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Rigged Contest

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Some commercials present a Side-by-Side Demonstration in the form of a contest. Typically it will feature one person who uses the advertised product and has it all together, competing against someone Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket. The "contest" is usually timed, and the person who picked the advertised item will be done in seconds, having time to drink coffee and read the paper while the other person rips out her hair, has children jumping all over her, and endures other distractions.

Now, usually, the product for which the rigged contest is being held is faster or more efficient. (No one wants the FTC or international equivalent sicced on them.) But that's no excuse for having the person who's using the leading competitor be totally incompetent — that's assuming Consumers Are Morons.

Real-Life Examples:

  • Vanguard Mutual Funds has aired a couple of these to symbolize their no-load mutual funds versus the competition's loaded funds. There's one with two hurdlers racing, and Vanguard's hurdles are much lower than the competition. Then there's the toy tugboat race in which a giant hand keeps putting little boxes on the competitor's tugboat...
  • Coke versus Pepsi. Pepsi frequently run ads that have side-by-side blind taste tests, the results being people preferred Pepsi. And while they do cite their research, the problem is with the study is inherently flawed. Pepsi is the sweeter of the two, and in a sip-type test, people will go for Pepsi. When Coke ran their own test, using full serving-size amounts, Coke won.
  • A particularly annoying example in a Kindle ad attempted to demonstrate the Kindle was easier to read on than an iPad with the brightness turned all the way down.
  • Rogers Canada has the infamous commercial showing a clueless customer who is using the competition. The picture on their screen is lower-res than standard definition, and stretched to the point that everything was twice as wide as it should be. Basically it tried to scare customers into thinking that Bell's HD was considerably worse than regular TV. In reality they're identical quality.
  • It wasn't exactly a contest, but there was a Volvo commercial that featured the enormous Bearfoot monster truck smashing a row of cars flat, except of course for the stubbornly resistant Volvo wagon. It was revealed afterwards that they reinforced the Volvo in order to survive the multiple takes necessary when filming a commercial.
  • Monster Cable received some nasty PR when it was discovered in their "See the Monster Cable difference" HDMI cable demo in electronic shops, the Monster Cable TV had an HDMI cable, the other TV had a composite video cable.
  • Burger King ran a series of ads where they had people in different countries try both a Whopper and a Big Mac with the people who had picked the Whopper appearing in the ad. The problem? Many of the countries were poverty stricken and did not mine and eat meat.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic pulled this with their Who is Twilight Sparkle's BFF contest. Viewers were asked to vote on either Princess Celestia or Starlight Glimmer, and the winner would be featured in back-to-back episodes. Of course, Princess Celestia has only had two episodes to begin with, Celestial Advice and A Royal Problem, both of which heavily featured (read: debatably starred) Starlight Glimmer. As fans waited six whole seasons to finally get said Princess Celestia episodes, they were lightning quick in pointing this out.

Fictional Examples

  • The Flintstones episode "In the Dough" has Fred and Barney pose as their wives in a baking competition sponsored by Tasty Pastry flour when said wives are sick. However, it turns out that it's actually one of these; Fred and Barney make the tastiest cake, but when it turns out the "Brand B" flour they used wasn't Tastry Pastry, they're disqualified (with the revelation immediately afterwards that they weren't the real Betty and Wilma just meaning they have no grounds to argue).
  • In The Rigel Black Chronicles, Tom Riddle organizes the "True Triwizard Tournament", touted as an opportunity to finally settle the question of whether muggle-born, half-blood, or pure-blood wizards are superior. Leaving aside the problem of small sample sizes, the Tournament itself was thoroughly albeit subtly rigged to ensure a pure-blood victory, from hand-picking interesting-but-weak muggle-born contestants — or skilled-but-obnoxious ones who alienate the public — to designing judging metrics tailored to the specific strengths of the preferred winner, to putting the favorite in a starting position with less obstacles. Too bad Riddle's chosen winner was "Rigel Black", who's actually half-blood Harriett Potter in disguise.
    Krum: Strange tournament ven I come back second and place fourth, no?
  • Both So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams and The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett refer to pet food adverts in which the rival brands have been doused with motor oil. Both Arthur Dent's friend's dog and Pratchett's "Real Cat" pick the wrong one anyway; the dog out of stupidity and the cat out of bloody-mindedness.
  • The Great Brain: In one book, Tom gets several other boys to weed sections of the garden for him by saying that there is a dollar hidden in there. They pick by Drawing Straws, but Tom rigs it with the first boy to draw a straw so that he'll find the dollar but will give it back to Tom afterward in exchange for a smaller amount of money that is a more than fair price for weeding a quarter of the garden.
  • In Evil Genius, this is how you get the Super Agent and Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy Jet Chan out of your hair. After capturing and interrogating his old master, Jet Chan is fed a meal laced with sedatives and unquestionably defeated subsequently, breaking his spirit.
  • In Vow of Nudity, When Spectra asks to transition from prostitute work to something that'd let her develop her magic ability, her boss challenges her to hit a faraway target at his archery range to prove she's ready. After she fails, she learns later that he gave her an arrow with a magnetized tip that repels away from the target, meaning she had no chance of winning.