First hand experiences are an extremely potent weapon when it comes to convincing audiences about a product or service. Marketers and advertisers invest a lot of resources in testimonials. Google did the same to promote their smartphone Pixel4 in 2019 and 2020, only the testimonials were falsified, scripted and likely without a trace of truth.
According to a report Google paid influencers and radio personalities to endorse the Pixel4 phone and provided them with a script that included sentences that indicate first-hand experience. With the help of iHeartMedia, the largest radio station operator in the USA, such ads aired more than 29000 times during 2019 and 2020.
In the ads, radio personalities were heard claiming that the Pixel4 was their favorite phone camera, they used it to take studio like photos of everything and it helped them “stuff done”. All of these were said in a first person narrative that indicates their personal experience of owning and using the phone. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general allege that the people endorsing the phone in the ads were not provided with the Pixel4 before or at the time of recording them, hence, their first-hand accounts could not have been true.
Based on these allegations Google and iHeartMedia have been ordered to pay a penalty of $9.4 million, they have also been ordered to refrain from misrepresentation of user experience of products in advertisements. Though they have reached a settlement, the consensus on the settlement is still pending review.
Samuel Levine, director of Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “The FTC will not stop working with our partners in the states to crack down on deceptive ads and ensure firms that break the rules pay a price.”
This is not the first time that Google LLC is slapped with a lawsuit. The multinational tech giant faced a lawsuit worth 25 billion Euros in the UK ans European Union for anti competitive conduct in the digital advertisement sector. Between lawsuits, impending recession, and drying ad revenue, Google is definitely not having their best year in 2022.