Skip to main content
Responsible Marketing

When deceptive ads aren’t so deceptive

By July 31, 2008January 21st, 20224 Comments

I enjoy marketing that rewards you for paying attention. Ads that leave you guessing. The double entendre. Cultural, historical and sports references meant for the few instead of the many.

And I appreciate a well-executed spoof, as long as it’s done responsibly.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Derrie-Air Airlines.


Here are a few excerpts from “Fake Ads Don’t Fly” featured in this month’s issue of Marketing Management:

Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers caused a stir recently by publishing print and digital ads for a fictitious airline, all of which were designed to measure the power and reach of such ads to readers across media platforms.

In early June, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News published full- and partial- page ads for Derrie-Air, a fictitious environmentally friendly airline purporting to offer fares based on passengers’ weights. According to the Inquirer, the ads appeared 21 times in sections of the Inquirer, 15 times in the Daily News, and on the home page.

The ads contained no disclaimers, but one on the Web Page to which readers were referred in the ads said, in part, “The Derrie-Air campaign is a fictitious advertising campaign created by Philadelphia Media Holdings to test the results of advertising in our print and online products and to stimulate discussion on a timely environmental topic of interest to all citizens.”

Nevertheless, the lack of full disclosure in the ads prompted concerns and complaints from some journalism veterans who maintained that the ads were deceptive and could compromise readers’ abilities to trust the newspapers’ editorial coverage.

The effort, however, did yield intriguing results, according to the Inquirer. The ads for Derrie-Air, drew a 1.25 percent click-through rate for the online version, compared to a national click-through average of 0.05 percent.

The negative response to this campaign is a little puzzling to me for three reasons:

First, how could anyone possibly believe the airline was real? It’s named Derrie-Air!

Second, how can these ads be deceptive if they aren’t even real? Nothing was being sold, so nobody was deceived into buying anything. In fact, if I was buying media in Philadelphia, I’d appreciate the publications testing their own media.

Third, if someone was upset about the price-per-pound approach to ticketing, a trip to the website would have disabused them of the notion that this was real.

Check out the FAQ’s—you’ll be rewarded for paying attention.

Do you think this controversy is much ado about nothing, or is it valid?

Why or why not?

Comment below to weigh in (no pun intended).

. . .
Special thanks to Outsource Marketing Intern Extraordinaire Jennifer Hillman for her assistance with this post.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

Leave a Reply