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"If that's the Happiness Hotel, I'd hate to see what the sad one looks like."

Characters go on what they expect to be a wonderful vacation at a luxuriously extravagant hotel or resort. Upon arriving at their destination, they discover that the place is a dingy disaster. The brochure lied about... well, everything. The supposed 5-star "Ultra-Cool Inn" was merely a crumbling cottage filled with cobwebs and has roaches living inside the refrigerator.

Sometimes you'll see the characters holding up the advert, and then revealing the actual place behind it. The elements will correspond but will be very different. The swimming pool will be in the same place, but the real one will be dirty brown, with stink lines coming off it. The "claims" usually turn out to be Metaphorically True and the fine print prevents them from obtaining a refund, forcing the characters to suffer through the ordeal.


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  • Played with in the old "Joe Isuzu" ads run by Isuzu in the 1980s, where Joe would make outlandish and frequently impossible claims about Isuzu vehicles, with subtitles giving actual information. "It has as many seats as the Astrodome!" "(Note: actually seats six.)"
  • A commercial for a British travel agency during The '90s played with this to warn prospective travellers to be careful when booking a holiday. A couple checks into a hotel are dismayed to find themselves several miles from the nearest beach when the brochure stated that it was a stone's throw from the beach. When they complain to the owner, he brings them up to the roof where he has a catapult set up and is using it to launch boulders several miles to the ocean.
  • UK adverts for Rice Krispie Squares make utterly ridiculous claims about the ingredients or manufacturing (for instance that the Rocky Road contains actual road) before ending "It's all lies - they're not even square!" (They're rectangular.)

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Beach Episode in Magical Pokaan starts with the girls holding an ad for a sunny, crowded beach. Cut to the same beach in the middle of a typhoon.
  • The second Hot Springs Episode of Our Home's Fox Deity has Noboru realize that the brochure for the inn he went to used this. The place is cheap and broken-down, but Kuu loves it regardless.
  • The protagonist of Ranma ½ fell prey to this due to vague language, not to deliberate malice. When the prize for a good performance as Romeo was "Win a trip to see China!" he was excited at the chance to return to the Jusenkyo springs to cure his curse. As it turns out, "China" was the first name of Furinkan High's Romeo & Juliet producer. And Ranma got to see him. In the Swedish translation, they told him he could win "en resa till Kina" (a trip to China), but later Ranma found out that what he really won was the homophonic Enres Atiltjina, the producer of the Furinkan High play. Atiltjina's comment? "Thank you for winning me."

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes:
    • In episode 10, Doctor H. and the Supermen go to a four-star hotel after seeing an ad for it in a brochure. Turns out the Taj Mahal-looking hotel in the ad does exist, but it's teeny-tiny. They're actually staying in tents in the middle of nowhere, with the "four-star" part coming from a group of four stars in the night sky.
    • In episode 25, the Supermen are not pleased with Mr. Lightbulb when they find out that the Mr. Kiwi drink he's selling is not actually full of vitamin C as the advertising claims and that it's just colored sugar water.

    Films - Animated 
  • In Toy Story 4, the character Duke Caboom is an action figure of a motorcycle stunt rider (a Captain Ersatz of Evel Knievel) who is traumatised by the fact that his first owner quickly threw him away in disgust on discovering that he wasn't really capable of doing the cool stuff that his TV adverts implied that he could.

    Films - Live Action 
  • The Great Muppet Caper's dilapidated "Happiness Hotel". To the hotel's credit, though, the people living in the hotel are indeed happy... Although this says more about the Muppets than the hotel. They cheerfully admit this:
    If you don't mind friendly animals and can learn to stand the smell, you'll fit right in to Happiness Hotel.
  • In National Lampoon's European Vacation, the Griswolds discover their London accommodations to be... less than what the Pig In A Poke producers had promised.
  • In Carry On Abroad, a group of British holidaymakers are off for a cheap package holiday on the island of Elsbels at the Palace Hotel. However, the Palace Hotel is still under construction and eventually is completely destroyed by a big rainstorm.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dharma & Greg, a bed'n'breakfast which promised a stately veranda, a breathtaking view of the sunset, and a whole host of other things, turned out to be a trailer behind a guy's house.
  • One Are You Being Served? episode had the entire staff forced to take their vacation time simultaneously and at a Grace Brothers approved resort. As Mr. Rumboldt read off the tourist descriptions, he showed a slide show of the resort's features; the first one matched the hype, but none of the rest did. ("The beach is only twenty minutes away." "By jet?")
  • The "holding up the advert" variant is used with Todd's much-crappier-than-expected apartment in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret .
  • In Absolutely Fabulous Eddie and Patsy go to France and make the best of a tiny, dirty little cabin, ignoring, or more accurately not understanding, the suggestion of the groundskeeper that they should move up to the mansion where rooms are waiting for them.
