Posted on Jan 30, 2024

Uncovering and Addressing Fallacies in Ad Campaigns

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Due to severe competition in the market, advertisers are in a continuous search of effective marketing techniques, and some of them prefer applying so-called fallacies. Fallacies in advertising usually imply using false arguments and addressing customers’ emotions to persuade them to make a purchase.

Fallacies can be very effective, but mostly in the short run, while for publishers, displaying such ads can lead to serious consequences. In this article, we will tell you more about different types of fallacies used in advertising and explain why and how you should care about them as an owner of an ad exchange. 

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13 Types of Fallacies in Advertising

Fallacies in media can take different forms, even though most of them rely on psychology. So, let’s take a look at several options, along with examples.

Ad Hominem

Ad hominem is a phrase from the Latin language meaning “against a person”. In advertising, this fallacy implies discrediting competitors and convincing customers to prioritize the marketers’ products. For instance, instead of advocating their own brand, an advertiser may focus on the unsustainable practices of their competitors and spread this information via ads. 

Appealing to Emotions

Compared to many other common fallacies in advertising, this approach can be rather harmless when applied responsibly. For instance, an ad about cookies saying something like “Just like your granny used to make” appeals to the feeling of nostalgia and tries to evoke customers’ memories of good old times. However, advertisers may also appeal to such emotions as grief, anger, pity, and others. This can work, but not in the long run since customers do not like to feel angry, desperate, or disappointed. 

Scare Tactic

Ads highlighting various threats aim to scare customers and, as a result, convince them to convert as soon as possible to prevent these dangers from happening. For example, this can be an ad promoting hair growth vitamins while focusing not on customers’ desired results but on the probability of getting completely bald. Such a creative shows “the consequences of not using the promoted product”, even though it is impossible to prove this is the only available result for those who neglect it. 

False Dilemma

This approach involves limiting the number of available options and creating an artificial dilemma. This way, customers feel they should choose a promoted product or settle for something of lower quality. For example, an ad saying something like “Subscribe to our streaming service or keep settling for cable TV” is exactly a false dilemma, providing customers with only two options to choose from.

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Hasty Generalization

The hasty generalization technique means drawing a conclusion from an incomplete data set and creating an ad promoting this statement. For instance, a famous football player scores a goal while wearing some brand’s shoes. Then, this brand can use this case in advertising, claiming that their shoes are the best for winners, even though it happened only once. Such an ad can effectively address fans of that player, but they will not be likely to become loyal to the brand after purchasing those shoes. 

Red Herring

Red herring implies providing customers with an irrelevant piece of information, and this technique is often used to discredit competitors, just like ad hominem. Although, the red herring approach is slightly different. For example, a brand’s competitor has recently switched to fully sustainable production processes. However, the brand still focuses on this fact from the past and uses it in advertising, even though both the brand and its rival are completely sustainable now.

This fallacy can also be used to make customers switch their focus from potential product weaknesses to something else. Basically, red herring is just a distraction.

Straw Man

Another approach often used to discredit competitors is the so-called straw man fallacy. It involves misrepresenting the opponent’s position or argument, and comparison ads can serve as a great example here. Such an ad may claim that the brand’s product is the best in the market while highlighting the weaknesses of the competitor’s offer at the same time (sometimes, this is done on the basis of outdated information). Brands simply exaggerate the rival’s weaknesses and try to make their own products look perfect. 

Traditional Wisdom

The so-called traditional wisdom fallacy means assuming that an idea or practice that was relevant at some point in the past is still working. Customers tend to value things that remain effective for a long time, so this approach often works. For instance, a massage center may claim that they use ancient practices and methods to convince customers that their services are worth trying. At the same time, they provide no evidence that old-school methods are more effective than modern ones. 

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Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect, also known as appealing to popularity, implies convincing customers to purchase a product just because everyone else is using it. This way, the ad creates an assumption that the product is effective because it is preferred by so many people. For instance, an ad stating that “four out of five women use our shampoo” relies exactly on the bandwagon effect. This often works since people like being a part of a group, but statistics in such ads are usually misleading. 

