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Bait and Switch and Other Advertising Scams

Read the following scenario based on a popular advertising technique of the early twentieth century known as Bait and Switch. Answer the questions that follow. Simply stated, this was a technique used by many companies to sell a product at a higher price then it truly is worth by comparing it to a lower advertised product. They don't have the advertised product but they offer a great deal on a different more expensive product.

You are reading through the paper and notice an ad in a local paper advertising a great car insurance policy at a very low rate. You call the company and they tell you they are sending someone to your house to talk to you about the policy. The insurance salesman comes to your house and tells you that you don't qualify for the insurance policy even though no restrictions were mentioned in the ad or on the phone. However he offers you a "much better" policy at a higher price. He explains that although it is more expensive it is much better than the first policy. Even though this policy is more expensive than the first policy he is giving you a great rate.


  1. What would you do in a situation like this?
  2. Why is this called a Bait and Switch technique?
  3. How might a consumer protect him or herself from this type of sales technique?
  4. Have you seen any type of advertising recently that resorts to techniques like this?

Another way companies used to sell their product was through fear of what would happen if they didn't use their product. Because of this they used to make up names of possible infections or diseases that the consumer would acquire if they didn't use their product.

Other Advertising Schemes

Another very effective yet subtle advertising technique was the man in the white lab coat. Often companies selling a product would put a man in a white doctor's coat endorsing their product. To the consumer it would seem like a doctor is endorsing their product and thus it is seemingly safe. The consumer rarely questioned this technique and accepted the product as safe because a "doctor" had. This brings up a good question; do we often accept information or a product as valid or safe because someone we think is an authority figure endorses it?

Think about some authority figures or "experts" you deal with in your everyday life, do you ever question what they say or think about what gives them the authority to make that claim or dispense that advice.

"Without these products you will soon find yourself hairless, toothless, afflicted with halitosis and B.O. , and later you will die a horrible death from a combination of twenty or thirty diseases the germs of which are lingering in your mouth or on door knobs, waiting anxiously to pounce on your vital organs the first morning you forget to gargle with Listerine or Pepsodent, or to wash your hands with Lifebuoy." (100,000,000 Guinea Pigs. Kallett and Schlink, pg. 63)


  1. What emotion is this ad appealing to? Is this an effective technique?
  2. If you read an ad like this today, what would your reaction be?