  • A flock of priests go to have a drink at their local "Tea Bar". The half-broken neon marquee reveals that the building is actually a "Striptease Cabaret", and the priests are quite (pleasantly) shocked with their visit. Such is The Benny Hill Show.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody that saw Maddie temporarily Put on a Bus had Sister Dominique showing her a camp brochure with a waterfall and various other natural wonders...then the camp turns out to be horrible (they once had leech cobbler as a meal and are across the road from a slaughterhouse).
  • In the Victorious special "Locked Up", Yerba is this. For clarification, the Yerba website depicts a beautiful country with white sandy beaches, but this turns out to be a scan of a picture hanging on the wall in a local hotel. The actual Yerba is a 3rd world hellhole with an easily angered dictator for a ruler.
  • The Golden Girls episode "Vacation" has Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose take a holiday on a tropical island, only to discover that their "luxury hotel" is a run-down, mosquito-infested dump with no working air conditioner, terrible food, and no ocean view from every window as promised in the brochure. Dorothy (Bea Arthur) sums it up nicely:
    As a child, during the Depression, I had my wisdom teeth extracted by a shoemaker. That was more fun than this.
  • In Bewitched, Darrin and Samantha go on holiday to a "beautiful cabin" Larry has in the hills... which turns out to be a decaying, crumbling mess. When a storm sets in, Sam magics it into the cabin that was described. Trouble starts when Larry then shows up...
  • Happens on Martin with Martin and Gina's vacation getaway. To make matters worse, they fell out with their best friends, Beta Couple Tommy and Pam, who ended up staying there too. They made up just in time to fight a dog-sized rat.
  • One episode from I Love Lucy's Hollywood story arc places the Ricardos and the Mertzes in rural Ohio; after making a pitstop at a rundown roadside diner where the lone proprietor only serves stale cheese sandwiches, they leave. Afterwards, Lucy drives down the road, while Ricky, Fred, and Ethel sleep, finding a billboard, promising good accommodations and wonderful food if you turn left onto the next road - Lucy does so, only to take everyone right back to the same rundown diner, where the proprietor admits he was waiting for them, saying that he put up that billboard himself to make everyone travel in circles. Not surprisingly, his only cabin is bare-bones, the full bed's mattress dips down to the floor, and passing trains shake the entire cabin violently.
  • A gag in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Frank making an ad for Paddy's Pub, based on the premise that lying in the ad is okay because nobody fact-checks on the internet. To that end, the ad claims that the pub is the oldest in America, and has donkey shows, Mötley Crüe, cake, strippers, and cockfighting, and is "packed with celebrities, the fun ones." Needless to say, Paddy's Pub is a cheap, filthy dive bar run by people doing a One-Hour Work Week.

  • A comic strip from Old Master Q spoofs this trope with Master Q, after seeing an advertisement where a man proposes to his girlfriend with a diamond ring, cash, and finally a pack of instant noodles, the last one which prompts her to say "I do", decides to imitate what he saw on the ads by trying to propose to his girlfriend with that same brand of noodles. Cue Master Q walking away with a slap-mark on his cheek.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert and Dogbert went on a trip to Clyde Canyon, which turned out to be a ditch. Subverted when, as they left, another hiker asked them, "Why were you hanging out in that ditch? Beautiful Clyde Canyon is just over that ridge."
  • FoxTrot has Andrea swearing that next time, she's gonna be the one in charge of vacation plans. This comes after the revelation that there's going to be a mock hurricane ("I wondered why everything was velcroed to the walls"). Roger is still clueless: "Uh, honey, your eye twitches like that when you're happy, right?"
  • A private version happens in an early story in For Better or for Worse when the family uses a friend's cottage and finds it a wreck, but they make the best of it. When they get back from their comically unpleasant stay, their friend asks how they liked the TV and the jacuzzi, which were definitely not at the cottage they used. To that, Elly roars at John "You idiot! We went to the wrong cabin!!"
  • A running gag in Frank and Ernest involves the guys, in one form or another, advertising something. Frank points out that the ad is entirely false, and Ernest explains how all the supposedly good stuff he wrote about is really bad.

    Video Games 
  • The beginning of Luigi's Mansion. The picture shows a nice inviting house complete with the sun in the sky, pleasant scenery, and even rainbows. The actual mansion is a menacing looking Haunted House complete with tombstones on the lawn and Dramatic Thunder. The situation is repeated in Luigi's Mansion 3, only this time with a luxurious hotel, though that time at least the villains use a very convincing glamour over the building.
  • This is the opening hook of several Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons games. You are lured to town with the promise of easy living on a farm, only to find that the property you bought is a run-down near-ruin. Much of the game involves you (the player) turning the farm into the place you were promised.
