Mentioning 'Hits' Is Deceptive Advertising In The UK?

from the seems-a-bit-extreme dept

Over in the UK, it appears that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has decided that putting the number of hits your website gets into an ad is somehow deceptive advertising. Now, most techies recognize that "hits" are widely discredited as a measure of visitors. But they're not deceptive in and of themselves. They're accurate in showing exactly what they claim: hits, which includes any connection to a server (i.e., every image on a page counts as a separate hit, so a single website could have many, many hits). The fact that some people don't recognize the difference between a hit and a unique user doesn't necessarily mean that a "hit" is deceptive. If the company were saying that 5 million hits equaled 5 million users -- then you could sorta see how their might be an argument concerning deceptive advertising, but just using hits doesn't seem deceptive at all.


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  1.  
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    Matt, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:42am

    not a bad thing

    The companies that use strictly hits are often blatantly using it to get some unreasonable numbers: "we get 8million hits a day" and refuse to disclose their unique user number instead or keep it obfuscated.

    Although I wouldn't like forcing people to not use hits, I think some form of trying to get people to use unique hits/unique user instead would be a nice way to raise the bar.

     

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    Scott, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:44am

    Most companies that advertise "hits" do it out of pure deception because they know to the average person a hit = visitor. This allows them to artificially inflate their numbers. I think it is a good idea to limit the use of this word in advertising. Companies can simply advertise the number of visitors and use more realistic and truthful numbers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:16am

    What?

    A 'hit' is technical jargon meaning roughly "a server request". I don't understand why the general public's ignorance should be construed as deception on the part of those who use technical jargon.

    I saw a "medicine" advertized on tv. It's big selling points were that it was natural and homeopathic. Both claims were true ( but not really indicative of fitness. eg. nicotine, a very toxic drug, is natural and homeopathic "medicines" are concoctions that are made with ingredients picked specifically for their property of causing the same symptoms you are trying to get rid of). Is this ad deceptive also? If so, why? It is completely true and understandable to anyone who knows what the words "natural" and "homeopathic" mean.

    Are we to penalize all groups equally for using correct jargon that others don't understand? Or is it only the "nerdy" professions that apparently people aren't required to know what is being said before they make a judgment on it? Where do you set the break point between "the public doesn't need to know what this means and if you use it you will get in trouble" and "the public should educate themselves about the meaning of these words and if they don't, it's their own fault"?

     

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    e250k.com, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:20am

    There's a banner ad on the right stating plentyoffish gets 1.4 million VISITORS a day!

     

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    wasnt me!, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:43am

    i see there point not that i agree with them, all though i do not see much harm in such a stupid law.

    i guess this falls in the category "protect the ignorant campaign".

     

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  6.  
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    Ben Robinson, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 7:00am

    Not quite true

    The ASA didn't say that using hits in an advert is decptive per se. What they said was that in the case of this specific advert, they implied that their website was popular and used the fact that it received 5 million "hits" as evidence of this. Specifically the site claimed "With over 5 million hits each month this website has revolutionised the way we buy diamonds." That is what they said was deceptive.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 7:15am

    I have to disagree

    Technically they aren't lying. But the entire ad is meant to be deceptive to take advantage of someone who doesn't have a full grasp of technical jargon/slang.

    I realize this happens in every industry, especially when it comes to marketing. It is still not right.

     

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  8.  
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    Shohat, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 8:39am

    Ahem

    Advertisers should not be technical people.
    For instance, a person that runs a TV ad to sell Beer, "might be so stupid" that he doesn't know the frequency and the encryption used to transmit his ad, to perhaps just 60% of the total station's userbase is the audience, due to reception limitations.
    An advertiser is not a technical person, and should not be. Hits is an irrelevant parameter for advertisers, and is commonly used for deception.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 9:03am

    Re: Ahem

    If advertisers don't know what the term means, there is no good reason for them to even consider it when buying an ad. And if they do buy it because of a term they don't understand, how is that anyone's fault other then the advertiser?

