical business people. Deceptive practices cheat consumers out of value they sought and take business from the ethical. Further, what is the difference between the advertising in the sign pictured and the deceptive practices that helped bring about the mortgage crisis? In my opinion, these practices are the same at their core.

    These practices can not and should not be fought with law. We need consumer outrage directed at the false advertisers. Consumers must learn not to do business with those that attempt to deceive. Only then will businesses learn not to deceive. Thank you for raising this issue!

  8. To me, it’s definitely dishonest marketing. It’s all in the intent and the intent in this case is obviously to deceive. This kind of marketing, unfortunately, is still common (newspaper ads for new cars are a case in point).

  9. wilson says:

    I almost crash in downtown Chicago every time one of these misleading signs drew me in to find out the same thing…that it was only $14.95 for an hour..grrr

  10. Anne Wayman says:

    It’s dishonest; it’s trickery. You’re not the only one who is bothered by it. Makes us all cynics if we’re not careful.

  11. Irene Ross says:

    Two things bother me. First, the blatant dishonesty of these signs–the old “bait and switch” where they print one number in huge letters, making it necessary to read the small, fine print to see what’s really going on. The other thing that bothers me? The way it distracts drivers, especially those who will be preoccupied reading the smaller print. With all the talk about accidents created with the help of cell phones, texting and whatever–do we really need one more thing to distract drivers? Totally irresponsible!!!

  12. Yes this bugs me! and I am so glad someone is speaking up about it. I just did A LOT of unsubscribing this week when I finally connected some dots about what’s going on in my online world! This opens up room for me to attract honest and integrous people to connect with. Hooray!
    Rebecca Johnson, Be The Change~Change The World.

  13. Bob White says:

    I lived (existed) on Long Island for several years and felt that EVERYONE had his hand in my pocket ! I had to pay to get onto the island and pay to get off

    I still recall the day I took the ferry to Fire Island(the land of NO ! ) As I pulled into the parking lot(surrounded by chain link fence) – a huge sign PARKING – ALL DAY $ 8.00

    I rolled down the window and the attendant calmly said – that will be $ 12.00 – when I questioned the amount, he replied – I have some spaces near the gate – you won’t have to wait so long to get out when you return

    – I declined and paid the $ 8.00

    when I returned it took me all of 30 seconds or so to start my car and exit the lot – so I have been to Fire Island twice – FIRST and LAST time in my life

    and that’s one of the reasons why I now live in the wide open spaces of Texas !

    • angelwins says:

      Hi, Bob!

      Alas, “the wide open space of Texas” is as full of corruption and chicanery as anyplace else…

  14. The worst example of this was when I was trying to find parking in downtown Los Angeles when I was attending a talk at the central public library. There was a sign “Free Parking for The Library” so I pulled in. Something made me ask the attendant if this was indeed parking for the library. He told me it wasn’t for the real library, but for the sleezy bar upstairs called “The Library.” If I hadn’t asked, I would have been charged $30 for 2 hours parking!

    To answer your question, what really bugs me, even more than getting tricked, is that it gives marketers of all kinds a bad rep and generates an atmosphere of distrust in everyone. That hurts me both as a consumer and as a person selling products and services.

  15. rex says:

    Haven’t people figured out yet that it’s the opposite type of advertising that works better. Instead of promising something big but delivering small, if you promise something small or normal then deliver more than expected you’ll create more loyal customers and they’ll tell their friends about it.

    Zappos has it figured out.

  16. Annie Stith says:

    Hey, Jonathan!

    We have the same problems here in St. Louis, especially when the Cardinals play. Suddenly there are “parking lots” where there used to be empty, open fields.

    Not only is there deceptive signage, but also guys in the street made to look as if they are “official,” flagging people into the lots as if not allowed to travel any farther down the street.

    I must admit having to restrain the urge to run these fellas over… or at least chase them out of the street.



  17. jesinalbuquerque says:

    What bothers me more are the moving billboards that change pictures. It’s almost impossible not to watch them, and it’s really unsafe.

  18. Ren Atkins says:

    Not only is it deceptive, it’s just plain dumb marketing. Customers who fall for the trick will feel stupid and resentful, and they’re likely to look for an alternative next time. Those who notice the deceptive design will be wary and suspicious, and less likely to hand over their money.

    I like to think businesses that resort to tactics like this will eventually suffer the consequences of their own dodginess.

  19. Pamela Quinn says:

    I will begin with I do not live in a huge city like New York. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Parking is $5 – $10 for a whole day.

    I like the signs. What I see is a smallish sort of business who is trying to meet a lot of needs. (I do the same in my business…yoga). The real sign he wants to put out is “Please pop in and talk to me. I really want to meet your needs and serve you. I know we can work something out and you will be very happy to park here.”

    Shanti, Pamela

  20. Melissa K says:

    “So, what is it that’s bugging me about it?”

    My two cents worth? The fact that the advertisers are deliberately being deceptive, or if you hark back to your legal days, should know that they are being deceptive. The deception bit pushes some sore spots sparking outrage; you feel that there is a deviation from the “fairness” norm.

    Someone once told me “No one has the right to make me angry”.

    Yes, this kind of advertising is silly, but are you going to let it take up your emotional and intellectual brain space? Couldn’t that energy be used better?

    Or even better, remember, this is an offer, and for it to have any effect, you need to accept. How about counter-offering, like “I only accept your offer of $8.45 an hour if I get M&Ms with that”? While it’s likely that you will get a “huh?” look from the attendant, at least it would be funny and you wouldn’t be angry any more.