  • The opening of Potionomics is a letter to the protagonist from the officiator of her uncle's will, stating that their inheritance is a potion workshop that they'll have to claim in person or else forfeit, adding that it should be a profitable venture due to its location at a hub for adventurers. The letter is then put down, revealing that the workshop is actually completely run-down and infested with rats and cobwebs, causing the protagonist to faceplant onto the counter.
  • In Return to Monkey Island, Guybrush and Elaine need Stan to "punch up" Elaine's flier encouraging the use of limes as a scurvy preventative (in Guybrush's case, to get some very gullible but science-wary scurvy pirates to relax their quarantine). By "punch up", Stan apparently means "make up outrageous lies to make limes seem like they're made of pure magic".
  • In The Simpsons: Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly, the cutscene before the last level implies that the advertising for the titular camp promised much better activities than the Summer Camp From Hell that the Simpson kids are suffering through.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner
    • Seen on the postcards in the Strong Bad Email "vacation". Strong Bad claims that there's nothing great about "The Great Mound", remarks that "Fabulous Downtown Pantsburg" isn't as fabulous as it appears on the postcard, and discovers "That Clock (Look at it Go!)" doesn't actually run and is stuck at 2:55. Inverted with the postcard of "Historic Over There", which Strong Bad claims actually appears in real life to be painted entirely in sepia tones, complete with brown sky and pavement.
    • In "extra plug", Strong Bad orders a pair of "'Lectric Boots" that are allegedly "solid state" and "whisper quiet". The boots are actually covered in energy-sucking incandescent bulbs which are definitely not "solid state", and the cooling fans produce "an obnoxiously loud hum" that is anything but "whisper quiet".
  • As featured on Not Always Right, there's a bar out there that advertises "Free beer, topless bartenders, & false advertising."
  • In one Red vs. Blue PSA, Sister tries her hand at real estate. Almost all of the properties she sells are given this sort of treatment, with the exception of the last place in Canada; It's as good as she promised, but the area is full of white supremacists whom the Canadians are too polite to kick out.
  • Rerez calls out the for this with its version of Sonic Jam, comparing the slow and dodgy actual gameplay to the much faster footage that was shown in their commercial - the commercial footage is clearly a heavily doctored clip from a prior Sonic game that released on the Game Gear.

    Western Animation 
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • In episode 34: "Housebreak Hotel", a pet hotel promised a luxury stay. When Jon left, Garfield discovered that the sleeping accommodations were stacked cages in rooms, and the food was worse than raisins.
    • In episode 53: "Wonderful World", the titular amusement park is discovered to have fallen into disrepair... much to the eventual ire of the founder...
    • In episode 73: "Rainy Day Robot", a robot, advertised as being able to bring about any weather on command, never actually causes rain to fall from the sky, although a number of other things do... including 27 pianos.
    • Earlier, in the Garfield in Paradise special, their accommodations fail to live up to expectations:
      Jon: "Beach. You know — sand... with water along it... this is the Seaside Motel, isn't it?"
      Desk Clerk: "Mr. Arbuckle... what's in a name?"
  • Arthur:
    • There's a flashback scene in which the titular character recalls D.W. wanting to go to a place called "Santa's Igloo," after seeing a billboard and a commercial advertising "Santa's Igloo: Share a sundae with Santa and his friendly reindeer!" The commercial showed Santa and his reindeer flying over a sunny igloo beach. When the family actually arrives at that location, they find a completely mundane house decorated with a fake igloo facade, with a man partially wearing a low-quality Santa Claus suit who demands to know whether they brought any sundaes to share with him. "How can you share a sundae with Santa, if you don't bring a sundae to Santa?"
    • Another episode had the new Dark Bunny video game, being hyped as the state of the art. It turns out to be a very crappy Super Mario demake.
    • There's an episode where no part of the family's beach vacation goes according to plan. When they ask the hotel clerk about the advertised beach view, she sighs and looks wistfully at the neighboring building, telling them they're a few years too late.
  • A majority of Eddy's scams in Ed, Edd n Eddy fall under this, when they're not trying to carelessely kill the Cul-de-sac kids they offer things like tacos made out of dirt and paper plates or Crappy Carnivals.
  • Futurama:
    • Hermes and his wife go on a holiday to "the spa planet", which turns out to be a forced labour camp, complete with perky fitness instructor/slave driver.
    • Inverted in "The Series Has Landed"- Fry is eager to visit the moon for the first time, only to end up visiting a large theme park with cheesy attractions. He hijacks a lunar rover to break out and see the "real" moon, which ends up almost killing him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The 'Sleep Eazy Motel', which due to light failure seemed to be called 'Sleazy Motel'.
