Pay attention! Here comes the science bit.
In an ad for something like, say, shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush or face wash or somesuch, you'll see a little animated close-up of the effect said product is supposed to have on you. Like... glowy thingies smoothing your flaky hair or a nice blue barrier forming against that nasty plaque.
The celebrity, non-celebrity or voice over person will witter on about the benefits that the product will have on your hair, teeth, pores, etc. Sometimes, fancy chemical names (often made-up or proprietary) and Techno Babble are thrown around.
Usually it bears absolutely no resemblance to anything at all, and anyone who has taken elementary college biology classes could find about a hundred things wrong in the first three seconds. But that's Hollywood Science for you.
The trope title comes from the lampshading in L'Oreal commercials. Ben Affleck did an ad in the UK that featured the line, "Here comes the SCIENCE!", Fark got hold of it and it went memetic. Many an MST has used the phrase to lampshade an Exposition Bomb of Technobabble.
- "Industrial strength" is a loosely-defined and unregulated term. Although the ANSI/ISO have tens of thousands of standards relating to industrial and commercial and domestic products, 1) there aren't different sets of regulations for "lame-ass regular people products" and "super-manly industrial products" and 2) if any product actually complies with (inter)national standards it will say which code i.e. ANSI Z.81 safety glasses or SAE 1020 carbon steel. Steel mills use the same toilet paper as everyone else.
- One toothpaste ad hyped its "active oxygen bubbles"... from baking soda, that well-known carbon dioxide generator. What's scary is that it took three months for it to be taken off the air.
- Nivea Visage DNAge Cell Renewal Anti-Age System claims to "de-age" your DNA. If there were the slightest chance that a moisturiser were somehow able to alter your DNA in any way whatsoever, no one would be putting it anywhere near them.
- Hyaluronic acid. Which, surprisingly enough, is a real thing and not an invention of the marketing division for face creams. This is touted as the miracle ingredient for revitalising dry or older skin - despite the fact that better research suggests it's generally useless, and in over-large doses can even provoke the very dehydrating effect it is supposed to alleviate.
- Scope mouthwash used to advertise as having T25, as if it were a valid designation for a chemical compound.
- Toothbrush commercials always show how the brush's bristles somehow get stuck in the middle of your molars (and that's the molars, never the incisors or the canines) and kick out all the little "plaque particles"... even though it's well known that plaque is actually a whitish bacterial film.
- Brilliantly parodied in a UK advert for BBQ sauce done in the style of a shampoo ad, complete with the narrator saying "And now the sciencey bit" and an animation of ingredients being absorbed into a line of sauce, like all those cheesy graphics of hair strands absorbing various particles.
- The Ponds Institute. Models with fluorescent white labcoats Do Science with computer graphic displays.
- Washing detergents also apply. There was a Tide commercial that somehow manages to "magnetize" dirt away from the cloth.
- Surfactants, my dear Watson. Surfactants.
- "Clinical strength" anything. The phrase has no objective meaning whatsoever.
- AstraZeneca has entire ads built around this, with fancy and science-looking CGI effects designed to evoke concepts of blocking proton pumps in the background as words like "clinical strength" or "proven effectiveness" are bandied around without a whole lot of meaningful information.
- Sensodyne Iso-active. It says right there in the name of the thing that it is exactly as much use as any other product, yet no-one notices because it sounds so damn sciency.
- Another Sensodyne product hypes its use of "Liquid Calcium" to fill dimples in the teeth or something. Somehow they have 'achieved' this without the paste having to be above 300 Celsius.
- One brand of powdered supplements/vitamins/'miracle cures' (Isotonix) brags heavily that it's "isotonic!". It's got a balanced level of osmosis when mixed into water? Um, yay?
- There is a skin lotion or shampoo commercial that showed in a background graphic several elements in squares as might appear on a periodic table. Everything's fine until you notice element ''Qu''.
- Tea bags, traditionally square, were revolutionised by making them round. Adverts claimed that this somehow improved the quality of the brew. Later, they pulled a similar trick with tetrahedral tea bags. In fairness, the tetrahedral bags make it a bit less of a waste to put proper whole-leaf tea in the bag rather than the fannings (i.e. leftovers) they usually put in bags. Still ridiculously overpriced, though.
- The comic book advertisement of the "all" detergent by Monsanto corporation. Apparently, the detergent is made of little men who are attracted to dirt.
- One sports drink-type product was advertised under the name "H3O" which, as pointed out by David Letterman,isn't actually water. Along the same vein, there was a bottled water with the name "H2O2". That is, hydrogen peroxide.
- Wikipedia says about a three percent H2O2 solution: "may cause irritation and blistering to the mouth (which is known as Black hairy tongue), throat, and abdomen, as well as abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea".
- The abdominal pain is likely because a even a small amount of a very dilute hydrogen peroxide solution can liberate a surprising amount of oxygen if the breakdown is catalyzed by something like, say, stomach acid. Having your stomach swell up to several times its normal size is quite uncomfortable, and if it actually ruptures, "agonizing" (and "potentially fatal") are good adjectives for the kind of pain you'll have.