  21. John Eric Pollabauer says:

    This is a perfect example why more and more people are not reading nor paying much attention to this form of advertising anymore. It would be nice if there would be a recognizable non-governmental organization that would approve for public display an advertising sign as meeting certain basic truth in advertising criteria.

  22. Kirk Kittell says:

    Hmmm… If I saw this sign in Peoria, Illinois it might bother me. But in NYC, where you’re going to pay a wicked expensive fee whether you were fooled by this sign or you parked in a lot that had everything posted in big letters, it doesn’t bother me.

    That is, for me, I would consider whether or not I had been cheated away from a legitimately better deal.

    • Kel says:

      Agreed … know where you are and realize – it would be a small miracle for $8 parking for a day … granted – this would then be a determined plot toward tourists … again – KNOW where you are and do reserch to avoid such leads – it’s kinda how life works.

  23. We don’t have those signs here in NZ…. thankfully. It looks totally deceptive in its wording. Let alone the distraction effect on drivers.

  24. It bugs me too. Whilst I understand the cognitive aspects in this type of advertising – the point is it’s just outright deceptive and doesn’t do anything to support sustainable, value-based business. That’s my 2cw

  25. dirt says:

    It bugs me when forms of deception are used even passive ones that are typically justified with the mentality of “it was the readers on greed that deceived”. These situations where a customer must read all fine print just in order to get what I feel was previously implied.

    leaves me with the feeling of being deceived or lied to by omission. deceived because I believe the wording is either intended to imply the situation different then it will actually happen AND even if that was not the intent that just being aware that a customer is under the wrong impression, that is still a tactic of deception.

    more and more things seem to me that companies main source of closing a sale or making a profit is through deception.

    it is frustrating to say the least

    and is it in the long run a smart direction for a business to head when the strategy is to make a single sale knowing that it will discourage repeat customers by aggressively going for that one sale by any means necessary as long as it will be deemed legal in a court of law?

  26. Amy Harrison says:

    It doesn’t bother me too much because I think we’re getting educated to it.

    It’s the same eye-catching tactics that many bloggers and use such as:

    “How I made $7,543 in a day.” It gets us to read the article, but we know that although the money came in on that day, there’s going to be a totally different story to the apparent “over night magic money” one that the title implies.

  27. Steven says:

    I think businesses that rely on misguiding their clients won’t experience much longevity.

  28. Every time someone employs deception for self-benefit, society as a whole is damaged.

    Every time someone say’s, it’s okay; we’re used to it, we know better, you should pay attention, they’re just trying to make a buck, society as a whole is damaged.

    Nothing I do will stop people like those sign-posters from doing what they do. But everything I do will move me toward a segment of society where others agree that deception for self-benefit is purely, wholly wrong.

  29. bj rosenfeld says:

    As WC Fields said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I guess we all have to learn to be more skeptical when things seem too good to be true.

  30. This reminds me of the signs I see all over Myrtle Beach on the chain beach stores:
    (In huge font) “GOING OUT” (in teeny weeny font) “for” (huge font) “BUSINESS.”

    Of course the tourist driving by at 40 mph reads “Going out OF business.”

    Sketchy at best, downright deceptive at worst.

  31. Karen Newton says:

    Over here in England we have the Advertising Standards Agency, which helps to combat such devious selling and gives people some recourse:
    It doesn’t stop everything getting through but it’s a big step in the right direction.

    The problem with sellers like this is that they have a captive audience, in that everyone needs to park and may well need to park ‘right now’! Personally I think that any misleading advert (which surely should also be defined within the context that it is being read in, ie a passing car) should be illegal.

  32. Chatty says:

    Maybe we should be thanking these businesses for a learning lesson in life….Slow down, pay attention, and ask questions, or you may get cheated! This type of deception doesn’t bother me as much as the political trickery used to charm and misguide people. At least the business signs do offer the “real deal” in small print. With the political cons, they only convey what people want to hear, and there is no added small print. Isn’t it obvious with the amount of our national debt, that we haven’t paid attention or asked questions?
    In addition, when a business tricks us we are only victimized for a short time. We can choose to no longer patronize them. However, with a political con artist we have to remain infected for as long as they are in office.
    So, who do we blame for this crooked behavior? Those who put it out there, or those of us who don’t pay attention to the details?
    Something to ponder!

  33. I’m guessing that it has to do with the price of parking at $8.45 for what seems to be the day then the small font that reads half/hour…

    I can see how it’s annoying. But I’m also trained to assume that it’s for the day. The parking rates out here are $10+. In downtown $17+. And it’s always for the day.

    In either case, I don’t like mis-leading advertising. I’ll get something by necessity. But is it going to make me like your product/service offering, not one bit and I’ll do my best never to come back.

  34. Rob says:

    Reminds me of the budget airlines here in England.

    £24.99 London > Geneva

    First click, you find that ‘socialable’ times and airports to get a flight cost £30-49.99 then you add luggage £9/bag. Then, there’s the environmental charge of offsetting carbon for a few more quid THEN a fee of £3-£10 for using a debit or credit card. Here’s a joke too, ‘speedy boarding’ – for more money – and you get on the plane no faster.

    Total cost £75. Double return. £150.

    Looking forward to the day they charge for Oxygen in the cabin.

    I’d rather pay a much higher flat fee, all-in exeriencee, to a more reputable airline and not feel I’ve been cheated.

    What’s really sad is I feel this kind of approach makes many doubt many – what’s the catch?