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At first glance, this appears to be a vintage ad by the "Soda Pop Board of America" extolling the virtues of drinking cola at an early age. It's been circulating around the internet for quite a while, during which time many sites have angrily responded to the claims made in the ad.

For instance, the Queen Anne Chiropractic Center declared that the ad demonstrates "just how wicked the Mad Men of yesteryear were." The parenting blog babble.com wrote: "We all know that, on occasion, advertisements can offer some fairly crappy advice. Back in the day, though, ads had no shame." And NaturalNews.com offered the ad as evidence that, "Soda companies, much like drug companies, have relentlessly tried to convince parents that forcing their products onto their children is a smart thing to do."

I could go on, but I'll cut to the chase: the ad isn't real. It's just a very successful vintage-ad parody created in 2002 by RJ White, who explains its full provenance on his blog Ice Cream Motor:

About seven or eight years ago, I made this fake ad, exhorting parents to give soda to their babies. It was done on a bored afternoon when J.D. Ryznar asked for someone to make that very specific thing on his livejournal. I whipped it together, posted it to the web, joke over.

THEN. A couple of years later- it started showing up online, in those weird lists that pop up every so often with a "Oh man, ads sure were strange back then, weren't they?" theme. Thing is, those ads are largely real and mine is not and very obviously so.

White links to the original livejournal post that inspired him to create the ad. His ad seems to be currently enjoying a fresh wave of popularity thanks to tumblr and pinterest which are presenting it to new audiences, many of whom (once again) seem to be accepting it at face value as a genuine vintage ad.
Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 26, 2012
Comments (11)
Many people thought this was too weird to be true, but apparently it's real. Multinational mega-corporation Unilever is running an ad campaign in Germany for its "Du Darfst" line of food products that features the English slogan "Fuck the Diet!"

It's kinda like if McDonalds were to unveil "Fuck Eating Healthy" as its new ad slogan.

A Unilever spokesperson offered this explanation:

"Although the current Du Darfst campaign has become a bit of a talking point in Germany -- as effective marketing should -- it is targeted specifically at German consumers and uses language that we do not believe most German consumers find offensive. This is because the term in the campaign is frequently heard on German TV and radio, and is used in newspapers and magazines, and in the context of 'let it be' it is not censored or seen as inappropriate by most German consumers."


Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 18, 2012
Comments (5)
France's tourism agency has been embarrassed after it's been revealed that a whole series of photos it's been using to promote French beaches don't actually show French locations at all. They're stock photos, taken in Hawaii and South Africa, in the background of which the tourism agency sometimes photoshopped sections of French coastline. It seems stupid since France has some great scenery, but the tourism agency was apparently too cheap to hire a photographer to take photos of any of it. (link: Daily Mail)

This is hardly the first time tourism agencies have been caught pulling this trick. In Hippo Eats Dwarf I noted some examples, including a 2003 brochure for Bermuda that showed sunny beaches that were in Hawaii, and a Kentucky tourism brochure that featured a covered bridge actually located in New Hampshire.


Looks like France


But it's really Hawaii
Categories: Advertising, Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 12, 2012
Comments (0)
On April 1st of this year, hundreds of thousands of men with mustaches are going to gather in Washington, DC to demand tax equity for Mustached Americans. They're hoping to persuade Congress to adopt the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act, or STACHE Act. The act would allow Mustached Americans to claim tax deductions for expenses such as:

Mustache and beard trimming instruments, mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents, Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age), bacon, mustache combs and mirrors, DVD collections of "Magnum P.I." and "Smokey & The Bandit," mustache insurance (now required by state law in Alabama, Oregon, Maine, and New Mexico, and Puerto Rico), billy clubs or bodyguards to keep women away as a mustache increases good looks by an estimated 38 percent, little black books and jumbo packages of kielbasa sausage, Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos.

The organizations behind this mustached march on Washington are the American Mustache Institute (AMUI) and H&R Block.



At first, I assumed the entire thing was an April Fool's Day joke campaign organized by H&R Block. But I now think that the American Mustache Institute was around before H&R Block got involved -- though it's obviously a rather tongue-in-cheek organization.

