Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bad Ad Rodeo: Countrywide's marketing is just puffery

Trickery fascinates me. When I first read about Countrywide's new stance on marketing, it made me think of David Blaine, a really awesome street magician, but a bit of a douche when his stunts lack any substance (remember the hanging upside down stunt?)

(BTW, it's not his tricks I like the most, it's the reaction of the participants!)

Countrywide, the massive subprime mortgage lender in the States, is being sued in New Hampshire for alleged breach of good faith, fraud, negligence, and misrepresentation. The firm's advertising and marketing communications are being used as evidence to support this lawsuit because those ads claimed that Countrywide would make good on promises to mortgage holders to modify their loans if needed.

In effect, Countrywide is being held to the standards that it communicated through its advertising.

Now, as a tactic to mitigate their responsibility from having to modify bad loans, attorneys from Countrywide are claiming that its promotions were "mere commercial puffery" - therefore nothing to get too worked up about because, hey, you really don't need truth in advertising.


Here are a few of Countrywide's claims:

Talk about a fast way to squander your brand. I can understand that their using this defence to preserve what little financial equity the firm still has, since brand equity is beyond the salvage point. But it's pretty epochal - a company admitting that their marketing is really only words without any resolute commitment to make true on its customer obligations. Truth in advertising has always been under scrutiny and it's usually the responsibility of the end customer to determine whether the messages satisfactorily describe the product, features, experience, or service their purchased.

By saying themselvs that their ads mean nothing, at least Countrywide has relieved its customers of one obligation!

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