Wait, Don Draper did that for cigarettes in 1960. How can you hate him?
To protect us all from lies and fraud, the government makes sure that everyone only tells the truth in their advertisements — in the most literal, mundane sense of "truth". However, that doesn't stop advertisers from trumping up neutral, insignificant or even negative aspects of their products as though they were positive, by using phrases like "real", "100%", "free from" and "pure". The things these ads say are true, but not necessarily good things. It works because the standards for those products are esoteric or obscure: if you hear it repeated often enough, you'll assume it actually is a good thing because you don't know any better.
For bonus points, the ad can imply that competitors' products do not do this because they fail to measure up to the same standards. After all, if this brand of dry cereal proclaims so loudly that it is 100% fat free while the rest are silent, that means other brands are just dripping with lard, right?
To be clear, this trope does not refer to labels that are used mistakenly or fraudulently. It's only Asbestos Free Cereal if the advertisement is entirely true, but misleading in that the claims it makes are actually insignificant (they apply to all products in that category, as in the page image, or just have no bearing on the product's quality at all) or negative (somewhat rarer), repackaged to seem positive and desirable.
Sister tropes are Lite Creme, All-Natural Snake Oil, and the somewhat more malicious Never Needs Sharpening. A form of False Reassurance and Turd Polish.
For the rare cases in which advertisers just flat-out admit the product they're shilling has many flaws, see Our Product Sucks.
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Good, Pure, Real, 100%, and All-Natural
Fast food companies who tout their "100% pure grade-A beef", which sounds great unless you happen to know that "grade-A" to the USDA just means slaughtered before age 30 months. It has very little to do with quality. To specify, the meat of younger animals does tend to be a bit more tender than that of older ones, but the inherent characteristics that make a piece of meat good are more complex than just age. For beef in the US, you want to look at the descriptive scale, which runs: Prime (top 1%)-Choice (best you'll get at a decent price)-Select (grocery stores/butchers sell it as stew meat)-Standard (put in better cans and mass-produced stuff)-Commercial (like Standard but worse)-Utility-Cutter-Canner (these last three are only technically fit for human consumption; some makes its way into the vilest mass-produced "beef", and some is turned into pet food).
Products that tout themselves as being "a good source of protein," "a good source of calcium" or "100% of your daily supply of vitamin C" may be full of cholesterol, fat, or sugar. It's usually not difficult to get your RDI of protein or vitamin C, so these labels are in some places relegated to meaty fast food or sugary fruit-flavoured drinks that have nothing else going for them nutritionally. Read The Fine Print.
"Real American cheese" typically doesn't mean a single kind of American-sourced cheese, like Cheddar, Colby or Gouda, but what the USDA refers to as processed cheese, which is actually cheese sauce (the details of which are covered over in the Velveeta entry in Lite Creme) that's been colored with annatto to look like Cheddar. It's not all that bad; it at least tastes like cheese most of the time. The implication, however, is that there's worse, and there is. "Imitation" cheese, which is made from whey, oil and water like margarine, is even cheaper and tastes like plastic.
McDonald's emphasizes its "hand-picked Arabica coffee beans" in its McCafe advertisements. Arabica is usually considered a better product than Robusta, but the fact is that almost all coffee beans are hand-picked, due to the temperamental nature of the coffee plant making mechanization very difficult. And most coffee beans are Arabica, anyway.
Maxwell House did this same "100% hand-picked Arabica" schtick long before McDonald's thought of it, and quite a few brands in the US quickly followed suit. Folger's, significantly, does not make any such claims, mostly because their product does in fact contain a large percentage of Robusta beans. This stems from a price war in the 60s and 70s that, among other things, had companies moving to using only cheaper, harsher tasting Robusta beans. The practice had nearly killed the coffee market by the early 1980s.
7Up once advertised "5 all-natural ingredients" for about a month. These five natural ingredients included high fructose corn syrup and natural flavors.
"100% Pure Olive Oil." Nowadays all olive oil is 100% pure - if it weren't, it would have to be marketed as "vegetable oil," and no sane manufacturer would waste expensive olive oil on that. The claim was started when it meant something: before 1994 it was perfectly acceptable to blend up to 10% unrefined peanut oil - and unrefined peanut oil is chock full of peanut protein - into American olive oil. Four deaths from peanut allergies in one year caused the law to be changed. But the claim never went away; nowadays, without further modifiers, it would mean "non-virgin olive oil."
