Thursday, December 27, 2012

This ad for 5-Hour Energy drinks uses a pretty classic advertising technique that shows up in a lot of places (I am pretty sure Trident gum ads used the same trick). This particualr trick is a version of weasel words in which one makes a bold claim, but then inserts words into the claim that make it appear weaker than it initially appears. Here is the ad, after watching it I will deconstruct it:

The key claim is that of 3000 doctors surveyed, 73% would recommend 5-Hour Energy to their patients. The weasel words are that little bit tacked on at the end qualifying that this endorsement is only for a low calorie version of the drink and only, "to their healthy patients who use energy supplements." In other words, 73% of the doctors surveyed think that if you are going to consume an energy supplement, it might as well be a low calorie version. This is, of course, common sense in a country that is seeing increasing problems from overweight and obesity. However, this is in no way a medical endorsement for these product, though clearly the ad is trying to suggest that it is.

Things become even more problematic if we examine the fine print. At the 17-second mark, the fine print reveals that of these 3000 doctors, only 47% (less than half) would recommend 5-Hour Energy. This makes the commercial even more deceptive as the clear implication throughout is that the doctor's are actually looking specifically at this product, when in fact their recommendations seems to apply only to a generic low calorie energy supplement. This is just another in the long list of ways that advertisers seek to manipulate language so as to deceive their customers.

h/t to

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