John Yeutter, an accountant at Northeastern State University, wrote a paper in 2010 titled, "Mustached Americans And The Triple Bottom Line: An Analysis Of The Impact Of The Mustache On Modern Society And A Proposal For A Mustached American Tax Incentive." The idea for the Mustached March on Washington seems to have been inspired by that paper, and gained momentum, eventually attracting H&R Block as a sponsor.
Categories: Advertising, April Fools Day, Fashion
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 05, 2012
Comments (0)
An article recently appeared in various British newspapers telling the story of one Tom Boddingham who ordered a size 14.5 slipper from Monster Slippers. But due to a translation error, the factory in China that makes the slippers sent a size 1450 slipper instead.

monster slipper

Polly Curtis at the Guardian thought the story smelled a bit fishy. And with the help of some people on Twitter, she soon figured out that "Tom Boddingham" coincidentally looked identical to Joseph Jennings, the online retail manager for Monster Slippers. In other words, the entire story was a PR stunt.

The thing about stories like this, which pop up with amazing regularity, is that the debunker actually can't help but publicize the PR hoaxer even more by repeating the story. Which plays into their hand. For instance, I'm now aware of Monster Slippers, and I never would have been if it weren't for the Guardian article. P.T. Barnum was very aware of this phenomenon. He would sometimes purposefully spread rumors debunking his own hoaxes in order to generate renewed media interest.

So you have to wonder, would it be better simply to ignore these PR stunts, and thereby not give the PR people the publicity they're looking for? It's a bit of a dilemma. Though my feeling is that the debunkers should never be blamed for doing their job. (Thanks, Laurie!)
Categories: Advertising, Products
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 20, 2011
Comments (5)
live forever juiceLive Forever Juice is a fake product that was created for educational purposes by FDAImports, a consulting company that specializes in advising companies how to comply with FDA regulations. The idea was to make a food product whose packaging was full of illegal claims, then walk people through why the claims are illegal. (via: The Food Watchdog).

The company handed out samples of Live Forever Juice at a recent trade fair in Baltimore. They also have an accompanying website, liveforeverjuice.com, on which they have some videos that explain what kind of claims companies are legally allowed to make on the packaging of their food products, and what claims they can't make. Of course, all claims have to be "true, adequately substantiated, and not misleading." It's the latter category, misleading claims, that are the most interesting, since companies come up with all kinds of ways to make claims that are technically true, but nevertheless misleading. And the FDA has regulations to try to prevent this.

For instance, labels often declare that the product is a "great source" of a nutrient, such as Vitamin C. But if the label says this, then the food must contain at least 20% of that nutrient's recommended daily intake (RDI). Sometimes labels will use more ambiguous language, such as boasting that the food "contains" a nutrient, which could be technically true even if the food only has a tiny amount of it. But the FDA feels that even this more ambiguous claim implies the food is a good source of the nutrient. So the food still must offer at least 10% of that nutrient's RDI in order to make that claim legally.

FDAImports also created a Live Forever Juice party video that offers a "High-Octane Motivational Video Loop with Unicorns." They caution that you shouldn't watch it if you're prone to seizures.

Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 04, 2011
Comments (1)
The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an advertisement featuring Twiggy is misleading. The ad has Twiggy claiming that "Olay is my secret to brighter-looking eyes." In fact, the brightness of her eyes in the photo is due to digital manipulation. Link: sky.com

Real Twiggy Fake Twiggy
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 16, 2009
Comments (6)
Mass: We Pray claims to be a new video game that allows you to simulate going to church, without ever leaving home. Shacknews.com reports receiving a press release from Prayer Works Interactive, the maker of this purported product. An excerpt follows:

Mass: We Pray is the first of many worship-themed games in development for Prayer Works Interactive. Just like with any videogame, families can use a television as a monitor to play. Then, they can use the CROSS, a proprietary, wireless, cross-shaped controller to participate in 24 unique and exhilarating rituals. Make the Sign of the Cross, sprinkle Holy Water, take Collection and even give Holy Communion. Every motion and nuance of a blessing or ritual is detected in three dimensions and replicated on-screen.