    • Kamp Krusty is depicted as lavish and idyllic in the ads for it when the actual camp is a run-down disaster area that uses the campers as sweatshop workers and constantly abuses them. The ad also featured plenty of outright lies, the breaking point being the claim that Krusty the Klown himself would be showing up. (It was Barney Gumble in an ill-fitting Krusty outfit.)
    • The Simpsons Movie seemed like it might be heading for this when the Simpsons head for Alaska and found it filled with oil rigs, Homer's idea of a map is to plaster the poster advertising Alaska to the car windshield. When they get there Alaska is great and actually has the exact same view as the poster.
    • The ads for the winemaking estate Chateau Maison depict it as a large mansion with a well-kept garden, which doesn't much resemble the tiny miserable shack in the middle of a wasteland.
    • Lionel Hutz' advertising as a lawyer. His business cards say "Works on contingency — No money down". When confronted with this by Bart, seeking his legal counsel, Hutz hastily claims that it is just a typo, "correcting" the card with a red marker to say "Works on contingency? — No, money down!" At which point Hutz also notices that the bar association logo on the card is no longer valid, so he quickly tears it off and eats it.
    • One episode features an ad for a sugarcube maker called Mr. Sugar Cube, with the commercial showing tiny, perfectly formed cubes dropping from its dispenser. Homer muses how "that baby changed our lives!" while cutting over to the misshapen, oversized, wadded-up blobs of sugar sitting in a bowl next to him.
    • A soccer match between Mexico and Portugal about to take place in Springfield is heavily-advertised as an exciting match, convincing Homer to take the family to the match. The arena is packed with spectators on the match day, but when the match starts, it pretty much consists of everyone standing still while three members of the same team pass the ball between each other. This leads to a riot between everyone present, even outside of the arena.
  • The contestants on Total Drama were told that they would be staying at a luxury resort, not at an abandoned campground in Northern Ontario. Subverted when we see that they do eventually go to the resort — after they're voted off.
  • This happens to the Scooby gang in The Secret of Shark Island. Not only did the brochure fail to mention the run-down hotel and general dereliction of the island, but it also forgot to talk about the shark-infested waters. Appropriately, as it turns out.
  • A mild example from Family Guy: Don Knotts in Too Many Ostriches.
    "There's way too many ostriches! Why are there so many ostriches? The brochure said there would only be a few ostriches. This is a terrible vacation!"
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • Played with in the episode "Snow Balls", where Rocko and Heffer are lured into visiting a ski resort. The signs and billboards for the resort say that everything is only $5; Rocko and Heffer believe this means that everything (ski rentals, accommodations, etc.) is $5, but soon learn that every thing is $5 (meaning everything they do or use is $5 each).
    • "Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic" had Rocko buying a new vacuum cleaner he saw on TV. When he gets it, the vacuum cleaner delivered to him looks nothing like what was shown in the commercial, which is huge as a truck and has a mind of its own.
  • In the Rugrats (1991) episode, "Grandpa Moves Out", Roberto Mazatlan advertises a retirement home called Flushing Waters. In the commercial, Roberto claims Flushing Waters to have gourmet food and wonderful on-site fishing, and Lou decides to move there when he feels unappreciated by Stu, Didi, and Tommy when he inadvertently interferes with their dinner. It is later revealed that Flushing Waters is a lot more run-down than advertised, with the "gourmet" food looking like something one would expect from a public school cafeteria, and the fishing creek revealed to be a large fountain stocked with fish that the residents are supposed to catch with nets and put back when they're done. Lou soon finds out that Flushing Waters isn't as luxurious as advertised, but he refuses to admit it to his family until Tommy and Angelica cause a series of mishaps that make him realize that they're the most important things in his life.
  • In Gravity Falls, this trope is how Grunkle Stan does business. It's not that his products or services are good in any way, it's just that he's skilled at selling himself.
    • In "Headhunters" Stan advertised free pizza in attending the grand opening of his wax museum, which there wasn't.
    • In "A Tale Of Two Stans", we see how Grunkle Stan's first hokey scams went. The first was a stain towel that would supposedly clean stains instantly, but instead the cheap dye he colored them with made stains worse. Next was a brand of band-aids called "The Rip Off".
    Past Stan: The Rip-Off won't give you rashes. I repeat, it won't give you rashes.
    Present Stan: It gave you rashes.
  • In Cartoon Network's What A Cartoon! Show short "Podunk Possum: One Step Beyond", the toon opens on a picture of a marble-columned chicken coop from a deed that Podunk purchased. He lowers the deed and the actual property includes a run-down wood shacky chicken coop with holes, and weird things going on...
  • The "Sonic Says" segment from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Birth of a Salesman" is about the dangers of false advertising. In it, Tails sees a commercial for Robo Dude, an automated cleaning robot that Wes Weasely says only costs $9.98. When Tails tries to buy one, Weasely adds various attachments that are required to allow the Robo Dude to function that weren't advertised in the commercial to Tails' purchase, and when purchased together with the Robo Dude itself, the total adds up to $99.98.