- Parodied in a LoadingReadyRun sketch where the extra oxygen per molecule was being pushed as the selling point; the sciencey bit was just a guy in a labcoat calling this insane.
- Every razor (Gillette, Schick, etc) company will inevitably have in their commercial a comment about how their razors are "revolutionised" to give a closer shave (either with more blades, thinner blades, blades with coating, whatever). Said shtick will come with a cartoon close-up of the razor performing alongside one of those "other" razors that presumably aren't "revolutionised" for performance.
- Parodied on That Mitchell and Webb Look in this sketch.
- Ironically (or not), the sketch makes brushing your tongue sound like it is a fictional idea dreamed up by the marketing department when actually the bacteria and fungi that grow on the tongue are related to many common oral care and general health problems. In addition, decaying bacteria produce volatile sulphur compounds on the rear of the tongue; these molecules account for 80 to 95 percent of all cases of halitosis (bad breath). Although using a tongue cleaner rather than the brush is recommended, some brushes now have a tongue cleaner on the back of them.
- There's a laundry detergent advertised in Canada that brags about its "acti-lift technology".
- It gotten to the point where they slip it into Real Estate adverts. An ad for a real estate development in Taichung, Taiwan, mentions its brand new Design for Oxygenated Living — i.e. you can open the windows and let fresh air in.
- Mocked repeatedly on Target Women, especially in the skin-care installment.
"As you can see, it passes through the epidermis, dermis, seven non-existent layers of skin and right down to the marbles."
- A German advert for Alpecin caffein-based anti-baldness shampoo: It features a sciency-looking guy in a very tidy laboratory attesting to the product's effectiveness by playing with the length of a sine wave (representing the growth phases of a man's hair as a function of his age) on a computer screen.note He's wearing a white coat so he clearly must know what he's on about.
- The "Scenes We'd Like To See" round on one episode of Mock the Week had the category "Unlikely Things To Hear In A Science Documentary":
"Ahem. Now pay attention, here comes the shampoo bit."
- A hair iron ad showed emphasis on the fact that the iron liberated a heat of more than 100 nanometers.
- The Magne Scribe Pen is "Magically Magnetic" because it uses "Patented Magnetic Engineering Physics".
- This British advert for Pretty Polly bras takes the concept up to eleven with men in white coats "experimenting" on women in underwear. "Is this made of ... microfibre?". One of the models (the "sex goddess") is daytime TV presenter Holly Willoughby.
- Micellar "technology". There's nothing fancy or "technological" about it, micelles are how detergents and soaps work. Basically, you're paying for a glorified soap-and-water solution.
- Anything that's touted as a way to remove "toxins" from your body. The term "toxin" is not a recognized term for any one substance or group of substances...and even things that are normally good for you can be toxic if you ingest too many of them. Also, your liver, lungs, intestines, and kidneys do a fine job of getting rid of undesirable substances in the body; they normally don't need any outside assistance. (And on the occasions that they do, such as dialysis for kidney failure, or diuretics for edema or ascites, or if you've actually been poisoned, your doctor will let you know.)
- Similarly, anyone using the term "chemicals" to mean "anything that's artificial and therefore dangerous." The fact is, anything you could put in, on, or near your body is a chemical. No matter whether it's found in nature or made in a lab somewhere or both. The entire world we live in is made up of chemicals...in fact, your entire body is made up of chemicals!
- Anything that says "non-GMO" without explaining what GMOs actually are. You're already eating many different types of GMO without even realizing it: broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are modifications to the original wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea. You like corn on the cob? A few millennia ago, you would have been stuck with tiny cobs that wouldn't make much of a meal or even much of a side dish; selective breeding gave us the large cobs we know and love today. And your pet dog is definitely a GMO.
- Parodied on Horrible Histories with their ads for (usually genuine) historical products, such as Paule Revere's gunpowder toothpaste. This ads always contain the line "Here comes the science-y bit" as the voiceover explains whatever bizarre logic was behind the product.
- Former journalist Ben Goldacre was science correspondent for the Guardian. After leaving print newspapers, he wrote the book Bad Science based on his experiences, and devotes several chapters to deconstructing and challenging the way the advertising industry mis-uses science in order to shift product. He points out that the reason why advertising and marketing can get away with misleading and even false claims for its products for so long is that no effective scrutiny exists. The media does not tend to recruit people with science degrees - most journalists and execs come out of a humanities background - and are therefore ill-equipped to apply critical thought to claims made on behalf of a product. Goldacre also points out that very few politicians, civil servants or lawmakers have a scientific training, and threfore advertising executives, pseudo-medical "alternative practitioners" and Big Pharma can easily bamboozle them. Dr Goldacre now appears as a dissident scientific voice on radio and TV, and has occasionally popped up as a contestant on QI.note