Can this be real? As often with claims of a religious nature, Poe's law rears its head. (The real religious stuff is often so crazy that it's indistinguishable from the spoof stuff). But let's review some of the typical signs that a website is a hoax:
  1. The site makes a claim that seems outrageous or absurd.
  2. It advertises a product, but doesn't actually allow you to buy it.
  3. It's registered anonymously, and no business address is provided.
  4. Although you can't buy the main product, you can buy a related t-shirt or mug.
  5. Google ads (or other unrelated ads) are posted to profit from traffic to the site.
An outrageous or absurd claim? Check. You can't buy Mass: We Pray, but the company claims that on Friday, Nov. 20 you'll be able to pre-order it. (Let's wait and see if they hold true to that promise.) The website is also registered anonymously through Domain Discreet, and Prayer Works Interactive offers no business address.

That's three signs of being a hoax. So my guess is that Mass: We Pray is probably fake. But the real test, of course, will be to wait and see if they ever offer this thing for sale.

Below is a video demonstration of the game.



Update: On November 20 Mass: We Pray was revealed to be a hoax. (No surprise there!) The pre-order link, which previously had been dead, became clickable, leading to an ad for the video game Dante's Inferno.

(Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Advertising, Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 19, 2009
Comments (9)
I posted two months ago about underwater billboards that Ivar Haglund supposedly placed at the bottom of Puget Sound back in the 1950s in order to advertise his restaurant to submarines. Some suspected a hoax, and it turns out they were right. From the Seattle Times:

That story about those Ivar's underwater billboards at the bottom of Puget Sound, supposedly anchored in the mid-1950s?...
Fake, fake, fake.
The documents were faked on a computer. The billboard was a wooden prop, says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's Inc. The only thing real about it was the barnacles stuck to it...
It was a great marketing campaign. Donegan says about $250,000 was spent on the hoax and the follow-up TV and radio ads and real highway billboards. The hoax was reported Oct. 23 in the industry publication Nation's Restaurant News. Donegan says he wasn't to reveal the hoax until after the ad campaign ended this month, but decided to come clean when the industry publication called.

(Thanks, Robert!)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 13, 2009
Comments (4)
Clive Coleman tells the story for BBC Radio 4 of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company. It was an 1892 case of fraudulent advertising. The case against them is "seen by some as the birth of modern consumer protection":

The carbolic smoke ball was a peculiar device marketed as a cure for various ailments including influenza. It consisted of a rubber ball, filled with powdered carbolic acid. You squeezed the ball sending a puff of acidic smoke right up a tube inserted into your nose. The idea was that your nose would run and the cold would be flushed out.
The company making the ball advertised it in the Pall Mall Gazette offering a £100 reward to anyone using it correctly who then contracted influenza. They deposited £1,000 in the Alliance Bank in Regent Street to show the money was there.
Categories: Advertising, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 06, 2009
Comments (3)
Random banner ad. (via Reddit)

Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 05, 2009
Comments (2)
Around 1954 Ivar Haglund anchored billboards to the bottom of Puget Sound. He said that he thought it would be a good way to advertise his restaurant, Ivar's Chowder, to anyone who happened to be passing by in a submarine. The modern-day Ivar's restaurant chain is now raising the billboards from the sea. Or are they? Some suspect a hoax. From the Seattle Times:

In the past month, the company has had divers bring up three of the billboards — about 7 by 22 feet and made of stainless steel — using a map found in their founder's immense collection of artifacts stored on the top floor of the chain's headquarters at Pier 54.
Included in that collection are Haglund's LP vinyl collection, his rosé wine collection, illustrations, photos and... apparently the actual naval architectural drawings, permit and location map for the billboards.The operative word is "apparently."
"This still could be a hoax. Someone could be doing something," says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's. "That's why we're being careful on the authentication."
Of course, if it was a hoax, a prime suspect would be the Ivar's chain itself.
Ivar's is promoting the find of the underwater billboards on its Web site, which includes a 2 ½-minute mini-documentary about finding that first billboard Aug. 21 off Alki Beach.
It's also started running 30-second commercials about the billboards during prime time, budgeting more than $100,000 for television ads through mid-October.

The article goes on to say that Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, who's writing a book about Haglund, thinks the billboards are the real deal. (Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 21, 2009
Comments (3)
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