“Warning: The Article You’re About To Read Might Make You Laugh,” by Shirley S. Wang. The Wall Street Journal, 1/22/2015.
I have ranted on in the past about ridiculous ads that are accompanied by even more ridiculous warnings, such as the one last year showing a young woman driving her car pool to work. She gets stuck in city traffic, looks around, and floors it, somehow ending up on the roof of a commuter train. She drives along the roof, then drives off at her destination, bypassing the traffic and all smiles. Below is the warning: “Simulated. Do not attempt.” (Dang!)
You see this all the time on TV car commercials, but the warnings are there because our government requires them. In extreme cases, it may not be necessary, but I suspect the companies find it cheaper to add the disclaimer than possibly fight a government bureaucracy justifying their existence. The companies have reason to be paranoid. In September, the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to more than 60 of them.
Ads that should have a disclaimer do not. Ads showing young people hooting and laughing with the shear joy of driving a specific brand of car should have the disclaimer, “Not a typical reaction.” So should the endless scenarios showing envious neighbors and slack-jawed strangers stunned by the shimmering beauty of a new car that looks no different than any other new car.
This WSJ article gives more examples. As a promotion, Dannon tricked up a truck to look like three huge containers of yogurt packed with fruit and the warning, “Not representative of product.” Really? I can’t buy a six-foot cup of yogurt overflowing with giant fruit, not even at Costco?
A banner in an Ikea store advertises a hot dog for 50 cents. The 10-foot hot dog shown carries the disclaimer, “*not actual size.” (Manager! Here’s my 50 cents. I want that 10-foot hot dog and help tying it to my car’s roof rack.) A disclaimer that should be there would say,”May not be available just because you saw it on some guy’s blog.”
A football helmet advises that no helmet can protect from serious brain injury and “to avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football.” Then . . . I don’t need a helmet, right?
(I have just been dealing with our local DMV and the IRS, so I am understandably frustrated with government bureaucracy.)