    Sonic: If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably false.
  • Downplayed in the Sabrina: The Animated Series episode "Working Witches": Salem wins the big prize of a radio context, which consists of a new camcorder, a large stock of chocolates and a big collection of CDs. While the camcorder matches the promise, the chocolates are long expired and covered in mold and the CD collection is actually one thousand copies of the same compilation of Tibetan monk hymns.

    Real Life 
  • During the 2008 Christmas season in the UK, a leisure park in the New Forest advertised a "British Lapland" complete with real log cabins, huskies, reindeer, a Christmas market, a nativity scene, and a tunnel of light. In reality, once visitors paid the £25 entry fee, they found that the log cabins were B&Q garden sheds, the nativity scene was a poster on a billboard in a field of mud, and the tunnel of light was actually a handful of lights strung across some dead trees. Stallholders in the "market" weren't paid, and Santa was reportedly beaten up by angry visitors. In the end, the two brothers who founded the park were both put on trial, found guilty of misleading advertising, and jailed for 13 months.
  • The majority of frozen meals, complete with the opportunity to compare the tantalizing gourmet repast on the box picture with the puny, viscous, nuked mess on the inside. This blog that does just that.
    • Advertising laws require any food being sold be something that's actually in the package. The solution? Get a couple of truckloads of the food product, find the best bits from thousands of packages, and doctor them: additives are a big no-no, but using a charcoal lighter to burn grill marks is fine. (It should be added that one of the reasons this is legal is because some degree of it actually has to be done in order to get good quality photographs, because these shoots can easily take hours to get right; for example, under studio lighting, milk can curdle by the time everything is arranged, so any photos involving "milk" usually use glue (or some other similar substitute) instead.)
    • This may vary depending on the country, in the US, for example, it appears to be perfectly legal (based on the fact that everyone does it) to show things that aren't actually included in the package as long as you put "serving suggestion" on the label somewhere in small print. This is also the case for some European countries, like Germany and Spain.
    • Fortunately not the case with the Weight Watchers-endorsed SmartOnes line. Apparently, when you're selling a meal as a dietary aid, you have to stick closer to what's on the box.
  • Meccano had a model blocksetter crane pictured on the box lid of every set. However, not even the massive Set 10 (the largest) came with all the parts required to build the model (it was missing some gears), to say nothing of the tiny Set 1 (the smallest)—which also pictured the model.
  • The DVD set for the first two seasons of Ren & Stimpy claimed to be uncut right on the cover, but it actually wasn't. Paramount wasn't aware of this, though. They just used what Spike TV gave them (this set was released around the time that Adult Party Cartoon aired on Spike, then known as TNN. Because of this, TNN aired earlier episodes as well, and their masters were utilized for the DVD, instead of the originals by Nickelodeon. Due to this, the episodes not only contained edits made by Nickelodeon, but extra cuts for commercials too). Complaints caused them to lose the word 'uncut' from the later sets.
  • The Season 1 DVD for SpongeBob SquarePants, despite claiming to be complete, was actually missing the pilot episode, Help Wanted, due to music licensing issues with the song that plays when SpongeBob makes Krabby Patties, Livin' in the Sunlight by Tiny Tim. Nickelodeon did, however, rectify this by including the episode on future releases of the show, most prominently the Season 3 DVD as a bonus feature, and with the song included.
  • The complete series of ChalkZone was released in October 2014 as an Amazon-exclusive Manufacture-On-Demand DVD. However, the set actually omitted one eleven-minute segment, The Smooch, because of music licensing issues regarding the Baha Men's cover of the song "Coconut". The episode and music video it was paired with, Power Play and All the Way to the Top, were included, and the credits of the episode were untouched, acknowledging the missing segment. Nickelodeon does not plan to go back and clear the rights for the song.
  • A DVD set was released on Valentines Day 2017, claiming to be "The Complete Collection" of Beavis and Butt-Head. The problem? The discs are identical to the three "Mike Judge Collection" sets, the separately-branded "Volume 4", which contained every episode of the brief 2011 revival, and The Movie. In total, that only makes for under 70% of the series, losing music video segments, certain banned episodes, and segments that Judge himself dislikes, to the extent that he prevents MTV from releasing them.
  • A 1969 comic book ad includes an ad for The Cattanooga Cats. While the ad is correct in that it's a cartoon about a group of cats playing in a pop band, the actual characters barely resemble the ones pictured in the ad. There's also four of them, not five.
  • The Roblox 2011 TV commercial was widely criticized because of this. Most of the places shown and one user, TimmyMcPwnage, did not exist when the commercial was made. Some of the gimmicks displayed, such as the mad vehicle chase and the rave party, weren't possible to program at that time. Finally, "IT'S FREEEEEE!" is shouted, yet Builder's Club and the Robux mumbo jumbo weren't mentioned at all. Here's a nice video which analyzes the commercial and points out the lies.
