Asbestos-Free Cereal

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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.

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. A clear example would be any vegetable-based product being toted as "cholesterol-free", because cholesterol is only found in animal fat, so there's no reason peanut butter would have it in the first place.

Sister tropes are Lite Crème, All-Natural Snake Oil, and the somewhat more malicious Never Needs Sharpening. A form of False Reassurance and Turd Polish. Contrast Unfortunate Ingredients.

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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Straight examples:

    Good, Pure, Real, 100%, and All-Natural 
  • 7Up once advertised "5 all-natural ingredients" for about a month. These five natural ingredients included high fructose corn syrup and natural flavors.
  • McDonald's emphasizes its "hand-picked Arabica coffee beans" in its McCafe advertisements. Arabica is usually considered a better product than Robustanote , 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.
  • 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.

    Free, Clear and Hypo-Allergenic 
  • 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.note 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • A brand of cornflakes has started advertising itself as "same taste, gluten-free!" Except there's no measurable amount of gluten in corn (Zea mais) flakes. So if the new, improved, possibly-certified cereal tasted different, that would be a reason to worry.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 too 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.)
  • The label on bottles of the mineral water brand Hydr 8 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!" The only difference is, it's possible to make an unreadable book or a broken car. If you've managed to make water that contains one of those without additives, you've broken the laws of reality.
  • 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.

     Only Our Product Has... 
  • Certs is advertised as the only breath freshener with Retsyn. Retsyn is a combination of ingredients which is made by Certs under the trademarked name "Retsyn," so nobody else is allowed to use that name even if they use the same ingredients.
  • 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.)
  • "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.)
  • Disney Blu-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.
    • Disney loves this one. Back in the early days of DVD they used to advertise, "Now on video [presumably meaning VHS] and Disney DVD..." The only difference between a Disney DVD and any other DVD is that it has a Disney movie on it. It is at least possible that Disney built their own encoder that worked far better than others, which could explain that. That said, it's possible, not likely.
  • 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.

    Other Claims (to be sorted) 
  • 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.
    • 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).
    • The reason for this advertising? Nutella was marketed as "gives you energy" in post-World War II Italy, where its dense calorie content was helpful for giving Italian children a cheap, quick rush of energy with their breakfast. In America? Not so much.
    • If one looks at the calorie count for Nutella, it's true, it really does give you energy. If you're using it on a sandwich, maybe more than a quarter of all your energy in the day, maybe more than half!
  • 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 Role Playing Games (especially in the 16-bit era) had advertisements or box blurbs boasting "Over XX hours of gameplay!" Depending on the game, a good number of these "XX hours" would unfortunately be devoted to Level Grinding. Tales of Symphonia did one better: They advertised "over 80 hours of gameplay". Actual time to the completion of the storyline, with obnoxious Level Grinding and dubious Side Quests: around 40 hours. But they've got a New Game+ feature, so that's forty hours, twice, which is totally the same thing as eighty hours!
    • Parodied on the back of a Compilation Re-release of Earthworm Jim 1 & 2, which advertised 700 or some-such hours "(yes, hours!)" of gameplay, for two games that aren't even long by side-scroller standards.
  • 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  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 . Subsequently, the fictional competitor "Supervolt" was created as a Brand X parody of Duracell, still implying that Energizer can outlast their alkaline rivals.
  • 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  and "over 50 available jobs." note 
  • 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 hundreds of changes. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."note 
  • Cable One advertises a speed of "50 Megs" or "50 Megs per second" in its radio commercials. They neglect to mention that it is megabits, and not megabytes as the commercial implies.
  • A brand of cheese advertises that it's made with "100% fresh milk". Given that cheese is milk that's gone bad, fresh milk isn't exactly an asset when making it.
  • For a while Apple kept touting that every new feature of Mac OS X came with "Over 300 features!" or something like that. While a lot of these could be considered features some of them were simply including language support in a development tool (that you could download anyway), removal of a feature, among other minor changes that nobody would really care about.
  • One of the oldest examples comes from Lucky Strike cigarettes, whose packaging proudly bragged that "It's Toasted!" all the way back in 1917. All cigarette tobacco is toasted,note  but consumers drew the conclusion that other brands somehow used untoasted tobacco, and this false assumption made Luckies the top-selling brand for decades.
  • Recently, Antarctica was declared the most LGBT-friendly continent. This probably has more to do with the nature of Antarctica (no permanent residents, no companies or corporations based in Antarctica), and the fact that there aren't any laws (either favorable or unfavorable towards the LGBT set) in Antarctica, just laws governing what other countries can and cannot do there (for example, no military installments) than anything else. It's literally true that Antarctica is more LGBT-friendly than any other continent...but kind of deceptively so.

