Corporate Communications B.S.

I’m sure most folks probably don’t pay much attention to tiny-print and speed-spoken corporate admonishments and disclaimers and the like, but I find them fascinating all the same.

They generally fall into two categories:
– Warnings about potential socially-undesireable outcomes / safety risks, like “Don’t drink and drive” and “Commercial filmed by stunt driver… do not attempt these maneuvers.”
– “Small print” restrictions, such as stuff outlining extra fees and taxes.

Does anyone else find this stuff to be completely ludicrous?

From my perspective, these ‘notices’ completely fail to either persuade or inform.

Are teens really going to drive more responsibly because the 7pt text on the bottom of the sports car ad urges them to do so?

How about college students, and the “Drink Responsibly” urgings of the liquor industry? I can just imagine it now, “Ya know, Biff, I’m totally digging this frat party and normally I’d love another shot and all… but I just saw this ad today, and on the very bottom it said to ‘Drink Responsibly’ so I guess I better have a 7up instead.”

I also love the contests featured on TV in which some announcer speed-speaks the terms and/or the terms are displayed with 90mph scrolling in tiny text:

Send a 3×5 card to [ridiculously-long-and-hard-to-spell-address] along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Not valid in TN, WY, FL, GA, NC, SC, or states whose postal abbreviations contain two consonants. Odds are 17 in 48,819,901 or as determined by the jurisdictional laws and regulations of CA, unless entrant enters from NV, in which case different laws and regulations may apply. Taxes are the responsibility of the winner. In the case that winner is not of the age of majority, parents or guardians will be required to co-sign for delivery of prize, unless applicant is not of legal driving age in which parents will be required to claim and maintain ownership of any prize vehicles, excepting in Puerto Rico. For a complete list of terms and conditions, send a postcard to…”

This, of course, takes approximately 2 seconds or 2 millimeters, whichever comes first.

The drug TV ads are more amusing, however. Attractive housewife with husband and 2.4 kids and a dog are romping through a beautiful meadow, accompanied by bland-and-inoffensive-and-usually-unidentifiable music, all in the noble pursuit of making consumers aware that if they badger their doctors enough for this particular drug by name, they’ll be saved from having to be prescribed an equally effective and considerably less costly generic alternative.

My favorite part of these commercials, however, is the breathlessly ejected warnings, which usually sound something like this: “Debtimaxinine may cause swelling of the small intenstines, hairloss, dry mouth, and other minor complications. In particularly severe cases, death may occur. Ask your doctor if debtimaxinine is right for you!”

Is a TV ad really the right forum to be even mentioning the pros and cons of taking a particular prescription drug? For that matter, is it really the best idea to be pushing potent childrens’ prescription anti-depressants and the like on national TV anyway?

If our government were really smart, they’d put out the following bulletin to America’s corporations:

CEO’s, advertising agencies, and the like, pay attention! From this date forth, bullshit disclaimers will not carry any weight whatsoever in a court of law, nor will they fulfill any legal requirements for truthfully informing consumers about your products. You’re going to have to do something shocking instead: ACTUALLY inform relevant parties (doctors, patients, people who buy or sell SUV’s, etc.) of any substantive risks of your products.

Good news for you alcohol beverage producers: Despite your oft-questionable moral backbone in selling hard liquor to those who can least afford the drunkenness, we’re going to actually side with the concept of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and PARENTAL GUIDANCE on this topic. We realize that requiring or encouraging you to post stupid pap like ‘Drink responsibly’ is never going to change behaviors. Indeed, we are not going to hold you responsible when some latchkey kid gets drunk and fries his housecat or when some schmuck drinks one two many and stupidly drives home.

But pharmaceutical company folk, wipe that grin off your faces. You’ve got a bit more responsibility here, since you’ve been often buying off doctors with expensive cruises, misleading the public with questionable claims, and basically squashing sales of generic or even herbal remedies that work with less expense and often less danger than your fancy-pants super-drugs.

We’re going to require you to disclose your contributions to hospitals, doctors, and any other medical personnel, and we’re also going to insist that you publish both plain-English notices about your drugs’ risks, and also include a chart comparing their efficacy to relevant generics and even placebos.

Most importantly… boys… cut it out with the ridiculous ‘disclosures’ and ‘disclaimers’ that you know no one understands or even reads. Get real. Or we’re gonna sic the same lawyers who won all the tobacco settlements on you guys, too.


  1. One question, Adam. How in the HELL do you have 2.4 kids? I mean do you have three kids and saw one off at the knees? Or maybe the third kid is really REALLY short? Or maybe they’re leasing the kid with an option to buy?

    Stupid, I know, but try being rational on only 2.5 hours of sleep! 😛

  2. TV Ads are not the right forum to mention pros and cons of a prescription drug. They way the show the ad is more like a sales pitch. Fine prints are mentioned in a way which is not possible for any human to understand. We need more regulation on TV ads for prescription drugs

What do you think?

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