Rants on all the ads that suck. Updated whenever it tickles my fancy to do so. Now moved to http://adsthatsuck.ca

THIS SITE HAS MOVED TO http://www.adsthatsuck.ca


Advertising Claims

A friend of mine pointed me to a very interesting essay by a media theorist named Jeffery Schrank who classed all advertising claims in to ten categories. Since I referred to one of these categories (weasel claim) in my last post, I thought it would be interesting to list them all here.


A weasel word is a modifier that practically negates the claim that follows. The expression "weasel word" is aptly named after the egg-eating habits of weasels. A weasel will suck out the inside of an egg, leaving it appear intact to the casual observer. Upon examination, the egg is discovered to be hollow. Words or claims that appear substantial upon first look but disintegrate into hollow meaninglessness on analysis are weasels. Commonly used weasel words include "helps" (the champion weasel); "like" (used in a comparative sense); "virtual" or "virtually"; "acts" or "works"; "can be"; "up to"; "as much as"; "refreshes"; "comforts"; "tackles"; "fights"; "come on"; "the feel of"; "the look of"; "looks like"; "fortified"; "enriched"; and "strengthened."

Samples of Weasel Claims

"Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use." The weasels include "helps control," and possibly even "symptoms" and "regular use." The claim is not "stops dandruff."

"Leaves dishes virtually spotless." We have seen so many ad claims that we have learned to tune out weasels. You are supposed to think "spotless," rather than "virtually" spotless.

"Only half the price of many color sets." "Many" is the weasel. The claim is supposed to give the impression that the set is inexpensive.

"Tests confirm one mouthwash best against mouth odor."

"Hot Nestlés cocoa is the very best." Remember the "best" and "better" routine.

"Listerine fights bad breath." "Fights," not "stops."

"Lots of things have changed, but Hershey's goodness hasn't." This claim does not say that Hershey's chocolate hasn't changed.

"Bacos, the crispy garnish that tastes just like its name."


The unfinished claim is one in which the ad claims the product is better, or has more of something, but does not finish the comparison.

Samples of Unfinished Claims

"Magnavox gives you more." More what?

"Anacin: Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most." This claim fits in a number of categories but it does not say twice as much of what pain reliever.

"Supergloss does it with more color, more shine, more sizzle, more!"

"Coffee-mate gives coffee more body, more flavor." Also note that "body" and "flavor" are weasels.

"You can be sure if it's Westinghouse." Sure of what?

"Scott makes it better for you."

"Ford LTD--700% quieter."

When the FTC asked Ford to substantiate this claim, Ford revealed that they meant the inside of the Ford was 700% quieter than the outside.


This kind of claim states that there is nothing else quite like the product being advertised. For example, if Schlitz would add pink food coloring to its beer they could say, "There's nothing like new pink Schlitz." The uniqueness claim is supposed to be interpreted by readers as a claim to superiority.

Samples of the "We're Different and Unique" Claim

"There's no other mascara like it."

"Only Doral has this unique filter system."

"Cougar is like nobody else's car."

"Either way, liquid or spray, there's nothing else like it."

"If it doesn't say Goodyear, it can't be polyglas." "Polyglas" is a trade name copyrighted by Goodyear. Goodrich or Firestone could make a tire exactly identical to the Goodyear one and yet couldn't call it "polyglas"--a name for fiberglass belts.

"Only Zenith has chromacolor." Same as the "polyglas" gambit. Admiral has solarcolor and RCA has accucolor.


"Water is wet" claims say something about the product that is true for any brand in that product category, (for example, "Schrank's water is really wet.") The claim is usually a statement of fact, but not a real advantage over the competition.

Samples of the "Water is Wet" Claim

"Mobil: the Detergent Gasoline." Any gasoline acts as a cleaning agent.

"Great Lash greatly increases the diameter of every lash."

"Rheingold, the natural beer." Made from grains and water as are other beers.

"SKIN smells differently on everyone." As do many perfumes.


This is the kind of claim to which the careful reader will react by saying "So What?" A claim is made which is true but which gives no real advantage to the product. This is similar to the "water is wet" claim except that it claims an advantage which is not shared by most of the other brands in the product category.