Many "whole wheat" and "whole grain" breads are mostly white flour. Reasons:
In some parts of the US, the word "wheat" is (confusingly and inaccurately) used to mean "whole wheat." The manufacturer can use the phrase "wheat bread" to differentiate it from rye bread, rice bread, or multi-grain bread. In most of the country, that would be reasonable.
If it's "whole wheat" without being "100% whole wheat," that means there has to be some whole wheat flour in it — but it can be mixed with white.
Sara Lee makes what it calls a "whole-grain white bread." If a 100% whole-wheat white flour legally exists (and it does, although it's a bit exotic), anything is possible.
In general, it's rather difficult to make a whole-wheat bread that compares in texture with white bread; although it won't come out as a brick like 100% rye bread, rarely will whole wheat bread have the puff that people expect from white bread, which is probably why people throughout history have used white flour in preference to whole grain whenever they could get it.
Lots of people buy meat with the label "Free-Range" on it, thinking it means the animals are allowed to roam freely outdoors (instead of being kept in cages or overcrowded buildings) before being slaughtered. What it actually means is that the animals are allowed to roam freely outdoors, but it doesn't tell you whether that's for five minutes a day (the minimum F.D.A. requirement for "Free-Range") or whether the animals spend the majority of their time outdoors.
Worse, in some places all "Free-Range" means is that the animals have access to the outdoors, and some places take that literally; the animals are packed so tightly into a building they can barely move anyway, but there's a door open, so they technically have access to the outdoors even if they can't actually get out in practice.
If you see an orange-flavored juice drink that touts itself as being "100% juice", chances are most of the juice isn't orange juice. The most common ingredient in "100% juice" drinks is apple juice.
Related to the whole wheat example: Quaker has proudly advertised that all its hot oatmeals are whole-grain oats — including the instant oatmeals with flavoring. Neat trick.
Back in the days when they sold radioactive water to kill off germs and "restore your youthful vigor", the ads reassured potential customers that it wasn't dangerous to their health because "Radium is not a synthetic drug or medicine but an entirely natural element, present in many hot springs famous for their recuperative properties."
Some companies market their sea salt as "organic". "Organic" in food means grown or raised without using synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, or antibiotics ... and since one neither grows nor raises salt, it adds insult to injury that sodium chloride is an inorganic compound.
Microwave popcorn marketed as a "whole grain" food. Yeah, thanks. Good to know that you're popping the whole kernel of corn, instead of...what? Trying to pop the inside without the shell?
In general, by the way, whole grain corn is not a particularly good thing; it's pretty low in an amino acid called lysine (which is why it was traditionally served with beans in pre-Columbian times) and it also is a poor source of niacin. Native Americans knew to mix corn with other ingredients and to treat it in a way that liberated the nutrients and raised the lysine level (nixtamalization, or, as we know it better, hominy), but outside the Americas, people living mostly off of corn developed pellagra from niacin deficiency. So... yeah. Whole grain corn is not bad for you, but it's a very different product from other whole grains.
Free, Clear and Hypo-Allergenic
"No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives" is commonly used when there would be no expectation of having any of the above. There's also the fact that "artificial" vs "natural" only refers to the method of isolating the particular compound being used - creating them "artificially" vs extracting them "naturally". See also All-Natural Snake Oil.
Any plant product can be labelled "cholesterol free," since cholesterol only comes from animal products. That doesn't stop sellers from pretending like it differentiates them from their competitors.
This is pretty common in the food industry, and is sometimes allergy information as much as it is an advertisement. This kind of 'advertisement' usually shows up to cover one's ass if traces of other foods end up in the product after they leave the factory and prevent lawsuits.
