Ad Claims, Bad Claims

I grew up in the Ad World. My mom was a rep for photographers, illustrators, and commercial film directors. Her husband was a creative director for one of the top ad agencies in the world (Foote, Cone & Belding) before opening up his own shop along One Mag Mile in Chicago.

I did voiceovers, jingles, print ads, and commercials from the tender age of ten.

It’s a world that is fun, exciting, and highly creative.

The Oscars of the ad world are known as the Clio Awards and can be more entertaining than those who strut along The Red Carpet.

It’s a fascinating industry, watching how one builds a brand, crafts an image of a product or service or company, communicates their “story,” and provokes emotion from their audience.

Having said all that, it ticks me off when advertisers puke all over that world with misleading junk.

Case in point:

This L’Oreal ad uses graphs in order to paint a picture of their products’ effectiveness.

And look! There’s a “clinical study” to back up their claims. Oh wait, what’s that little (*) mean? Hmm, let’s see…oh, here it is in tiny print, laid out vertically, to force you to turn the magazine sideways to make it out: “Based on consumer evaluations of 38 women using the lotion and 43 women using the serum and lotion.”

Since when did consumer evaluations become a clinical study? Were the forms presented on a clipboard from guys wearing lab coats?

What is this ad really saying? It’s saying that:

in their opinion, 28 of 43 women believed their skin looked younger,
in their opinion, 35 of 43 women believed their skin looked stronger (just what does “stronger-looking skin” look like?)
in their opinion, 26 of 43 women believed their skin looked brighter.

Here’s another ad from Garnier Nutritioniste. Their fine print to back up their “clinically proven” claim just states “Based on a clinical study”. If you go to their website, buried, is their study.

“Clinically tested and reviewed by dermatoligists and nutritionalists” (What does this mean?)

“In 3 weeks: Skin is radiant, fine lines are visibly reduced and women saw more even-toned skin.” (How radiant? How much reduced? Women saw?)

In my next post: my advice to any company seeking to use science–legitimately and ethically–to help sell their product.

2 comments for “Ad Claims, Bad Claims

  1. visioneer
    September 1, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Wow, awesome stuff Bridgett. I didn’t realize how important that * is!!

  2. InsideEdgePR
    September 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm


    You make excellent points that go to the heart of how businesses must operate in the modern (read: post-Google) era, at least for self-preservation if doing it right isn’t motivation enough in the first place.

    With technology aiding anyone with curiosity to dig deeper and deeper into claims, it’s foolish for anyone to try to bury things in small print. Today’s small print is tomorrow’s debunked rubbish in 60-point bold font.

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