From the history of misleading advertising: In 1941, the Doughnut Corporation of America came out with "Vitamin Donuts," hoping the product would earn a seal of approval from the Nutrition Division of the War Food Administration. No dice, said the War Food Administration, because it was only the flour that was enriched with vitamins, not the entire donut. They suggested the name "Enriched Flour Donuts" as an alternative, but the Doughnut Corporation didn't think this sounded appetizing, so they dropped the product entirely. Incidentally, the flour in modern donuts has far more vitamins in it than the flour in Vitamin Donuts did.
Shark in Lake Ontario —
A video released last week showing a group of fishermen having an encounter with a shark in Lake Ontario has proven to be a hoax.
The video was created by a company called Bell Media using a prosthetic model shark, as the company has admitted in a recent press release. It was "the first step of a multi-stage marketing campaign" to promote the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. Nissan is also involved in the hoax, since they're the ones sponsoring Shark Week. Apparently Nissan will have an ongoing campaign running throughout Shark Week titled "In Search of Canada's Rogue Shark," in which a team will be driving around Canada (in a Nissan Rogue) looking for Canadian sharks.
It reminds me of that old Dunkin' Donuts offer: "Free 3 muffins when you buy 3 at the regular half-dozen price!"
Except in the beer case, people were (allegedly) paying more for nothing but a different cup design.
Hockey Fans Suing Arena Over Misleading Beer Prices
By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press
A handful of Idaho hockey fans sued a Boise arena on Tuesday, saying they were duped into thinking a $7 beer contains more brew than a $4 beer. The lawsuit says CenturyLink Arena, home of the Idaho Steelheads hockey team, defrauded customers by charging $3 more for a tall, narrow cup advertised as a "large" that actually holds the same amount of beer as the shorter, wider cup described as a "small."
Big Mango Disappears —
The town of Bowen in Queensland, Australia is home to the world's largest mango statue. It's 33 feet tall, 26 feet wide, and weighs 7 tons. Yesterday, that mango went missing. Employees of the Bowen tourist information centre, adjacent to the statue, said they showed up for work and it was simply gone.
CCTV footage revealed a mobile crane backing up to the statue in the night and taking off with it.
Word quickly spread via social media of the missing mango.
However, people quickly suspected that the mango heist might be a publicity stunt since no theft report was filed with the police. And sure enough, a chicken restaurant chain, Nando's, has now owned up to the theft. It's some kind of promotion for its new mango sauce.
The mango never traveled very far. It was moved to a paddock behind the information center and covered with a tarp. Nando's claims to have further plans for it. But, in the meantime, they've posted a video showing how they managed to "steal" the mango. [link: npr.org]
Fresh Stone-Age Meat —
Back in 2010, Bosch refrigerators ran an unusual ad campaign to promote its VitaFresh technology which, it promised, could keep food fresh longer. They created fake plastic-wrapped cuts of dinosaur legs, mammoth steaks, and saber-tooth filets, and placed these meats in supermarkets throughout Germany. The idea was that this meat is really old, but it's still fresh.
Check out the video below to see people's reactions.
Burger King becomes Fries King —
In order to show how excited they are about their new french fries, Burger King recently announced on their Facebook page that they were changing their name to Fries King. They even posted photos of some of their restaurants sporting the new name.
The name change is a joke. Although time.com notes that not all of Burger King's facebook followers realized this: "Some are genuinely confused about whether or not the name change is real and have written passionate posts decrying Burger King’s decision to turn its back on 'a well known family name.'"
It's actually not the first time Burger King has pretended to change its name. Back on April 1st, 2002 they announced they were changing their name to "Chicken King," supposedly owing to the success of their Chicken Whopper Sandwich.
The sock puppet in question was one "Abby Farle" whose Facebook profile picture showed her to be a teenage girl. But there were some odd things about Abby. For a start, her Facebook account was only created a day ago, and during her brief time on Facebook her sole activity appeared to be defending Chick-fil-A, vigorously supporting the company's claim that it stopped including toys from the Jim Henson Company in its kids meals because it concluded the toys were dangerous (not that the Henson Company pulled its toys in reaction to anti-gay comments by Chick-fil-A's COO, as has been widely assumed).
The Coke Bag Hoax —
Recently a video began circulating that appeared (despite suspiciously poor production values) to be an advertisement by Coca-Cola announcing a new "Coca-Cola-Bag." The idea was to do away with selling Coke in bottles and switch to biodegradable plastic bags made "in the unique Coca-Cola bottle shape."
The video claimed the idea came from Central America where many consumers supposedly already buy Coke in plastic bags in order to avoid paying the bottle deposit.
But Just-Drinks.com now says it has received confirmation from the Coca-Cola Co. that the Coke Bag is a hoax — though not one Coca-Cola was responsible for. The company says it has no idea who created the video.
Given the references to Central America, and the idea of Coke bags, I'm guessing the video may be an elaborate drug-themed joke.
Some Iranians got their revenge by drinking Coke. Others created Pepsi-moon parody videos and images.