The big "Gluten Free" scam. Gluten is a is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. While this means it is included in a lot of processed food, and is ever-present in bread & pasta, it also means it's relatively simple to figure out if something would have gluten in it when it is a simple fresh product. Avoiding gluten is a serious issue to people suffering from celiac disease, but celiac disease is relatively rare; gluten-free diets have become "trendy" far outside the celiac circle. The few non-obvious product that include gluten include beer, some ice creams, soy sauce, tomato sauce, pet food and some fake meat products popular only in parts of Asia. The gluten-free craze has lead to marketing departments labelling items that couldn't possibly have any gluten in them unless it was purposely added for no reason as 'gluten free'.
Wegman's Cola, the generic version of Coke sold at the (rather upscale) Wegman's supermarket chain in the US Mid-Atlantic region and Northeast, is marketed on the label as "Gluten free", "Lactose free", and "Vegan". So it has no wheat, milk, or other animal product, which soda never does anyway.note We're not sure if Jones Turkey Soda did in fact contain animal products in its "natural and artificial flavors." A true exception is Calpis, also known as Calpico in English-speaking regions, which is fermented, sweetened, and carbonated milk. However, it looks just like milk, so a lactose intolerant person would be careful around Calpis anyway.
Similarly, there's at least one type of white cooking wine that advertises itself as "Gluten free" but Fridge Logic kicks in when you realize that wine is made out of grapes, so there is never gluten in it. Even rice wine, which is made of "glutinous rice" is gluten free, due to an odd language quirk. explanation "glutinous" just means "sticky" and is related to the word "glue", and that happens to also be the root of the word "gluten", otherwise the two are unrelated.
Another joiner on this particular bandwagon is Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter, which is 100% made from peanuts and has the label highlighting that it is "gluten free". Even brands of peanut butter that aren't 100% peanuts generally don't use gluten-containing products. While there is certainly an opportunistic advertising element to all of these examples, it's also a bit Truth In Television. To legally declare a product "gluten free" you have to do gluten testing, maintain separate production facilities, etc. gluten contamination can occur before the product even exists- i.e., oats growing in a field where wheat was once planted.
The "Gluten Free" trend started in Australia in 2012. This has lead to pretty much anything without gluten being labelled as 'gluten free'. Like generic meat products. See that chicken or turkey breast? Gluten free.
Any tea bags that says "Gluten Free." There is no reason any tea leaves would contain gluten. note Sometimes gluten is added to foods to stabilize them, but that's only things like ketchup or ice cream (check the labels or call the number if you have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivity), but that still wouldn't apply to tea leaves!
Something to note about "Gluten Free" is that oftentimes it's to inform that it's certified which means there is no chance of cross contamination. Knowing that a particular product doesn't contain wheat doesn't help much if it's manufactured in an area where wheat is all over the place and could easily have gotten in. This is why you often see "Manufactured in an area that contains wheat/eggs/peanuts, etc" on foods that do not contain these things normally but may be contaminated. While "gluten free" has no doubt become something of a fad, the labeling of food serves more purpose for those who are gluten intolerant than just advertising (though "It can be both"). Still it has to be said that — unlike many other "something free" products — "gluten free" has, according to today's knowledge, no health impact on anyone who is not gluten intolerant. Eating less fat, while not necessary for everyone, is generally a good idea. Eating less gluten — you can, but there really is no need to.
Other food items, however, will sport weasel-worded labels such as "a naturally gluten-free food", which means that there's no gluten in (e.g.) canned pumpkin. These labels make no guarantee that cross-contamination has not occurred.
Kroger brand deli meats now sport the "Gluten Free" label as well.
Similarily, "lactose free" is a large sign on many a product. Which is perfectly sensible, since most of the world's population are lactose intolerant to differing degrees - the European (caucasian) ability to eat and drink milk products is more of a freak of nature than the norm. Still, lactose free cheese, which is often advertised, usually is silly. Except for some very young cheeses, all of the lactose is lost during the fermentation process of any cheese. So if you like old Gouda, go and have some, there's nothing in there. Actually, there may be lactase in there, the very enzyme that lactose intolerant lack, so after eating cheese you are more likely to be able to properly ingest other milk products. Of course, some younger cheeses do have lactose, so it is not all said about it.
"No trans fats" is an easy bandwagon to jump on, since trans fats are artificially created. Plenty of things get marked with this that wouldn't get trans fats put in them anyways, like fruit smoothies. In Brazil this escalated so far that products that aren't supposed to have trans fat in the first place CAN have the "NO TRANS FAT" label, but always followed with "Like every other product like this one".