Samples of the "So What" Claim

"Geritol has more than twice the iron of ordinary supplements." But is twice as much beneficial to the body?

"Campbell's gives you tasty pieces of chicken and not one but two chicken stocks." Does the presence of two stocks improve the taste?

"Strong enough for a man but made for a woman." This deodorant claims says only that the product is aimed at the female market.


The vague claim is simply not clear. This category often overlaps with others. The key to the vague claim is the use of words that are colorful but meaningless, as well as the use of subjective and emotional opinions that defy verification. Most contain weasels.

Samples of the Vague Claim

"Lips have never looked so luscious." Can you imagine trying to either prove or disprove such a claim?

"Lipsavers are fun--they taste good, smell good and feel good."

"Its deep rich lather makes hair feel good again."

"For skin like peaches and cream."

"The end of meatloaf boredom."

"Take a bite and you'll think you're eating on the Champs Elysées."

"Winston tastes good like a cigarette should."

"The perfect little portable for all around viewing with all the features of higher priced sets."

"Fleishman's makes sensible eating delicious."


A celebrity or authority appears in an ad to lend his or her stellar qualities to the product. Sometimes the people will actually claim to use the product, but very often they don't. There are agencies surviving on providing products with testimonials.

Samples of Endorsements or Testimonials

"Joan Fontaine throws a shot-in-the-dark party and her friends learn a thing or two."

"Darling, have you discovered Masterpiece? The most exciting men I know are smoking it." (Eva Gabor)

"Vega is the best handling car in the U.S." This claim was challenged by the FTC, but GM answered that the claim is only a direct quote from Road and Track magazine.


This kind of ad uses some sort of scientific proof or experiment, very specific numbers, or an impressive sounding mystery ingredient.

Samples of Scientific or Statistical Claims

"Wonder Break helps build strong bodies 12 ways." Even the weasel "helps" did not prevent the FTC from demanding this ad be withdrawn. But note that the use of the number 12 makes the claim far more believable than if it were taken out.

"Easy-Off has 33% more cleaning power than another popular brand." "Another popular brand" often translates as some other kind of oven cleaner sold somewhere. Also the claim does not say Easy-Off works 33% better.

"Special Morning--33% more nutrition." Also an unfinished claim.

"Certs contains a sparkling drop of Retsyn."

"ESSO with HTA."

"Sinarest. Created by a research scientist who actually gets sinus headaches."


This kind of claim butters up the consumer by some form of flattery.

Samples of the "Compliment the Consumer" Claim

"We think a cigar smoker is someone special."

"If what you do is right for you, no matter what others do, then RC Cola is right for you."

"You pride yourself on your good home cooking...."

"The lady has taste."

"You've come a long way, baby."


This technique demands a response from the audience. A question is asked and the viewer or listener is supposed to answer in such a way as to affirm the product's goodness.

Samples of the Rhetorical Question

"Plymouth--isn't that the kind of car America wants?"

"Shouldn't your family be drinking Hawaiian Punch?"

"What do you want most from coffee? That's what you get most from Hills."

"Touch of Sweden: could your hands use a small miracle?"

Taken from: http://home.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/comp/ad-claims.html. If anyone has a link to the original, please let me know - I'd rather use that.

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AdsThatSuck will make you attractive to the opposite sex*


Nor will it make your penis bigger. It will, however, do just as good a job as anything else on the market.

It's amazing the type of commercials you see when you watch channels you wouldn't normally. I got really into The Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV - the first network for men, and as a result, I saw a lot of commercials that weren't really aimed at me.

Don't get me wrong... I'm a guy. Just not the kind of guy who watches NASCAR and funnels cheap beer. Similarly, I'm not the kind of guy who buys ridiculous claims in advertising.

Cue this smiley fuck:

Yes. Meet Bob. Bob is a 1950s stereotype with a freakishly huge erection, thanks to Enzyte, the all-natural male enhancement. Bob, the narrator explains, has a new lease on life, thanks to this once-a-day tablet. His wife is similarly happy. And for some reason, he can golf better.

The once-a-day all-natural male enhancement.