There's a bit of history to the idea of ads projected onto the moon. Back in 1999, Coca-Cola actually considered the idea of using lasers to project a Coke logo onto the moon. The idea was dreamed up by one of their marketing executives, Steve Koonin. They hired scientists to put the plan into effect, and spent quite a bit of money before abandoning the idea. The problem: It would have required incredibly powerful lasers to do it, and the FAA wouldn't allow the use of such powerful lasers because of the possibility they might interfere with aircraft.
Then, in 2008, Rolling Rock beer ran a hoax campaign claiming that they were going to project the Rolling Rock logo onto the moon during a full moon, on March 21, 2008. They promoted the idea on billboards, in TV ads, and through the website moonvertising.com (which they've since abandoned).
The NY Times ran a brief article about the hoax campaign in which they touched on whether moonvertising would be technically possible:
According to Jim Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, moonvertising is possible, if impractical for a number of reasons. While scientists have bounced lasers off the moon, they illuminated an area only about the size of a tennis court. “In order for an advertisement to be seen by people on earth,” Garvin says, “the laser light would need to cover an area about half the land size of Africa,” a challenge because the moon’s surface is dark and fairly nonreflective.
Iran itself also has a history of moon-image hoaxes. Back in November 1978, a rumor swept through Iran alleging that the face of the Ayattullah Khomeini was visible on the moon. This rumor has been analyzed in a paper by Shahla Talebi:
In late November of 1978, as millions of Iranians awaited for the return of Ayattullah Khomeini form exile, a rumor swept the country that his face could be seen in the moon. In great excitement, many gathered on the rooftops to show one another what they “saw.” Although the rumor was officially denied, it had had already acquired millions of legs, and thanks to technology, it soon reached almost every corner of the country. It had taken a life of its own. The emotional ambiance of that particular night of “seeing” was so immensely intense and the claim so unwaveringly firm that those who “could not see” said otherwise.
And let's not forget a similar rumor that spread in America a few years ago, which got thousands of people to stand outside, holding candles, and looking up at the sky. It was following 9/11. The rumor promised that a NASA satellite was going to take a photograph of the entire nation illuminated by candlelight.
Edit: I just remembered another moon rumor, one which I discuss in Electrified Sheep. Back in 1957, a rumor spread that the Soviets were going to explode a nuclear bomb on the surface of the moon on November 7, and that the flash would be visible on Earth. This date was supposedly chosen both because it was the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution and because a lunar eclipse was going to occur then, making the flash more visible. This would have been a form of 'moonvertising' on the part of the Soviets. A way for them to display their technological superiority on a canvas visible to the entire world.
There was near hysteria in America as the date approached. When the day arrived, many astronomers trained their telescopes on the moon, waiting for the flash. But it never came. The Soviets probably would have done it, if they could have, but at the time it was beyond their abilities.
There are some intriguing parallels between the 1957 Soviet Nuke rumor and the 2012 Iranian Pepsi-logo rumor. In both cases, people were projecting their fears onto the surface of the moon. In 1957 America, the challenge posed by Soviet power and the spread of communism was the great fear. For Iranians in 2012, American corporate power and global dominance is their great fear.
It would be cool if there really was a tunnel entrance somewhere in the world that looked like this. But this is one of those brought-to-you-by-photoshop images. The original is an image showing a billboard created in March 2007 by the Austrian ad agency Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann for the restaurant chain Oldtimer. (link: adsoftheworld.com)
What's puzzling me is whether the original image is itself photoshopped? Did this Oldtimer billboard ever exist in real life, or is the photo just a concept piece?
I can't find any pictures showing the Oldtimer billboard from a different angle. I can't find any sources that list the specific road where it was placed. Nor can I find news sources from 2007 that discuss the billboard. I also think it's strange that this was an Austrian campaign, and yet the writing is in English.
All of which make me suspect that the original image is a photoshopped concept piece. Though I'm not sure. It could be that I can't find any more info about the ad because all the info is in German.
An ad for a product called the "AB-hancer" appeared online back in March 2011 and quickly went viral. The text of the ad made it pretty obvious that this wasn't a real product specifically where the text says, "Recommended by pseudo-athletes." There's also the fact that the product isn't available for purchase anywhere. Though inevitably a few people seemed to think the AB-hancer was real.
But the mystery is: Where did this ad come from? Who created it? No one seems to know.
Paul Lucas at infomercial-hell.com theorizes that the image came from an old, out-of-print "prank box." Prank boxes are gag gift boxes that look like they contain ridiculous items such as a "Pet Petter" or a "Wake & Bake Dream Griddle." The gift recipient thinks they got a really stupid gift, until they open the box and find the real gift inside.
This is a good theory. The problem is that there's no evidence an AB-hancer prank box ever existed. If it did, you'd think a picture of it would exist somewhere. So for now the origin of the AB-hancer image remains a mystery.
But although the AB-hancer may not be a real product, there apparently are real products on the market similar to it. Singapore Seen reported the existence of this strange tummy-flattening product, for sale somewhere in Asia.
And if you've got a hairy stomach, you can always create six-pack abs by taking a cue from this guy.