It's also inverted. Perhaps you've seen "0 grams Trans Fat"? There's actual government-allowed leeway here. Up to 1/2 a gram is allowed, still qualifying as "0 grams". If they tweak the serving size (for instance, hot dog quality chili has about 12 servings) you could end up eating a sizable portion thinking it's okay for you. Look instead for the presence or absence of "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredients, and even that isn't a good indicator, as some vegetable oils (canola is reportedly a big culprit) have small amounts of trans fats added to prevent rancidity.
Part of the push to allow up to 0.49 grams of trans fat to be labelled as "0 grams" came from, of all places, the meat and dairy industries. Beef, mutton, and milk contain a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat, produced by the animal's own biology without partial hydrogenation ever having been involved. These trans fats are also chemically distinct from the trans fats produced by partial hydrogenation, and have not been subjected to the kinds of health impact studies that artificial trans fats have (so their cardiovascular risk, if any, is essentially unknown). But try explaining this to a consumer who's been trained to avoid all trans fats like the plague.
Similarly, "no carbs", though "carbs" are naturally created. Still, you wouldn't expect a whole lot of carbs in your beef jerky...
A number of products now proudly proclaim "no high fructose corn syrup." These include pancake syrup that uses corn syrup of the non-high-fructose variety, and various sweets that are loaded with good old-fashioned sugar instead.
A Scandinavian cookie brand boasts that their cookies, which are light brown like most cookies, are "free of artificial coloring." A scientist interviewed in the newspaper noted that this is nothing special, since for the most part, cookies aren't blue.
Australian companies advertising that their chicken is "free of hormones" in an attempt to make it appear that other companies did use hormones turned into a big issue in 2012. Australia has banned hormones in chicken since 1960. Also, you can't have hormone-free chicken. They naturally contain a whole cocktail of hormones just like people and all other animals. What's forbidden is presumably injecting chicken with shots of additional growth hormone to make them grow faster. So the advertising here isn't so much absestos-free cereal as water-free milk. In the USA there will be a tiny disclaimer on the side of the package stating that FDA regulations prohibit hormones from being used in chicken.
Likewise, "hormone-free" red meat is never entirely free of hormones, as livestock other than chickens also use such chemical signaling to regulate their metabolism and growth. Indeed, "hormone-free" beef cattle produce far more edible muscle tissue than dairy cattle because they have higher inborn levels of growth hormones than other bovine breeds: that's precisely what farmers have bred them for.
AFACT, a lobby group of dairy farmers sponsored by hormone giant Monsanto, invoked this trope in a rather controversial case. AFACT tried to have labels stating that milk and dairy was free of bovine growth hormones banned because consumers prefer their milk growth hormone free (there are no hormones in the milk. It is chemically identical, but cows treated with it produce more milk). Their argument ran that the labels were confusing consumers into thinking that there was a health difference, and that the growth hormones were FDA approved so they shouldn't be punished for using them. So far they've been unsuccessful, except briefly (November 2007-January 2008) in Pennsylvania, whose agriculture department banned hormone-free labels on milk. The governor overturned the regulation following controversy. No removing the true claim, but the FDA now requires a counter-claim. Dairy products labeled "hormone-free" are also getting labels saying that the FDA doesn't believe hormone-free has any health benefits over the other kind.
The anti-GMO movement is so popular now that some manufacturers put non-GM labels even on salt. It is impossible to genetically modify salt because it doesn't have any genes since it is not an organism. Also ridiculous: Water◊. Baking soda◊.
A frequently used version of this on instant soups and similar products in Germany is to label them as "with no added flavour enhancers". While that is technically true, most of these products contain yeast extract, which happens to be rich in monosodium glutamate, a flavour enhancer.
"Dermatologically Tested" Skin Creams. When buying a skin cream, you'd hope that at some point it had been tested on skin. Also, they don't say what the results of the test were. Hypothetically, the tests could have shown that the cream will burn your skin off ... but hey... it was tested. Also, this claim is used because it sounds like it's the opposite of 'tested on animals'. As one can see above, it isn't, exactly.
