CCTV Advertising - Buyer Beware

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Marketing and advertising people. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Let’s have a show of hands. How many CCTV users love them? Hmm. I think that leaves us with only one conclusion, and it’s not looking good for the peddlers of piffle.

For a long time people have been aware that consumers – the great unwashed, you and me – have benefited from the law of the land which makes it an offence for advertisers to mislead people who, as a result, might buy their stuff. At the same time many think that business people (you and me in our CCTV endeavours) are not protected this way and that the somewhat harsh ‘caveat emptor’ is all that applies: ‘buyer beware’.

Well, advertisers and marketers quake while customers rejoice! In a country that’s seen almost one new criminal offence introduced for each day of the past decade, here’s something you might like to be aware of: “The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008”. Throw that into Google if you want it word for word.

With the caveat that I’m not a legal adviser, here are some paraphrased snippets that might bring joy to a CCTV audience. The upshot is that advertising which is misleading is prohibited. Being a little more specific, if it is likely to deceive traders and consequently to affect their buying behaviour or injure a competitor, it breaks the law. And just who are these poor unsuspecting ‘traders’? They are any person acting for purposes relating to his trade, craft, business or profession. Isn’t that you and me? Hallelujah.

So, how might an advert be deemed misleading? The specific factors that leap out from the Regulations are these:

  • The product’s specification
  • The results to be expected from its use
  • Its fitness for purpose.

Given the tosh that we often see in adverts, some are going to be cause for concern lest their creators get their collars felt. Let’s amuse ourselves by illustrating with some examples.

No names, no pack-drill.

Even as far back as the days when a new catalogue-shopping tome meant us techie types could look forward to a quick frisson from flicking through the shower fittings pages, we also noticed in the section on home entertainment (the other sort) that television screens didn’t show real pictures but had a much clearer photo of a tropical beach superimposed over them.

Why? Surely to make the display look better than it does in the real world. Even “simulated picture” in tiny print nearby doesn’t fully mitigate the disappointment that the buyer risks. The address to which this television will be delivered is somewhere in the real world; unlike the minds of the advertisers responsible. The CCTV industry still sees these adverts too. Why? Is their tat aimed at fools? Blatant misrepresentation of the truth in order to influence potential buyers.


Let me use the words of someone who’s now reached full ranting speed. “And another thing...”

What’s all this with camera suppliers brazenly using multi-megapixel digital photographs in an effort to illustrate how effectively their wares identify wicked shoplifters in the act? Why not show us the real image from the analogue camera (PAL is much lower resolution at ~0.4 meg-apixels) video?

Heck, go the whole hog with the generous marketing budget and shoot it from a realistic ceiling height rather than inexplicably from eye level. Not difficult. Why do they go to the trouble of feeding buyers an unrealistic expectation of the results they’ll get? I think we can work that out for ourselves. Advertising people are infamous for not letting truths get in the way of their campaign’s fantasies. More worryingly, the companies that employ these advertising ‘creatives’ sign off their work for publication.

Another travesty that really gets my goat: DVR suppliers whose advertising guff uses Photoshop to degrade an image into something coarsely pixelated and then claim that this is the result you’re getting from your old VCR. This completely misrepresents the quality of normal VCR footage, even if multiplexed.

To insult your intelligence further they have been known to take a leaf out of the aforementioned camera supplier’s book of illusions and go on to illustrate the wonderful improvements that their machine brings you by showing a photograph in place of the compressed samples of analogue video that you will really get if you buy it.

Shall I leave for another day the apparent capacity for megapixel cameras to see a purse being pinched in a wide crowd scene with such astounding clarity that the manicure of the thief’s nails is a wonder to behold? Yep, let's.

So, I venture to suggest that some advertisers might be breaking the law. You might well have wondered too. The regulations state that the Office of Fair Trading and local weights and measures are to enforce the law. Maybe it’s about time we caused a stir when we see these things rather than just tutting and turning the page. Remember a key phrase: “The results to be expected from its use.”

The CCTV world is rife with disappointments felt by end-users, be they the owners, police, or the public in the footage itself. This largely stems from incorrect expectations in the first place. How much of this is directly influenced by prior misrepresentation of its capabilities?

If we have the guts to say something and get real from this point forwards, we can change this sorry state of affairs because it affects the reputation of this industry which we know is under threat of severe cuts. A better reputation may increase support and save many people much agony.

Hire a truly technical independent consultant to help avoid these problems. You’d expect me to say this, wouldn’t you, but that doesn’t make it any less a very wise move. Either way, if you’re not sure about your suppliers’ claims, ask them if they are aware that their marketing material might be breaking the law. Some will exit rapidly stage left with an “Err, can I get back to you on that?” Let’s use this to raise standards for the whole business.

This chapter is supplied by Simon Lambert and was originally published in CCTV Image magazine. Contact us for more details of this publication.