  • One of the print ads for the Super NES game Power Moves featured screenshots that weren't even from the game and looked more hand-drawn. Ironically, this was the wrong way to go (not just for moral reasons), as the hand-drawn stills looked much worse than the actual gameplay shots, which were actually pretty impressive for the system. Later ads featured the actual gameplay screenshots.
  • Renting an "ocean side" beach house on North Carolina's Outer Banks? Hope you weren't expecting a view of the water — "ocean side" just means the house is on the east (ocean) side of the main road. Getting a view means spending far more for an ocean-front place.
  • Older Than Print: This is reputedly what Erik the Red did to convince people to come and populate his new settlement. "It's called Greenland! It's very green. Oh yes, there's lots of green in Greenland, yes."note 
  • Evony popularized the very sleazy tactic of marketing browser games using pictures of scantily clad women who typically are nowhere to be found in the actual game and trying very hard to convince the viewer that the game is pornographic even when it's anything but. Its successor, Evony: The King's Return employs the similarly overused "rod puzzle game" advertising that came to prominence in the late 2010s, which in-game only appears in the first portion of the game. Later ads play on player frustration at the number of games using this type of ad that turn out to be anything but by touting itself as the only real game of this type. Which it isn't. And which anyone familiar with the "You make me horny, my lord" ads will see through immediately. In 2022 or 2023, Evony started using the "attempting to shoot someone by ricocheting the bullet off the walls and naturally failing miserably" format, though it at least doesn't claim to be the only real shooting puzzle game.
  • The cover art of Hyper Street Fighter 2: The Anniversary Edition claims that it includes the animated Street Fighter II movie "in its entirety". While it does include the movie, it is obviously not the full product, notably cutting the Chun-Li shower scene in such a poor way that you can clearly tell certain parts have been removed. The jumps in the music are VERY blatant.
  • This motherlode of All-Natural Snake Oil. Unusually for Himalayan salt, this isn't even on the label or in the images.
    • Non-GMO: Of course salt wouldn't be genetically modified; you can't genetically modify it because there's no genetic material whatsoever because it's not a living thing.
    • Organic: Salt isn't livestock or crops. You can't deprive it of antibiotics or weedkiller because it's not a living thing. This wasn't raised on a farm; this was dug out of a Pakistani salt mine. Also, salt is by definition an inorganic substance.
    • No Chemicals: What? Just what? Salt in itself is a chemical - sodium chloride. Plus, Himalayan salt contains several impurities, some of which (polonium, chromium, lead) make it unsuitable for human consumption without purification, and many of which are considered toxic even in harmless amounts by one woo-meister who sells his own brand of Himalayan salt. On what planet does this have no chemicals?
  • Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music festival, and patrons shelled out thousands for tickets that included housing in private villas and gourmet meals. When attendees arrived none of the luxury accommodations were anywhere to be found, the booked bands cancelled, and the best organizers could come up with for guests were disaster-relief tents and cheese sandwiches. The documentary Fyre even discusses that the only party was for 50 filming the eye-catching ad full of supermodels, while the 5000 who attended the event only suffered.
  • The loudness of cheap speakers is sometimes advertised using a measurement called PMPO, a representation of the maximum power output the speakers are capable of. Problem is, Exact Words is very much in play here, as PMPO stands for Peak Momentary Performance Output - the power measured as the PMPO is a level speakers can't actually maintain for more than a momentary peak without suffering serious damage, rendering the measurement nonsensical in terms of actually using the device. Techmoan once compared it to throwing a toddler-sized toy car off a cliff and claiming its maximum speed was what it reached before it hit the ground, and rated 200W PMPO speakers at 26W total at best.
  • Similar to speakers, cheap LED flashlights will often advertise unrealistically high outputs which, when they're not outright lies, are often based on what the LED can theoretically produce under ideal conditions while the actual out-the-front lumens will be significantly less. The flashlight industry has combated this deceptive marketing tactic with ANSI standards which specify that a flashlight must be cable of sustaining its advertised output for a specific period of time.
  • The "Aladdin Deck Enhancer" was an add-on for the NES that claimed to add 64 kilobytes of memory to enhance the quality of special games developed for it. In truth, the device did not add any memory and was instead a housing unit for a lock-out chip that would allow developer Camerica to more cheaply manufacture unlicensed games by selling more compact cartridges that worked with the "Deck Enhancer" to bypass Nintendo's anti-piracy technology. The unlicensed version of Micro Machines made for the Aladdin is, in fact, the exact same game as was previously released on the NES before the Aladdin's release.