Fat-free hard candy. In case anybody thought hard candy contains anything besides sugar and flavoring. On that note, lots of people perceive "fat-free" as being synonymous with "healthy." That's not entirely accurate if the food in question is free of fat but loaded with sugars and whatnot.
There was a bit of a scandal in the Netherlands some years ago when chupa chup lollies came on the market and made a big point about 'being healthy' (on account of the fruit-juice in it). Of course they aren't: they are full of sugar and the fruit is way to much processed to have any nutritional value. They were laughed off the market.
Skippy Peanut Butter used to advertise itself as "cholesterol free," which is a true claim... since no brand of peanut butter has cholesterol. (Cholesterol is strictly from animal products, which generally don't go into peanut butter.)
Any food that proclaims itself to be both "sugar free" and have "0 carbohydrates" is somewhat guilty of this seeing as sugar is a carbohydrate to start with, so listing it separately only serves to give the impression of added benefit.
The label on bottles of the mineral water brand Hydr8 boast that it's completely free of sugar, calories and colouring. Of course, this is true of water in general. You might as well brag that "The novels from Random House all include words that you can read to get a story!" or that "With a Subaru, not only can you listen to the built-in radio, but you can also drive the car to travel to another place!"
Jell-O sugar-free instant pudding mixes also boast that they are "fat free". All instant pudding mixes are fat free, they're just sugar, cornstarch, flavorings, colors and preservatives. The fat content depends on the milk you're using.
A recurrent claim for hair care products, at least in Britain, is that they are "chemical-free". This is, of course, laughable to anyone with even the most basic knowledge of chemistry. Unless the bottle contains a vacuum, in which case the claim is actually accurate.
Many products claim to be "chemical free", which anyone who's taken high school chemistry can see through instantly. If something exists, it's got chemicals in it.
Ditto with Trident Xtra-Care gum, which advertises calcium-based Recaldent to "remineralize" teeth. (Recaldent, of course, is just a combination of the prefix "re-", the word "calcium", and the French "dent", meaning tooth.)
Several yogurt companies do this as well, having invented their own trademarked names for certain bacteria that appear in the human digestive system; therefore, Activia really can say that they are the only yogurt that contains B.L. regularis, because they are the only ones with the rights to that particular name for it.
"Only Birdseye peas have Birdseye's Vitamins In Peas guarantee!" Yes, because you are hardly going to give that marketing gimmick to your competitors are you?
Brompton's bicycles claim to have over X amount of specialized parts on every bicycle (usually in the triple digits). Brompton also patented each part in a way that no other company can make parts that will fit on a Brompton. What this means is that Brompton has a monopoly on its parts. If your Brompton needs even the slightest bit of maintenance or repair, be prepared to pay through the nose because Brompton can charge any price it wants. (By contrast, there is a standard on most bicycle parts that frequently need repair, such as brakes and inner tubes, that nearly all other bicycle manufacturers follow, including those of higher quality than Brompton's.)
DisneyBlu-Ray Discs released in 2010 or later claim to have "Disney Enhanced High-Definition Picture and Sound." How exactly this differs from the high-definition picture and sound of the other big studios' Blu-Ray Discs doesn't get detailed.
Several brands of gasoline have contained trademarked additives over the years, such as Shell's "Platformate" or Chevron's "Techroline" (later "Techron"). As with Retsyn in Certs, no other gasoline could claim to have these additives, even if they contained additives that were chemically identical.
Some auto makers advertise their all wheel drive system as "Other manufacturers only split the power between the front and rear wheels. Ours delivers the power to each wheel." Though it largely depends on the public's lack of automotive awareness, that is what a differential does: It powers both wheels simultaneuously until one experiances resistance and must turn slower (such as going around a corner) and turns the opposite wheel faster. All vehicles with at least two powered wheels have a differential.
Other Claims (to be sorted)
Adverts for eggs and milk often point out that they will "give you energy". This is true only in the most literal sense: eggs and milk contain calories, and calories are a unit of energy.
