Are Pictures of Babies Deceptive Advertising?
Are Pictures of Babies Deceptive Advertising?

I just got around to reading a report that was published in December criticizing the online advertisement of infertility clinics. (Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics’ Websites)  The report found that nearly 80% of infertility clinics’ websites had photos of babies on their homepage; 30% used the word “dream”; and almost 9% used the word “miracle”. I haven’t seen a study on adoption agencies, but I’m betting the percentage with baby or kid pictures is close to 100%, with a liberal sprinkling of “dream” for good measure. So I ask you: Is there anything wrong with this?

The author of the infertility report argues that the pictures paint too rosy a picture and are misleading as to the chances of success. “Showing photos of babies and using such words [as “dream” and “miracle”] may suggest to some patients that success is a likely outcome” and ” may push patients to disregard the high costs of fertility treatment (the average cost of a single cycle of in vitro fertilization is $12,400) and create false hope.”  No doubt this same criticism could be leveled against adoption agencies.

What do you think? I’m neither shocked nor dismayed by the use of baby pictures in ads for adoption agencies and infertility clinics. I guess I give the average consumer more credit. Sure, the baby pictures are enticing and “dream” is certainly reflective of how most people approach infertility or adoption, but I don’t think either would induce people to blindly jump into infertility treatment or adoption without thoughtful consideration and research. With just a little research, people could easily get a realistic picture of what they are getting into.

Of course, maybe I’m just being defensive. The Creating a Family website has the absolutely most adorable pictures of kids from our online community in a banner running across the top of each page. We aren’t selling anything so it’s not an advertisement. We are simply trying to provide unbiased accurate education and support, but still some might object. But hey, at least we include all ages of kids, including a picture of a teen with blue hair, tattoos, and piercings.  The director of an adoption agency remarked that he hated that picture since it was enough to scare anyone away from parenting. I should have told him in was all in the pursuit of honesty in “advertising”.


(The story behind the picture: That beautiful boy is one of my own and I spent all afternoon helping him create his look for Halloween. The hair is courtesy of blue Kool-Aid, the tattoos courtesy of a Sharpie, and the earrings courtesy of Super Glue.)

So, what do you think? Are the pictures and idealistic words too persuasive and obscuring of the truth?

Image credit: gobucks2