  • A classic example is the ads for Sea-Monkeys, which depicted them as full-blown Fish People and boasted of the procedure allowing you to create "instant life." Some even implied that Sea-Monkeys were intelligent enough to do tricks. In reality, Sea-Monkeys are simply a breed of brine shrimp whose eggs have been freeze-dried, and once the "special powder" (read: eggs) has been put in water and they're done hatching, they won't do much more than swim around in circles.
  • False advertising has been a problem in mobile games since the tail end of The New '10s, to the point where it's become remarkable when ads bear some sort of resemblance to the actual game.
    • The mobile developer Playrix has become notorious over time for falsely advertising their games. Probably the most notorious and blatant cases are the ads for Homescapes and Gardenscapes, which show either Austin's family's mansion or garden in utter disrepair or Austin and Katherine in an extreme environment such as a frozen wasteland or a deserted island. In both scenarios, a set of tools is given to fix the problems or help Austin and Katherine along the way. The on-screen hand inevitably selects a wrong tool that causes an explosion, flood, etc. or ends up harming the duo, and text reading "FAIL" pops up shortly after. In actuality, the games are simplistic match-3 puzzles similar to Candy Crush. These ads were enough of a nuisance, in fact, that the United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority banned two Facebook ads for both Homescapes and Gardenscapes that were ruled to not accurately represent their real gameplay and warned Playrix to ensure the ads for their games accurately represented their actual gameplay. As a result, randomly in game, gameplay resembling what the ads present shows up as a minigame.
    • One trend in fake phone ads now is to add features to your free ad-supported games which, in theory, let you cash out for real money if you play the game enough. The ads show people paying for groceries with money they just won, show cashiers installing the game on their customer's phone so they can get money to pay for their groceries because their wallet was stolen, paying off credit cards, paying rent, etc. Needless to say, this is a very unlikely event for any players. Getting any real money out of these free games is almost impossible, and even when you can get some, it's never even close to the amount shown in the ads.
    • Mafia City invokes this trope intentionally, with ads that reach into the realm of pure absurdity. Even with the absurdism stripped away, they still bear no similarity to the actual game whatsoever.
    • There have been Facebook apps that spawn clickbait advertisements of puzzles depicting ways to save a man from his death. In reality, the apps have nothing to do with that, and the Angry Reacts on posts have shown.
    • Hero Wars commercials show the game as a puzzle game where you have to take loot and kill enemies by pulling pins inside a tower to release gold, lava, and potions in the right directions. The game is a generic RPG battle game. Actually subverted as of December 2019, when after many complaints the game was updated to include the puzzles from the Facebook ads as a bonus minigame to get extra loot. In the 2020s, ads started showing the game as a tower builder or maze traversal game, where the player has to grow the character's level by defeating enemies of a lower level... only for the "person" controlling the character to inevitably mess up by clicking on an enemy of a higher level.
    • Call Me a Legend advertises itself as an H-Game where you gather a harem of attractive women, play with their butts, and strip them naked! Including an ad of revealing women with the privates covered up with "18+ ONLY" bars. The actual game is really an RPG battle simulator set during a Zombie Apocalypse. Though, unlike most cases, there is that "seducing women" feature promised by the ads, you only get to strip them to their underwear, hence the T-rating. It's like those aforementioned Evony ads except those women are there but are not provocative as the ads say.
    • And you can probably make a drinking game out of every time an ad for Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade appears that is demonstrably false. The actual game is another base building map game, but the commercials often feature animated features that flagrantly aren't there.
    • Read the app store reviews for Evertale, and over 90% of them are complaints about being advertised a Creepypasta pastiche of Pokemon, only to find on downloading that it's an incredibly generic, fanservice-ridden JRPG gacha game with monster-catching elements (that has long since overshadowed by the gacha heroes) and little to no horror elements whatsoever.
    • The advertisements for Love Nikki - Dress Up Queen are so absurd that the fandom has collected them into a list, ranked according to their weirdness. Even the "less weird" ads are wildly inaccurate, showing gameplay similar to that of a dating sim when the actual game is more of a fantasy RPG. The more weird ads are completely indecipherable nonsense.
    • Game Theory has a video about false mobile game ads here, where MatPat discusses how their developers can get away with this false advertising so often. In short: though this kind of false advertising is indeed illegal, the government typically only pursues cases of it when the violation is actually placing people at some kind of serious risk. Since most of these games are free (well, free up to a point), usually the worst outcome of a false mobile game ad is the person having their time wasted when they download the app, realize it's not what the ad showed, and then close and uninstall it. Consequently, they are considered a very low priority.
    • Often, many of the mobile ads for various games falsely depict infidelity as being present in the game, usually the male cheating on the female, when in reality the male in question is a more healthy partner to the female protagonist.
