Everyone is afraid of getting sued.
The most glaring examples pop up in television ads, where there are more disclaimers than claims.
Disclaimers are those virtually unreadable messages in tiny letters at the bottom of the screen that basically tell you the weight loss results for their diet program are not typical. Or, the cars are driven by stunt drivers on a closed course and you should not attempt to break the sound barrier on your local freeway. Or, the grass stains in your child’s clothes probably will never come out even if you pre-soak them in their “New! Improved!” stain remover for a month.
Results may vary.
A relative newcomer to the national TV advertising game is an energy drink with ads claiming it “produces” energy and alertness.
Each tiny bottle contains caffeine and has four calories, but no sugar. The next note on the ad says it’s not proven to improve endurance or physical performance – and won’t prevent or cure any disease.
What a letdown. Guess I’ll have to get a flu shot after all.
One of the energy drink’s ads shows a well-dressed, handsome young man chugging a competitor’s energy drink and – shazam! He tragically turns into a badly dressed, overweight slob who couldn’t be bothered to fasten all the buttons on his ugly sweater.
The disclaimer states: “Appearance changes for comedic effect, not to imply actual changes.”
A more recent ad was even more of a hoot, with a New! Improved! use of humor.
A low-energy guy lying on a couch seems to be awakened from a nap by a more energetic, ambitious and intelligent version of himself.
After one disclaimer reassures us it’s “for comedic effect,” the man on the couch asks the brighter version of himself, “Who are you?”
As if he didn’t know.
After responding that he’s “the you you could be,” he urges him to “get active.”
After the lazy boob responds that he’s too tired to do any such thing, he’s urged to try the elixir so that he too can see the light and be “energized.”
He puts off the idea again, but then a cute but equally low-budget female actress joins the scene – which by then is reminiscent of a particularly sad episode of A&E’s “Intervention.”
The gal looks at the spiffy guy and asks, “You used to look like that?”
He offers a partial nod (which in court litigation likely could be disputed by a good attorney), then says to his slothful counterpart, “Meet the girlfriend you could have.”
Then comes the most absurd – and yet at the same time the most brilliant – TV ad disclaimer ever created.
“Not guaranteed to help with securing or maintaining a relationship. Does not improve physical appearance.”
At last, honesty in advertising. We’ve been waiting years for this. Armed with that Ultimate Truth, men like me now can move on to the next TV ad in a quest to discover something that will actually prevent and cure disease, transform our looks and make us irresistible. In case you were thinking I forgot to mention the name of that energy drink, you’re wrong. I just didn’t want to get sued.
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