Thursday, February 19, 2009

Natural ≠ Good and Other Ad Tricks

A survey of scientific claims in advertising done by the University of Cambridge and presented at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that (wait for it…) ads use pseudoscience to trick you. While many countries have laws against false advertising or governmental bodies that oversee the claims made by manufacturers, there are still plenty of dubious tricks that slip through. For instance, the study found that the makers of an anti-cellulite cream that claims to give people a slimmer silhouette will admit under questioning that they don’t think their consumers really expect the cream to affect sub-dermal fat. By “slim”, they really mean “smooth”. Also, products labeling themselves “chemical free” are really referring only to the colloquial definition of “chemical” as something man-made. Otherwise, there’s no such thing as a chemical free product. Still more advertisers get away with making outright false claims or touting the abilities of their products when those abilities have no role in the desired effect. An example of the latter is a “night repair” cream that’s supposed to improve the appearance of the skin overnight by protecting it from harmful UV radiation. The problem with this, obviously, is that there is no harmful UV radiation at night, since the sun’s on the opposite side of the world. Outright lies come from some probiotic and organic products, which tout their health benefits even though there’s no evidence that they have any. All of this should come as no surprise to most of you, but it’s always good to have a little concrete ammunition the next time your idiot friend thinks of ordering some crap off of TV. More details here.

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