At least eggs and milk are kinda good for you. But Nutella's main sales-argument is also 'gives you energy', yeah, refined sugar tends to do that. Sugar is also the main ingredient in 'energy-drinks', with the caffeine and taurine more of an afterthought. That was how Nutella was marketed in Italy, where its dense calorie content was helpful for giving Italian children a quick rush of energy. In America? Not so much.
In the US, they claim that being made with "hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa" mean it's a great snack for your kids, and that it can be put on healthy foods to make them taste better. Problem is, they leave out the large amount of sugar, and that you'd probably be better off using peanut butter on your whole-grain toast (see above for why that's not necessarily a great claim, either).
Bell Canada advertises their high-speed Internet as "perfect for laptops". Well, it really doesn't matter what form of computer you're using, but sometimes an included Wi-Fi router does come in handy.
Many types of washing powder ads. There was one that loudly advertised it used/contained 'blue energy'. A consumer show ridiculed it, by interviewing people and asking if anyone had any idea what 'blue energy' is supposed to be. It turns out it was actually just blue dye. Since blue neutralizes yellow in the color spectrum, washing yellowed garments in heavily-diluted blue dye will give the illusion of the material coming out whiter. (It's the same thing that gave us the Elderly Blue-Haired Lady).
In the NES and SNES era, video game ads which trumpeted that the game in question possessed "The Nintendo Seal of Quality". The Nintendo Seal of Quality only meant that the game was guaranteed to run properly and met Nintendo's standards of censorship, and the publisher had paid Nintendo the licensing fee. It had nothing to do with whether or not the game was any good. Today the seal is simply called the "Official Nintendo Seal", disclaiming any particular guarantee of quality. This is fairer than younger gamers generally realise: the lack of any sort of quality control (in terms of "does it run?" and such) was one of the factors contributing to the Great Video Game Crash. Nintendo's Seal of Quality came about as a means of averting this and giving customers the confidence that they would get a game that ran. As the game market matured and customers got used to games all meeting basic standards of quality control the purpose of the Seal of Quality has been mistaken. This is still effectively an example, however, since customers mistaking its meaning clearly outnumber those who know what it really means.
Battery companies advertising that their alkaline batteries last 2 to 4 times longer than other brands of battery. It's true. But they always fail to point out the type of battery they are comparing to is cheaper zinc–carbon batteries rather than similarly priced alkaline ones. If compared against similar alkaline batteries, there would be next to no difference in length of use. Duracell is a major offender with this, most notably with the original "Duracell Bunny" commercial from the 1970s.
Evereadynote at the time, the creator of the Energizer brand; these days Energizer is the parent company, and Eveready their subsidiary created the Energizer Bunny campaign as a direct shot against Duracell. Duracell did successfully sue Eveready, though, over their "Nothing Lasts Longer" claim in the Energizer adsnote Which were actually true — nothing lasts longer, although all of their alkaline competitors last just as long. Subsequently, the fictional competitor "Supervolt" was created as a Brand X parody of Duracell, still implying that Energizer can outlast their alkaline rivals.
"Enriched flour" sounds impressive, but all it means is that some, but not all, of the nutrients lost during processing have been replaced, likely by synthetic vitamins.
It's actually the next-to-bottom quality of flour, with "flour/wheat flour" being below it (having not even been enriched, after processing), while above it you have "unbleached flour" followed by "unbleached unbromated flour" followed "by "whole wheat flour" and finally something like "organic whole wheat flour."
Similar to the "Over X hours of gameplay!" listed above, many games would advertise having "Over X characters!" or something, and then would have X+1. A particularly bad example is Baten Kaitos: It advertised "Over 1000 Magnus!", and it has 1022. Which included things like plot and sidequest items, photos you take of enemies to sell them for cash since there are no Money Spiders, healing expendables and a whole bunch of crap in general. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 also uses this on the back of its European packaging which states that the game has "more than 300 quests" note exactly 300 plus the bonus quest and "over 50 available jobs" note 51 plus 5 special jobs unique to certain characters
A surreal example is '*Empire Earth'', sold on the promise of containing "over 500 000 years of history". Five hundred thousand of those years are devoted to the Neolithic age, which a player can and probably will want to pass through faster than banging two rocks together, in order to spend more time in the more interesting ages adding up to nearly five thousand years beyond the advertised half a million.
