Spoiler alert. The next advert you watch is pulling the wool over your eyes. That promise of weight loss, better hair, more satisfied kids or a longer, stronger erection has some small print.
Well, that’s unfair. Of course advertisers don’t lie. They have to follow rules on what they can say – they can’t just make up anything in a bid to make us buy something.
But artistic licence is a wonderful thing. I’ve always enjoyed adverts, ever since we had only three TV channels and one of them was full of ads. When I was growing up, a popular refrain would be, “Some of the ads are better than the programmes.”
One reason I enjoy adverts is because of the verbal jiggery pokery of their promises. They wow us with a shiny model with a toothy smile to distract us from the small print.
Can help you lose weight. If only…
One of my favourite examples of this is Kellogg’s Special K, which, for years, advertised using a woman in a red swimming costume (because women often fancy a bowl of cereal after a bit of a sunbathe, right?). The whole advert extolled the weight-loss virtues of Special K. While you were looking at the happy slim woman, who clearly looks good because she eats Special K every day, the voice-over tells us that you can lose weight with Special K. Meanwhile, some text on the screen tells us that you can only lose weight on Special K if it is part of a calorie controlled diet.
That’s the same as saying, “If you bank with Nat West, you could become a millionaire,” before adding the caveat, “only if you are working in a job that pays you well”.
Special K likes to promote its Drop A Jean Size campaign, which you can see below.
A few things are funny about this advert. First, did you notice that you can also drop a jean size by eating Crunchy Nut? So, Special K is not that special.
Second, you can see that classic Special K caveat in the advert – “Can help slimming or weight control only as part of a calorie controlled diet. Third meal must be well balanced.” So, the success of this hinges on eating only the right amount of calories through the day.
The message is simple though. You see the funny women trying to lose weight, you see Special K packaging with its “drop a jean size” message, you ignore the text on the screen, you assume Special K is a weight loss food.
It isn’t. Special K contains more calories than Bran Flakes, porridge, Shredded Wheat or Weetabix, and almost as much as all the other Kellogg’s Cereals.
You can look better if you are in colour
Revitalift has a new advert in which it promises “you can look better in your 40s than you did in your 20s”. That is not a lie – you can, of course. But can Revitalift make you look better?
The stats, if genuine, suggest the answer is yes. 82% of women who try Revitalift Laser Renew say their skin looks and feels better.
But, look at the advert – and then see what problem I have with it.
Did you spot it? Yes, all the before photos are in black and white. Why? Of course the women look better with a bit of colour in their faces. And even then, some of the evidence is suspect because, in a couple of cases, the before photo looks better – depending on your own opinion of what better means.
When one statistic is all you need
In the latest of his series of EE adverts, Kevin Bacon tells us that EE 4g is 50% faster than any other network’s 4G. This is based on some speed tests – one of which actually put EE 59% ahead of Vodafone rather than the quoted 50%.
That allows EE to confidently make that simple statement in an advert and it hopes the statement will be enough for us to go out and sign up to EE. Fair enough, why shouldn’t they give that a go? Perfectly fair.
It only falls over when the potential customer thinks, “Hang on a minute,” and does some research. A quick bit of Googling reveals some bloggers have done their own speed tests and found different results. It all depends where you are and what time of day you do the test.
So, you could get faster speeds on some occasions on other networks. Still, let’s not make the advert boring with a ton of small print.
Have you spotted any ads making bold claims that make you shake your head?