Halo Effect

In advertising, the halo effect means using a good reputation of the already launched products or services to promote the new ones. For instance, a company released an extremely successful educational app a couple of years ago. Then, it develops a new application and uses the company’s brand awareness to urge customers to get this product despite the lack of evidence that it is more effective than apps released by competitors.

Slippery slope

The slippery slope fallacy illustrates a sequence of events where even a minor action leads to virtually catastrophic results. However, there is no evidence that the outcome depends on the initial action. Here is an example: an ad promoting a pillow for neck pain shows a woman trying to fall asleep but facing some difficulties with doing so because her neck hurts. While trying to make herself comfortable, she falls down from the bed, which results in another pain. Although the neck pain itself is not related to the outcome, an advertiser tries to convince customers that buying their pillow is the way to prevent the entire sequence of events from happening.

Appealing to Authority

Imagine an ad promoting an electric toothbrush and featuring a person dressed like a dentist — this is exactly what appealing to authority is. Such ads include people wearing professional attire relevant to the promoted products, so customers are more likely to trust the message. Even though some advertisers hire real experts (which is a much more responsible approach), many others prefer actors who cannot really evaluate the products’ quality. As a result, they often just mislead customers.

Loaded Language

This fallacy means using loaded and manipulative language to convince customers that the statement is true instead of providing evidence or facts. This approach aims at bypassing logical thinking and generating strong emotional responses. For instance, this can be a phrase like “Enjoy instant results” for an ad promoting weight-loss products. 

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How Fallacies Influence Consumer Decision-Making in the Advertising Space

Now that you are familiar with multiple examples of fallacies in advertising, let us explain how exactly these techniques can affect the customer’s decision-making process. 

By manipulating people’s emotions and exploiting cognitive biases, fallacies often motivate customers to take immediate action and convert. However, in the long run, logical fallacies in advertising may seriously affect the brand’s credibility. Manipulative techniques can speed up the customer decision-making process, but responsible advertisers prioritize honesty instead. 

This way, they build reliable and authentic connections with their audiences, which helps them gain trust. For publishers, transparent ads are also beneficial since they are not misleading or confusing. The right publishers care for the experience of their visitors and users, so they want to display not only relevant but also honest ads. 

The same applies to ad exchange owners. By matching credible advertisers with relevant SSP partners, you ensure the effective performance of your platform, which will result in stable trading income. Therefore, it is important for you to be able to detect and prevent fallacies. 

3 Programmatic Solutions to Avoid Fallacies in Advertising

Logical fallacies used in advertising are hard to prevent when it comes to standard marketing methods, both online and offline. However, this task became much easier to deal with thanks to programmatic technology. Let’s explore how exactly you can avoid advertisements with fallacies on your ad exchange.

Ad Fraud Prevention

Most ad fraud prevention scanners on programmatic platforms are aimed at monitoring the traffic for anomalies, checking the quality of impressions, detecting click fraud and bot traffic, and so on. These scanners and tools are essential for the efficient performance of your ad exchange. If you integrate them, you will make your platform secure to use. This way, more DSP and SSP partners will trust you, which will help you increase your income.

However, fallacies in advertising on the Internet are something that marketers are responsible for. They design manipulative ad creatives and copies and then try to launch these advertising campaigns. Scanners that detect bot traffic will not allow you to prevent them from doing so.

Fortunately, certain scanners still focus exactly on detecting malicious creatives. With their help, you can validate the quality of ads and make sure that they do not look or sound misleading. Having such a feature on your platform can also help you attract more SSP partners since they know their ad inventory will be filled with proper ads.

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Traffic Filtering

You should also implement diverse traffic filtering options to optimize your ad exchange performance and keep it profitable. First of all, this will allow you to ensure relevant traffic. Secondly, applying filters is the way to prevent fallacies from happening.

