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5 Computer-Generated Sales Pitches

These days, bending the truth in advertising goes well beyond the usual light airbrushing and color enhancement.

To save on costs — and perhaps assembly time — Swedish retailing giant Ikea created computer-generated images of its furniture for the new catalog, rather than hiring a photographer. By next year, a quarter of the scenes depicted in Ikea’s print and online advertising will be digitally drawn rather than photographed, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.  In fact, Ikea says it is able to better depict its products with computer images than actual photography.

Ikea is not alone.Hollywood filmmakers increasingly create characters — and not just special effects — with CGI animation. And some fashion lines are finding that it’s less expensive to create the perfect specimen digitally than to track down America’s Next Top Model. These computer-generated realities may be cheaper, more appealing, and more versatile than the genuine articles. But experts say they could distort consumer expectations. “I worry that it will create an unrealistic picture that customers will not be able to copy,” says Earl Spurgin, professor of philosophy and director of Applied Ethics at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

Of course, the technology does have its limits. And it’s becoming so commonplace that some advertising agencies are dialing back their use of Photoshop and trading “scarily perfect” images for those with more authenticity, says Martin Lindstrom, author of “Brandwashed.” Cosmetic giant Dove has a long-running campaign for “real beauty” and, last June, Seventeen magazine announced a “body peace treaty”  — a pledge to its young, female readers to be more open about how images get cleaned up or distorted. But such efforts at honesty remain very much the exception.

Aside from Ikea, here are four other examples of technology taking advertising even further from reality:

Images: Looklet



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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.