    • In late 2022, a new variation started appearing for various different games. These ads have some random person talking about how people complain about the ads not showing real gameplay... only to claim that the ads are an accurate showcase of the real gameplay, and blames the complainers claiming that "they downloaded a fake version of the game".
    • Those Games is built on the premise of taking all those non-existent minigames that mobile game ads use and making them playable... and challenging!
  • In a particularly insidious example of this, many roadside zoos-small, usually family-run zoos that are not accredited-often market themselves as "sanctuaries" or "refuges" to sound appealing to visitors; what visitors actually see are animals living in nasty, cramped conditions.
  • Commercials for the Tiger Electronics R-Zone usually showed footage of console versions of its games, at most giving a few shots of the R-Zone's actual graphics. You could tell because that footage had colors beyond just eye-searing red, and more animation than a projected still image flopping between two frames.
  • In 2016 Huawei was caught trying to pass off photos taken with high-end DSLRs as being shot by one of their phones. This was repeated in 2019 when Huawei P30 has a pre-stored image of the moon to make it look like the camera is capable to take a picture of the moon.
  • An ad for Tennis Clash tried to pass off real tennis footage as footage from their game, by superimposing UI and effects from the game into the real-life footage.
  • Ads for the North American Ford Granada claimed the car was a dead-ringer for the Mercedes-Benz W123. Note that these ads did not merely sell the Granada as being made for customers who wanted the glitz and glamour of the Mercedes but couldn't afford it, they literally claimed the two were visually indistinguishable. While the two vehicles do have somewhat similar side profiles and rear sections, there's really no mistaking the American car for its German "counterpart".
  • Tic-Tacs are listed as sugar-free despite being almost pure sugar with almost nothing else in it. How do they manage to get away with that? Well US law happens to say you can list something as sugar-free if it has half of a gram of sugar in it or less per serving, and it just so happens they can conveniently make the serving size one tic-tac, which total size is less than half a gram.
  • Magazine ads for Garfield: Caught in the Act claimed it was his first time appearing in a video game. This isn't true—there were at least seven other games starring Garfield released beforehand. It could be argued that Caught in the Act was the first to actually be worth playing, though.
  • Cable television pricing has been frequently accused of bridging on this. Cable companies advertise a monthly price but note in the fine print this is only the cost for strictly the cable service by itself, and doesn't include a gluttony of mandatory fees and leasing cable boxes that the customer pays more to rent for a year than what cable company paid for them, leading to bills that can be almost double the advertised price, which is often a "promotional" rate that will increase significantly over the next two years.
  • Many ads for Dragon Ball Z: Sagas described it as a Wide-Open Sandbox (its most frequent slogan was that it would go "everywhere"). This is, simply put, not true; the game is a linear beat-em-up.
  • If you ever see a high capacity micro SD card selling for a price that seems too good to be true, it's too good to be true. Unscrupulous sellers will take a low capacity card and forge the identifying data so that it will be recognized as a high capacity card in whatever device you plug it into. Of course the card will very quickly fill up to its real capacity, but because the system thinks it's a high capacity card, the data that's already there will simply be overwritten. Hopefully you didn't use that $15 2TB card for anything important.
  • Simon & Schuster was forced to refund customers who shelled out $600 for what the publisher billed as "hand-signed" copies of Bob Dylan’s book The Philosophy of Modern Song, even including authenticity certificates. The publisher later admitted the signatures were replicas created by an automated signing machine.
  • The Sega Genesis version of Altered Beast was advertised as an Arcade-Perfect Port. It was certainly the best port available at the time, but even a fairly casual viewer can tell that the Genesis version was significantly downgraded in graphics and sound, and a lot of other things, including boss patterns and several movesets, were changed completely.
  • Ever noticed how a lot of ice cream brands in supermarkets are labeled "frozen dairy dessert"? This is because the Food and Drug Administration has a strict guideline on what can be classified as ice cream. The requirements are...  The majority of the frozen deserts that consumers buy don't meet the requirements of being classified as ice cream due to the products having other ingredients added or missing the ingredients that would let them be considered ice cream. Because a few companies got in trouble for selling ice cream when it technically wasn't ice cream, all products that don't meet the ice cream criteria are usually labeled as frozen dairy dessert.
  • The political campaign of US President William Henry Harrison ran heavily on the slogan of "log cabin and cider." Though originally an Appropriated Appellation, it cast Harrison as the man of the people who lived in rustic conditions and wasn't like those hobnobbing aristocrats, to the point that the log cabin essentially became the symbol of his campaign. William Henry Harrison never lived in a log cabin at any point; he was actually born in a mansion on a huge plantation, and his father, Benjamin Harrison V, was wealthy and influential enough that his name is on the country's Declaration of Independence. By any conceivable standard, Harrison was no less an aristocrat than his rival.


Santa's Igloo

The place looked so much better in the commercial...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / VeryFalseAdvertising

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