The Football Manager series has turned its promotion of the yearly updates by claiming that the game has 100's of changes, the most recent game, Football Manager 2014, is claimed to have over 1000. Of course, these changes include every single minor bug fix, change in UI, and any scrap of change, even if the change is for the worse.
Some aluminum foil brands are labeled kosher for all purposes, while others are only kosher for dairy. The difference is probably due to dairy-based lubricants, but it's hard not to think about (and get creeped out by) how they might make aluminum foil out of milk.
Ultra-pasteurization is a process that involves boiling milk at such a high temperature that almost all the bacteria is removed, improving its shelf-life, which is useful for the people storing it. It also destroys most of the milk's flavor, and provides zero health benefits (it might even make it less healthy, since it destroys bacteria that would probably be good for you.) So what do you do when US law forces you to put an "ultra-pasteurized" label on your product? You put the words in big, italicized letters right on the front of the carton, as if it's a selling point, and hope the unsuspecting public assumes it means the milk is healthier or somehow better than normal milk.
An advertisement for a device amplifying one's hearing starts out by cheerfully saying "How would you like to have SONIC HEARING?!" 'Sonic' is, by definition, a part of hearing.
In 2011, the Belgian cable company Telenet has been advertising its internet via the cable as "Surf at the speed of light!" Virtually all internet traffic uses fibre-optic connection at some point in the process, which moves at the speed of light. The only thing that improves download speeds is how many signals can be sent at the same time over the same connection.
Low-budget DVDs tend to advertise "Interactive Menus" as a "special feature". Except it's actually a standard feature; interactive menus refer to the fact that you can highlight and select things from a menu. In fact, if a DVD doesn't have them, you most likely have a bootleg copy. Listing "Interactive Menu" as a special feature was also common when DVD was first coming on the market, because even though it was a standard feature it was one of the big differences in presentation between DVD and VHS.
When Wendy's was going through a major marketing overhaul, aside from "better quality ingredients" (such as red onions instead of white which is more personal taste than anything) they began to advertise their French fries as "natural cut". This was an odd but enticing phrase, especially since they were now also seasoned with sea salt and cooked (not "fried") in different oil. After poking and prodding, it turns out that "natural cut" simply means "the skins are still on when we cut them".
Atari's Jaguar console was boasted as "The first 64-bit console", with the tag line "Do the math!" This was because it had two 32-bit processors, which does in fact "math up" to 64 bits, but that's not how bit-counting works. This blatant lie coupled with the system's sub-par performance even compared to other 32-bit systems made it the last console Atari would make. Adding insult to injury, although the Nintendo 64 happily had a 64-bit graphics processor, most consoles from that point forward focused on overall specs and iteration numbers rather than just the main processor's maximum word size.
As recorded in a The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said calendar, a grocery store advertised "golden, ripe, boneless bananas."
The phrase "no added X" is dubious, since X may be present in spades as a result of the basic ingredients. It just means they didn't add more of it.
It might be a case of Technology Marches On, but some hearing aids are advertised as being practically invisible to other people; "They won't be able to tell you're using an aid!". Nowadays many people walk around wearing earphones for telephones and MP3 players - observers will assume you are using one of them, rather than a hearing aid.
There was a trend a while ago for fruit juices to be "enriched in the vitamins A, C and E". That was nothing new - those vitamins have long been used as preservatives.
Croonchy Stars. Blurbs on the box read "No artificial colors! No doorknobs!" and "This product does not contain (among other things) Venetian Blinds and Pachyderms".
On 30 Rock, Liz felt socially responsible because her awesome new jeans had a "Hand made in USA" label. Then Jack corrected her pronunciation, revealing that the jeans were made by the "Hohnd" people, slave laborers in the despotic island nation of "Usa" (pronounced like "Oosa").
Shown in the first episode of Mad Men, about cigarettes, with the tagline "it's toasted!" which all tobacco is. Truth in Television — cigarette companies did advertise this way, though the tagline dates back to 1917, not 1960.
The Goodies: On "It Might as Well Be String" (a spoof of the advertising industry), their ad campaign for Sunbeam Sliced Bread claims that "nine out of ten doctors agree that people who eat Sunbeam Sliced Bread are less likely to be trampled to death by elephants". Graeme does mention that it was a struggle to find the right nine doctors, however. And the elephants.