I love taglines like this - the ones that say absolutely nothing. I mean, what male couldn't use some enhancement? I'm up for self-improvement.

Of course, we all know what it means. Especially when juxtaposed with the image of the sad, fat men rooting for the losing team (the Imps), painted red with flaccid horns on their head. But you can't come right out and say "this product will make your penis bigger" on national tv?

Why, you ask? Because it's not true.

The wonderful thing about this country is that you're not allowed to advertise things that are boldfaced lies. Especially when it comes to health and safety. Sadly, there are a lot of people trying to circumvent these laws by making weasel claims and dancing around the truth.

They've been sued, they've been threatened, but yet these fuckers have been around since 2001, preying on self-conscious idiots. I've made it clear that I hate advertisers with no regard to professional ethics, and this is about as perfect a case as they come.

Now, if you're excuse me, I've got some of Dr. Anderpants' Miracle Elixir to hawk on a Victorian street somewhere.

A Chronology of Enzyte Marketing Claims

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You're filthy.

Advertising has never had a reputation for being a bastion of ethics, but there are a number of trends in advertising that quite bother me. This one in particular I got thinking of after my last post about negative pitches in advertising copy - the kind of "you'll die if you don't have our product" sort of pitch.

This one bothers me because it plays on paranoia, and it usually ends up screwing something up that should have probably been left alone. A good example is anti-bacterial products. If you believe the the soap people, you're teeming with bacteria at all times. This is true, of course, but not nearly as life-threatening as they make it sound. In fact, the widespread use of these products is actually making things worse for us.

There is an ad for Clorox bleach that takes this approach, and for my part, I think it sucks.

The television spot shows a sparkling clean white bed and a guy running and leaping into the air as the announcer announces that if you're not bleaching the crap out of your bedding, you're sleeping in your own filth. With that, the guy hits the bed, which promptly turns to septic slime.

"Body soil." Gross.

The message here? Even if you're clean, you're not clean enough. The funny thing is that we buy it. We wear out our $100 sheets early because we're bleaching them every time we wash them for fear of being swallowed alive by this dreaded body soil.

Advertising is an interesting social marker. It shows what concerns us most at any given time in history - with increments so small, you can almost tell what was on our minds fifty years ago to the day.

The corollary to this is that advertising plays a large role in determining what we think about. When this turns to general fearmongering, it makes me hope that at least some people are smart enough to see through it.

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I'm never going to Mac's Milk again

Granted, I don't have any academic sources or industry intelligence to back this up, but I'm going to make the leap of faith and make an assertion about advertising based solely on my knowledge of communications and consumer psychology.

Ads that make you want to fucking puke are not an effective means of selling foodstuffs.

There, I've said it. And, controversial as it may be, I stand by it.

Now, this isn't just a random thought that popped into my head. This is based on an ad I saw last night that gave me a visceral reaction... one that made my almost spill my lovely Thai meal all over the concrete.

This is the ad that was hanging proudly in the window:

Someone, somewhere in a tall glass building in Toronto, had the solid brass balls to walk into a marketing meeting and say "Here's what we're going to do. BLOODY ZIT Frosters."

Then, someone at an ad agency had to pitch this repulsive idea. I'm sure they thought they were very clever.

So, besides the fact that displaying this image in plain view of everyone who happens to walk past the place is completely offensive, and the fact that the ad itself is disgusting and terrible, what makes this ad suck so much?

When you're crafting a message, you have to speak to your target market. The target market for these sugar-water drinks is (my guess) 12 - 19 year old males. If anyone was going to find this sort of crap funny, it's this market.


The problem is that everyone else that sees this thing is going to be disgusted by it. I wasn't planning on going into Mac's, but after seeing that, I probably wouldn't have.

Negative imagery in advertising is very dangerous. For a while, it was common to see ads showing the reprecussions of not using their product, and I've noticed that this sort of thing comes in waves. It was very popular in the early days of advertising, and comes back every once in a while.

The problem with it is, if I can't stand to look at the picture you're showing me, I'm probably not going to stick around for the sales pitch. The weird thing about this one is that it's using disgusting things to sell the product, not as a negative pitch.

It's an interesting approach, however stupid it may be.