Truth About Truth in Advertising
by Mad Dog
Maybe someone just forgot to put the
little warning labels on the page. You know, like "CAUTION: Arrows may appear larger
than they actually are", "Results may vary", or "The dog ate our
|| The truth in advertising laws in this country arent as advertised.
These are the laws which were passed by Congress to stop companies from bragging,
exaggerating, and making claims which just arent true. This is necessary since
advertisers, if left to their own devices, pretty much act like high school boys bragging
on Monday morning. The difference is, with advertising someone actually gets screwed.
Unfortunately its us.
In this mornings
newspaper, United Airlines ran a full page ad with the headline "In an airplane, five
extra inches of legroom feels like a lot." Theres an arrow drawn diagonally
from one corner of the page to the other clearly marked: 5". Maybe its my
ruler, but every time I measure the line its 23½ inches. No wonder that five extra
inches of legroom feels like a lot, its grown by a full 423 percent! You could fit
all the books on the bestseller list, half the luggage you brought for that weekend trip,
or Mickey Rooney stretched out taking a nap in that much extra legroom.
Okay, maybe this was an honest mistake which happened
when the original artwork was enlarged for the ad. As a postcard it would have been
completely truthful. Or maybe someone just forgot to put the little warning labels on the
page. You know, like "CAUTION: Arrows may appear larger than they actually are",
"Results may vary", or "The dog ate our ruler."
There are actually a few advertisers that are adhering to the truth in advertising policy.
Take the new Brendan Fraser movie, "Dudley Do-right". They could easily have
called it a comedy, but theyre not.
|| United shouldnt
be embarrassed to put warning labels in their ads. Everyone does it. That good looking
meal in the corned beef hash ad is clearly marked "serving suggestion" so we
dont think it should be in the dog food bowl like it looks. Ads for toys always
caution that batteries arent included and some assembly is required, the latter
being one of the understatements of the advertising world (and that last phrase being the
Oxymoron of the New Millennium).
Some products are
required by law to put warnings in their ads. Cigarette manufacturers have had to do it
for years. Theyve gotten so used to putting little boxes with warnings in their ads
that now theyre voluntarily adding their own. Well, that and the fact that
theyre a little jumpy about lawsuits.
A recent ad for Winston promotes them by saying: "No
additives. True taste." In one corner of the ad is the mandated warning that tells us
"Cigarette smoke contains Carbon Monoxide." Thats nice to know, though it
makes me wonder why cars dont have the same warning label about their exhaust. But
more telling is the matching box on the other side of the ad that says "No additives
in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette." (The bold face capital
letters are theirs. Would I add something like that?)
Now I, for one, didnt think for a second that no
additives meant a safer cigarette. What a silly thought! All along I figured it meant that
if I smoked Winstons while dialing the phone Id never get a busy signal. So how come
they dont have a caveat about that?
They could have claimed it was a movie that was crying to be
made, but they dont. Instead, they say its about "a new kind of
hero." And considering some of the heroes out there today, its hard to argue
This glossary is being furnished "as is" with no accuracy either expressed or
implied. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary.
|| It probably helps
to remember that the truth in advertising laws were passed by politicians, which is a case
of closing the barn door after the whore got out. Politicians are, after all, the last
ones on the face of the earth who believe in truth in advertising. If they did, wed
be seeing campaign ads like, "Elect Bush, he might not have done as much cocaine as
you did", "Gore, it rhymes with bore", or "Elizabeth Doleput a
real bush in the White House".
To help guide you through
the maze of advertising puffery, Ive put together a little glossary. Clip it out and
keep it handy whenever youre looking at an ad, TV commercial, billboard, or product
New and Improved! We just realized it stunk.
Results may vary We swear it happened once to a woman in Nebraska.
Now with 40% more [ ____] - Sales were down 40% so we had to do something.
Not all colors available in all sizes You want it to fit, too?
Contents may settle during shipping You dont mind broken cookies,
Car is being driven by a professional Dont ask us to pay your
reckless driving ticket.
Supplies may be limited Sure hope youre the first person here.
Free! We couldnt get anyone to buy this crap.
See store for details Salesmen are ready to pounce.
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©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them with your advertising glossary in hand.