White Lies (Don't Do It)

Da-na na-na na-na na-na base! Da-na na-na na-na true base!

Advertising copywriters, why must you lie? The product made it through all the planning stages, prototyping and production; surely it's got enough selling points that you don't need to lie about it?

In fact, it's not just lies. It's all of the nonsense we get bombarded with that's then explained away in the smallprint. If your ad needs smallprint, you hired the wrong copywriter, I'd say.

What It Says on the Tin

Even if your product comes in a tin, don't say this about it.

First of all, your product does what it's supposed to do? That's your unique selling point? I've got all manner of things that do what they're supposed to do, and most of them didn't feel the need to state that they would on their ads.

Secondly, it's so annoying. It's the kind of phrase you hear from MPs when they're trying to be cool. Is that what you want your product to sound like? An MP trying to be cool?

Thirdly, even Ronseal don't use it properly. And they own the copyright. They use it for woodstain that comes in a plastic tub with total disregard for the accuracy of the statement. Urgh.

No [Blank] Required

I'm referring, of course, to the Philips Airfryer. If you haven't seen the ad, check Tom Pascoe-Williams' blog post.

In brief, the ad promises "a whole new way to make great-tasting chips, just with air". Only, chips seem to be the one thing it can't cook. The smallprint warns that, if you're cooking your chips from actual potatoes, you'll need half a tablespoon of oil.

Why, Philips? If you'd said "oven chips" (which are already part-cooked in oil), you wouldn't have needed the disclaimer. You could probably have got away with "frozen chips", too. "From frozen, to freshly fried, with no need to add oil."

Instead, the main selling point of their product is the one thing it's incapable of doing - frying real freshly made potato chips without oil.

NB There are so many overlooked opportunities in that ad, it's almost hard to bear. Have you seen the price of cooking oil these days? The Airfryer is almost certainly a good long-term investment. Or how about portability? Take it up the garden, plug it into an extension lead, and cook your chips right there next to your barbecue. But no, they had to go for the one thing it can't do. They don't even make a clear healthy-living connection, they just leave the 'without oil' angle hanging there like it's an inherently good thing.

A Catch-22 Situation

Is it really a Catch-22 situation, Mr Advertising Copywriter?

Catch-22's original 'Catch-22 Situation' is described aptly in this Wikipedia article. It involves Air Force pilots who can only prove they are too crazy to fly by requesting a psychological evaluation - something, it is considered, only a sane man would do. So, they are condemned to fly endless near-suicide missions.

Now, compare being trapped in a doomed war with having yoghurt on your cereal bar. "You want to lose weight, but dieting makes you hungry - it's a Catch-22 situation." No, it's not. Sure, you're fat, but at least you're not stuck on an airfield at the arse-end of nowhere.

Most so-called Catch-22 situations don't even live up to the complicated logic of the novel. They're shadows of the original construct, 'awkward' at best, and they're destroying the very meaning of the term.

I propose this: true Catch-22 situations may be referred to as such, provided that they are truly as impossible as the original example from Joseph Heller's masterpiece. Those that are only an inkling of that degree of confusion can only be described as being like a Catch-22 situation. These we will henceforth call a Joseph Heller-va situation. Agreed? Good.


OK, rant over, and seriously guys, what are you doing to yourselves and your clients?? Providing them with copy they have to weasel their way out of with smallprint and disclaimers? What happened to ingenious ad agencies, finding the best features of a product and really selling them??

I'm of the opinion that anything can be sold, but to do so, you have to be (a) believable, (b) earnest and (c) transparent. People are too savvy these days to fall for marketing schtick - give them the straight dope, built on a firm and true base of honesty and integrity, and they'll fall for it every time.