A lot has changed in the world of advertising, marketing, and consumer behavior. Obviously.

The explosion of information and communication channels enabled by the Internet has placed more control than ever in the hands of the consumer. Media content is primarily consumed on-demand, at the time, place, and on the device and platform of the consumer’s choosing. The occasions upon which people gather around a screen at a day and time predetermined by a network programmer somewhere are diminishing rapidly (live sports and news being notable exceptions).

For advertisers, this has been both a boon and a curse. More channels are now required to reach the same mass audience that was once available with the purchase of a few prime-time TV network ads. At the same time, audience fragmentation, better data, and digital delivery methods have enabled much greater precision in audience targeting, much greater efficiency, and increased accountability in marketing campaigns.

But at least one thing has not changed: Unsupported advertiser claims are never a good idea. In the Internet age, the only thing that has changed with regard to this is the speed with which consumers will punish the offending brand.

Take 5G for example.

Industry proponents tout it as the next huge innovation in wireless Internet. Faster. Up to 100x faster than 4G. Less “lag” time in connecting. The ability to connect many devices to the Internet without a loss of performance. Better service for more users handling heavier loads with superior performance.

For advertisers, euphoric expectations have been set. Reduced buffering and load times will lead to huge gains in video advertising. Because of high data exchange rates, interactive advertising will be everywhere. Unprecedented amounts of data will mean greater opportunities for personalization. Augmented reality will become a staple of advertising, not just an impressive novelty. And this was all forecast for 2019.

Take a look at this Verizon ad that was running all over television in Q4 2019.


It brings to mind the wild claims in the movie Blade Runner: “A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies. The chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!”

Here’s the problem with these claims: Your experience may vary. Spend a little time online looking for actual proof of performance, and you’ll find a common thread. Disappointment. It turns out that companies (surprise) in their rush to be first, are prioritizing marketing over substance. Verizon is far from the only offender. T-Mobile and others have joined in on the hype. AT&T has actually taken this to a whole new level, changing the LTE indicator on some Android smartphones to “5G”, even though the service is not really 5G. Not to mention the fact that 5G does not actually work on current devices – consumers will require a new device for 5G.

The truth may be that 5G actually delivers on all of its promises, to consumers and advertisers – eventually. But that’s certainly not the case right now. And smart consumers know it. Has augmented reality become a commonly used technology in your life? Have you noticed an explosion of personalized advertising on the Internet of Things (IoT)? Yeah, I thought so. Maybe this year. Or next.

Will these huge companies survive the hype and the resulting millions of disappointed consumers? In 2020 or 2021, when most of the 5G claims turn out to be more or less true, will they be forgiven and forgotten? Probably.

If you’re a local independent company, could you withstand the negative backlash from such claims? In the world of Blade Runner, by the time consumers discovered that the off-world colonies were not a “golden land of opportunity and adventure” but instead horrific and inhospitable places where they would spend the rest of their lives in hard labor under the worst of conditions, they were already stranded millions of mile from Earth with no options. Your customers are your neighbors.

The lesson is this. Consumers have always been pretty smart. They’ll know if something sounds too good to be true. They’re wise enough to test and challenge the claims made by brands. And now they have the means to tell others about their experiences, in massive numbers and in real-time. So don’t do it.