For instance, you may filter out traffic, including keywords irrelevant to your partners, both SSP and DSP. In this list, you can specify manipulative words and other phrases related to fallacies in advertising. Creating blacklists of DSP partners can be helpful as well.

Transparency in AdTech

Apart from this, your ad exchange platform must be fully transparent. The first thing to do to ensure this is to keep it compliant with all the relevant regulations like GDPR and others. 

Secondly, create ads.txt and sellers.json files to minimize fraud risks and guarantee the transparency of the supply chain. Ads.txt lists all the companies authorized to sell the publishers’ inventory. In turn, sellers.json lists all the approved digital ad sellers. Do not choose between these two files — use both to reach the best results. 

One more recommendation is that you should connect only trusted DSP and SSP partners to your ad exchange. Besides, note that programmatic technology is evolving continuously. Therefore, you can expect more opportunities to deal with fraud and fallacies effectively. 

Consider SmartHub Your Trusted Partner

SmartHub, a white-label ad exchange platform, is equipped with multiple features to prevent ad fraud, avoid fallacies, and filter out irrelevant traffic. Here are some of them: 

  • The platform is fully compliant with privacy regulations and data processing standards (such as GDPR, CCPA, COPPA, and TCF 2.0). SmartHub’s partners meet these standards as well;
  • You can generate both ads.txt and sellers.json files to ensure transparency and prevent fraud;
  • The platform offers multiple fraud detection scanners that you can integrate both for your supply and demand partners: Protected Media, TMT, Pixalate, Forensiq, and others. Specifically, the TMT demand scanner allows for validating native creatives and banners, so you can use it for detecting fallacies;
  • Numerous traffic filtering options. For instance, you can create white- and black lists for SSP and DSP partners, block specific content categories, filter out adult traffic, etc.;
  • You can create filter lists on the basis of the domain object to block or allow certain traffic for your DSP and SSP partners.
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By choosing SmartHub, you get a ready-to-use ad exchange completely prepared for fallacy and fraud prevention. You will only need to set everything up and start trading. And in case you need some help, our team is always ready to provide you with assistance to ensure the effective and secure performance of your platform. Besides, if you need a specific feature that is not available on the platform yet, we would be happy to customize the solution for you so that it will meet your needs in full. 

Does SmartHub sound like the right solution for driving media trading income? Then contact us!

Final Words

Ads with logical fallacies can be very helpful for advertisers, but mostly in the short run since they tend to affect the brand’s credibility. For publishers, displaying such ads is also dangerous in terms of credibility. 

As an ad exchange owner, you need to ensure relevance and transparency so that both your SSP and DSP partners will consider your platform effective. This will help you build trust and increase income. 

Therefore, make sure that your ad exchange is equipped with fraud detection scanners and fallacy prevention tools. Keeping your platform compliant with all the standards and regulations is also important. Note that with SmartHub, you do not have to worry about this. All the essential tools are already implemented, so you can start using them straight away. And since the platform is regularly updated with new features, you can count on additional fraud prevention opportunities to remain competitive.


What are examples of logical fallacies in advertising?
Fallacies in advertising aim at manipulating customers’ emotions and leverage cognitive bias. For example, a brand may create an ad featuring a sick person and stating that it will donate $4 to cancer research for every purchase made. Such an ad appeals to sympathy and urges customers to buy a product so that a brand will contribute to research. 
How can I prevent advertisements with logical fallacies on my ad exchange? 
In the programmatic environment, there are multiple ways to do so. Make sure to generate both ads.txt and sellers.json files, implement fraud detection scanners, and integrate traffic filtering tools. Keep in mind that SmartHub white-label ad exchange is already equipped with all the essential features for fallacy and fraud prevention.
How can I identify logical fallacies advertisements on my ad exchange?
To do this, you can use special scanners. For instance, SmartHub offers the TMT demand scanner. By applying it, you can validate banners and native ads, as well as protect your ad exchange from improper creatives. 
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