Gob's banana stand in Arrested Development. "Finally a frozen banana that won't make you sick and kill you!"
The MAD book Madvertising (Or, Up Madison Avenue) (1972) had some gags promoting a nonexistent product to mock this sort of labeling:
Ron's Only tomato sauce: "Does not contain any linseed oil or shirt starch"
Prull shampoo: "Gets hair extra clean, without drowning roots and causing baldness"
Mr. Chipper cookies: "And no one has ever died from eating our brand!"
S&R trading stamps: "Backed with a special glue that won't give you cancer of the tongue!"
Golf gasoline: "NO WATER to rust your tank! NO MOLASSES to gum up your engine!"
Portland-based BANG! The Entertainment Paper had a parody of Sega Genesis' "Blast Processing" advertisements. It boasts that unlike most electronic tablets, BANG! has "[a] solar-powered reflective surface, a recharge time of 0.0000, a higher-resolution screen than even the Retina display, [and] DRM-free content".
One Calvin and Hobbes strip had Calvin come up with an idea for selling "Calvin's Curative Elizir". When Hobbes pointed out that it was drainage water with leaves in it, he described it as "Fortified With Chlorophyll".
Many submissions (usually around April 1) of tool-assisted speedruns to TASVideos.org mention that the run "does not color a dinosaur." (Color a Dinosaur is an infamously low-quality coloring book for the NES, and is considered by TASVideos to be a bad game choice.)
A study of drinking water disinfectants expresses concern that iodine based disinfectants are not regulated by the EPA in drinking water. Of course, this is because it is unheard of to disinfect water with iodine. Every system uses the much cheaper chlorine.
A Prairie Home Companion has segments "sponsored" by "Old Folks at Home Cottage Cheese", which is the only brand of cottage cheese which promises right on the label that it contains no arsenic. We're not saying other cottage cheeses do, but isn't it suspicious that they've never come out and said so?
Made all the more hilarious by the fact that all organic matter contains trace amounts of arsenic.
Truly bad cards in Magic: The Gathering tend to get two kinds of comments made about them: Blatant Lies claims about their power and Metagame reputation, and meaningless claims about the card's value - Asbestos-Free Cardstock, as it were. Take the Gatherer comments for Chimney Imp, for example. One comment (by user Laguz) reminds us that the five lands you had to tap to cast it untap the next turn with no drawback (which, barring other effects, they always do), it's immune to dying by Deathmark (as is every other black/red/blue nongreen/nonwhite creature), and it implicitly has the ability Rampage: 0 (which is like saying "1+0=1" and treating it like something special about the number one).
A newspaper advert for a "Genuine Mexican coathanger. Only $5." When the curious shoppers send away for their coathanger, they receive a rusty nail.
Similarly, an advert explaining that, while marijuana cannot be sold through the mail, "grass" can. People who fell for it got a packet of lawn clippings.
A Company that was selling clotheslines as "wind-powered clothes dryers".
A Tuna company that gets a shipment of accidentally bleached tuna and markets it with the slogan "doesn't turn pink in the can!" A common variation includes a competitor selling the pink product putting out a competing slogan, "never bleached!"
This story is also told about canned salmon. In this (somewhat more likely) version of the tale, the salmon in question was simply a different variety whose flesh was paler, and the advertising campaign was meant to quell consumer fears that something was wrong with the white salmon.
There's a third version of this story out there in which the white salmon is advertised as a rare delicacy with a price to match, even though there's no difference in flavor or quality between it and regular salmon.
This type of salmon does indeed have different flavor characteristics than normal salmon, there is a gene that cuases their flesh not to become pigmented, and this gene also changes the way fat is stored in the flesh, causing these salmon to be much more oily, which many people do find more desireable, even though the appearance is less appealing.
One of the games in Rhythm Heaven Fever, "Packing Pests", has the player working at the "Spider-Free Candy Company". In this case, they seem to have a lot of spiders at the packing plant, which you swat away as you pack candy. Granted, if you mess up, that just means there'll be a few spiders in the package, not in the candy itself.