Wednesday, May 26, 2010


"New and improved." How many times have we heard that one in commercials? Think about it - that's an either/or proposition, most certainly not an "and" one!

Here's a fun pastime ... instead of actually listening to and naïvely believing the ad copy, try discerning where and how the marketers are trying to mislead you. Not only does this take your mind off the BS that they're selling, it fosters a healthy cynicism of the product in question. Some examples, most of which will be familiar to my U.S. readers:

Everyday "problems." That toilet paper (oops, toilet tissue) ad where the bear runs around with odd bits of TP stuck to his bum. I dunno about you, but that's certainly not a problem I've encountered in my day-to-day life!

Covering their ass. Speaking of rear ends, notice how marketers always adhere to the old CYA principle? A good example is that of bleach that promises to get rid of almost (sotto voce) 100% of germs. The before picture under the magnifying glass shows a host of cooties, and the after picture shows none ... well, not quite. Take a close look at the bottom right of the magnification, near the distracting text: There is a teensy-tiny speck of germ (singular) sitting there! Always mislead, never lie.

Appeasing those easily offended. This is usually prevalent in feminine hygiene ads, most often when there is a need to depict bodily fluids. While I know that Queen Elizabeth may have blue blood, I really don't think that is typical of most of the female population!

Always read the fine print. If you can. There is a maxim here: The smaller the text, the bigger the lie (oops, exaggeration). A corollary to this is that the faster the text scrolls by, the more you truly know that the advertiser is not to be trusted. And when it's more like an essay than a telegram, well ... caveat emptor, fersure! A good way to check this out is judicious use of the "freeze" button on your remote, but ya gotta be quick on the draw - they don't make it easy. I remember when two of the largest mobile phone service providers in the U.S. were pissing on each other, trying to convince us that one of them had better data coverage. On the surface, it was an apples-to-apples comparison, but the fine print told us that there was an orange or two involved...!

They're always "up to" something. This one is most prevalent these days in mobile phone ads. The service providers promise speeds "up to 32 Mbps" or "up to 4G." Well, of course they do. Never mind that they will probably never reach anything near the promised speed - the "up to" bit always covers their butts (no doubt with scraps of toilet paper!). Which reminds me:

Kiss my asterisk. This is the print equivalent of the scrolling disclaimer on TV. Same rules apply - quantity and size are the best measures of DoD*. It's also fun to observe just how many different superscript symbols they can dig up. Asterisk, double asterisk, dagger, double dagger, degree sign, caret, at sign, percent, ampersand and on and on.

* Degree of Deception (no, it's not Desirability of Dick, nor Department of Defense!).

As always, comments welcome - tell me what peeves you, along with other fun ways to play this game.

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