Lampshade Hangings and Parodies

    Advertising 
  • A Head and Shoulders commercial poked fun at the rising trend of "zero trans fats" popping up in foods and lampshaded this trope with a tire that contains "zero death crystals."
  • 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".

    Audio Play 
  • Monty Pythons Contractual Obligation Album has the String sketch, where an advertiser is looking for a way to sell 122,000 miles of string... in 3-inch lengths. Among others, he describes them as pre-sliced, rust-proof, easy to handle, low-calorie, and free from artificial colorings. When he learns they're not waterproof, he switches to water-absorbent.

    Comic Books 

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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!"
  • An example of the harmful variation from The Sarah Jane Adventures: "BubbleShock! Contains Bane!"
  • The "Fairsley Difference" sketch on Mr. Show showed a homespun grocery chain, Gibbons, driven to bankruptcy by a competitor's slick ads boasting about horrible conditions the competitor's stores did not suffer from, such as homeless people defecating in the aisles, or customers' children being abducted into homoerotic slavery in Pakistani whorehouses. They never say these things are true of Gibbons, so they aren't actually lying.
  • Inverted on The Daily Show, when a pediatrics group advocated against hot dogs, Aasif Mandvi gave "threats" about eating hot dogs, like "Eating hot dogs provides none of your daily fruit intake", "People that eat hot dogs have a 100% chance of dying", and "If you lined up all of the deaths from hot dogs, they would stretch some of the distance to the Sun".

    Magazines and Periodicals 
  • 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! Magazine 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".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes strip had Calvin come up with an idea for selling "Calvin's Curative Elixir". When Hobbes pointed out that it was drainage water with leaves in it, he described it as "Fortified With Chlorophyll".
    • This also serves as a Genius Bonus for those who remember that fortifying things with chlorophyll was an actual fad in the 1950s.
  • Foxtrot pulled this one here.

    Other Internet 
  • 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 unless you're a backwoods hiker (and even then, portable filters are far more popular these days). Every system uses the much cheaper chlorine.
  • Seanbaby mocks the common use of "Fat Free!" on sugary candies in this article:
    " Are you insecure, candy? Because you don't see gravy bragging about being sugar free. This label is so irrelevant to consumer health that I think it's only there so doctors can laugh when they ask you questions about how you got diabetes."
  • YouTube channel Outside Xbox: the only review show guaranteed not to harvest your organs and sell them on the black market! (Claim at start of this video).
    Mike: Do other shows really do that?
    Andy: I don't see them guaranteeing that they won't.

    Radio 
  • 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 and no formaldehyde. 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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).

    Urban Legends 
  • 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 causes 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 desirable, even though the appearance is less appealing.
    • Even more ironically, a lot of farm-raised pink salmon is fed red food dyes to achieve that color (wild salmon eat shrimp, which colors their meat pink; farm-raised salmon is usually fed cornmeal, which doesn't). Undyed salmon advertised as such is probably just a question of time.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Aperture Science shower curtains contain less than 1% mercury.
  • In the Pokémon games, Magikarp is an intentionally terrible Joke Character (Jokémon?) This image extolls its virtues using a lot of this type of logic.
    • This also shows up in the memetic "Diggersby, tho?!" rant. The narrator praises Diggersby's Huge Power ability, which treats its Attack stat as doubled in combat. Diggersby has a poor Attack stat to begin with, so even with Huge Power it's not outstanding, and the rest of its stats are mediocre at best. Additionally, Huge Power is not unique to Diggersby.

    Webcomics 

    Web Animation 
  • Bubs from Homestar Runner sells donuts shipped from a third-world country named Homemáde, so he could legally print "From Homemáde" on the box.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Cookie Dough", Bloo gets carried away coming up with rhyming tag-lines for Madame Foster's home-made cookies, and ends up describing them as "The home-made concoction that's free of dioxins!" He then has to explain to the crowd what dioxins are, which he eventually boils down to "They're bad for you!".
  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: One of Eddy's scams consists on selling "100% curse-free" cereal.
  • The Simpsons: Dr. Nick advertises with the line "If I kill you, you don't pay!"


Alternative Title(s): Mundane Marketing Claim

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