At first glance, this appears to be a vintage ad by the "Soda Pop Board of America" extolling the virtues of drinking cola at an early age. It's been circulating around the internet for quite a while, during which time many sites have angrily responded to the claims made in the ad.
For instance, the Queen Anne Chiropractic Center declared that the ad demonstrates "just how wicked the Mad Men of yesteryear were." The parenting blog babble.com wrote: "We all know that, on occasion, advertisements can offer some fairly crappy advice. Back in the day, though, ads had no shame." And NaturalNews.com offered the ad as evidence that, "Soda companies, much like drug companies, have relentlessly tried to convince parents that forcing their products onto their children is a smart thing to do."
I could go on, but I'll cut to the chase: the ad isn't real. It's just a very successful vintage-ad parody created in 2002 by RJ White, who explains its full provenance on his blog Ice Cream Motor:
About seven or eight years ago, I made this fake ad, exhorting parents to give soda to their babies. It was done on a bored afternoon when J.D. Ryznar asked for someone to make that very specific thing on his livejournal. I whipped it together, posted it to the web, joke over.
THEN. A couple of years later- it started showing up online, in those weird lists that pop up every so often with a "Oh man, ads sure were strange back then, weren't they?" theme. Thing is, those ads are largely real and mine is not and very obviously so.
White links to the original livejournal post that inspired him to create the ad. His ad seems to be currently enjoying a fresh wave of popularity thanks to tumblr and pinterest which are presenting it to new audiences, many of whom (once again) seem to be accepting it at face value as a genuine vintage ad.
F*** The Diet? —
Many people thought this was too weird to be true, but apparently it's real. Multinational mega-corporation Unilever is running an ad campaign in Germany for its "Du Darfst" line of food products that features the English slogan "Fuck the Diet!"
It's kinda like if McDonalds were to unveil "Fuck Eating Healthy" as its new ad slogan.
"Although the current Du Darfst campaign has become a bit of a talking point in Germany -- as effective marketing should -- it is targeted specifically at German consumers and uses language that we do not believe most German consumers find offensive. This is because the term in the campaign is frequently heard on German TV and radio, and is used in newspapers and magazines, and in the context of 'let it be' it is not censored or seen as inappropriate by most German consumers."
Those French beaches look great, because they’re really in Hawaii —
France's tourism agency has been embarrassed after it's been revealed that a whole series of photos it's been using to promote French beaches don't actually show French locations at all. They're stock photos, taken in Hawaii and South Africa, in the background of which the tourism agency sometimes photoshopped sections of French coastline. It seems stupid since France has some great scenery, but the tourism agency was apparently too cheap to hire a photographer to take photos of any of it. (link: Daily Mail)
This is hardly the first time tourism agencies have been caught pulling this trick. In Hippo Eats Dwarf I noted some examples, including a 2003 brochure for Bermuda that showed sunny beaches that were in Hawaii, and a Kentucky tourism brochure that featured a covered bridge actually located in New Hampshire.
Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act —
On April 1st of this year, hundreds of thousands of men with mustaches are going to gather in Washington, DC to demand tax equity for Mustached Americans. They're hoping to persuade Congress to adopt the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act, or STACHE Act. The act would allow Mustached Americans to claim tax deductions for expenses such as:
Mustache and beard trimming instruments, mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents, Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age), bacon, mustache combs and mirrors, DVD collections of "Magnum P.I." and "Smokey & The Bandit," mustache insurance (now required by state law in Alabama, Oregon, Maine, and New Mexico, and Puerto Rico), billy clubs or bodyguards to keep women away as a mustache increases good looks by an estimated 38 percent, little black books and jumbo packages of kielbasa sausage, Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos.
At first, I assumed the entire thing was an April Fool's Day joke campaign organized by H&R Block. But I now think that the American Mustache Institute was around before H&R Block got involved -- though it's obviously a rather tongue-in-cheek organization.
The Case of the Monster Slipper —
An article recently appeared in various British newspapers telling the story of one Tom Boddingham who ordered a size 14.5 slipper from Monster Slippers. But due to a translation error, the factory in China that makes the slippers sent a size 1450 slipper instead.
Polly Curtis at the Guardian thought the story smelled a bit fishy. And with the help of some people on Twitter, she soon figured out that "Tom Boddingham" coincidentally looked identical to Joseph Jennings, the online retail manager for Monster Slippers. In other words, the entire story was a PR stunt.
The thing about stories like this, which pop up with amazing regularity, is that the debunker actually can't help but publicize the PR hoaxer even more by repeating the story. Which plays into their hand. For instance, I'm now aware of Monster Slippers, and I never would have been if it weren't for the Guardian article. P.T. Barnum was very aware of this phenomenon. He would sometimes purposefully spread rumors debunking his own hoaxes in order to generate renewed media interest.
So you have to wonder, would it be better simply to ignore these PR stunts, and thereby not give the PR people the publicity they're looking for? It's a bit of a dilemma. Though my feeling is that the debunkers should never be blamed for doing their job. (Thanks, Laurie!)