    If I market my ad-space as providing 500 units of "fleetiol" (a term I made up to represent 0 barrels of oil), should I then be responsible for some moron who goes "fleetiol! That's just what I need!" and buys an ad?

    What about if I am selling paper and measure the total area you get in square decimeters? Will the general public's unfamiliarity with the term then mean I am being deceptive?

    What if a site doesn't keep individual user metrics? Or what if a site is constantly asked by advertisers how many hits they get (regardless if they know whether or not it's not a good indicator of audience size)? In each of those cases, telling people right off the number of hits they get has a legitimate purpose. It could be the only real metric they have, or it could be that they are tired of repeating themselves. Would the site be deceptive then? If so, explain the deception, if not explain why the same action by similar parties could be deceptive from one, and not deceptive from another.

    Further, why should advertisers be exempt from ever needing to pick up a dictionary and look up a word they don't understand? I feel absolutely no pity for people who buy things based on irrelevant information when, if they had not been both physically and intellectually lazy, they would have made a better decision.

     

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    Hulser, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    A hit by any other name...

    Further, why should advertisers be exempt from ever needing to pick up a dictionary and look up a word they don't understand?

    But that's the thing, you can't pick up and dictionary and get an objective definition of a web site "hit". I've been using the WWW since the days of Mosaic, but I'll have do admit that I've always thought of a "hit" as loading a single web page, not each graphic file on the page. So, you can look up exactly what a "decimeter" is, but even though "hit" is a technical term, it's not one that is completely objective. I'm not saying that the asnwer is regulation, but I can see where using a term that means different things to different people can be considered deceptive.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 9:57am

    Re: A hit by any other name...

    merriam-webster.com has 7 definitions for the noun "hit". Of these, only number 7 is applicable to this context and it is unambiguous in it's assertion that a hit is a single connection to a website. Simply looking the word up would tell you what the word means and thereby prevent you from assuming something you shouldn't. The truth is not deceptive, even if the people you are telling it to don't understand it.

    Here are all the definitions:
    1: an act or instance of hitting or being hit
    2 a: a stroke of luck b: a great success
    3: a telling or critical remark
    4: base hit
    5: a quantity of a drug ingested at one time
    6: a premeditated murder committed especially by a member of a crime syndicate
    7: an instance of connecting to a particular Web site
    8: a successful match in a search (as of a computer database or the Internet)

     

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  12.  
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    Hulser, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 10:23am

    merriam-webster.com has 7 definitions for the noun "hit". Of these, only number 7 is applicable to this context and it is unambiguous in it's assertion that a hit is a single connection to a website.

    I would say the definition is ambiguous because it doesn't make a distinction between the different types of connections.

    Here's the relevent definition of "hit"...

    7: an instance of connecting to a particular Web site

    Without any other context, I would read this to mean simply that if a person types in a URL and the web site appears in their browser, you have one "hit". The person has connected to the web site by bringing up its home page. The fact that there were three jpg's on the home page (requiring three different trips to the site's server) is irrelevent. Based on the definition above -- and I'd guess most people's common sense definition -- the person has only connected to the site once.

    But this is in direct contradiction to the definition Mike is using...

    "[a hit] includes any connection to a server (i.e., every image on a page counts as a separate hit, so a single website could have many, many hits)."

    So, even with the dictionary definition, the term "hit" is ambiguous. It's one of those words that have different meaning in different contexts. In the context of advertising, I would say that most people would think of a "hit" as equivolent to a unique user.

     

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    Nismoto, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 1:00pm

    The proof is in the pudding

    INTENT

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Hits

    They're accurate in showing exactly what they claim: hits, which includes any connection to a server (i.e., every image on a page counts as a separate hit, so a single website could have many, many hits).
    Right, and there's the problem, I think. I could put up a page with 10,000 invisible one pixel images on it. If I then get just one visitor per day loading that page then I'll be getting at least 10,000 "hits" per day on it. Now, if I further use that metric in advertising targeting a non-technical audience that cannot be assumed to know what it means AND I don't clearly explain it (even if it is technically accurate), then that could be misleading.

     

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