Live Forever Juice —
Live Forever Juice is a fake product that was created for educational purposes by FDAImports, a consulting company that specializes in advising companies how to comply with FDA regulations. The idea was to make a food product whose packaging was full of illegal claims, then walk people through why the claims are illegal. (via: The Food Watchdog).
The company handed out samples of Live Forever Juice at a recent trade fair in Baltimore. They also have an accompanying website, liveforeverjuice.com, on which they have some videos that explain what kind of claims companies are legally allowed to make on the packaging of their food products, and what claims they can't make. Of course, all claims have to be "true, adequately substantiated, and not misleading." It's the latter category, misleading claims, that are the most interesting, since companies come up with all kinds of ways to make claims that are technically true, but nevertheless misleading. And the FDA has regulations to try to prevent this.
For instance, labels often declare that the product is a "great source" of a nutrient, such as Vitamin C. But if the label says this, then the food must contain at least 20% of that nutrient's recommended daily intake (RDI). Sometimes labels will use more ambiguous language, such as boasting that the food "contains" a nutrient, which could be technically true even if the food only has a tiny amount of it. But the FDA feels that even this more ambiguous claim implies the food is a good source of the nutrient. So the food still must offer at least 10% of that nutrient's RDI in order to make that claim legally.
FDAImports also created a Live Forever Juice party video that offers a "High-Octane Motivational Video Loop with Unicorns." They caution that you shouldn't watch it if you're prone to seizures.
Twiggy ad ruled misleading —
The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an advertisement featuring Twiggy is misleading. The ad has Twiggy claiming that "Olay is my secret to brighter-looking eyes." In fact, the brightness of her eyes in the photo is due to digital manipulation. Link: sky.com
Mass: We Pray —Mass: We Pray claims to be a new video game that allows you to simulate going to church, without ever leaving home. Shacknews.com reports receiving a press release from Prayer Works Interactive, the maker of this purported product. An excerpt follows:
Mass: We Pray is the first of many worship-themed games in development for Prayer Works Interactive. Just like with any videogame, families can use a television as a monitor to play. Then, they can use the CROSS, a proprietary, wireless, cross-shaped controller to participate in 24 unique and exhilarating rituals. Make the Sign of the Cross, sprinkle Holy Water, take Collection and even give Holy Communion. Every motion and nuance of a blessing or ritual is detected in three dimensions and replicated on-screen.
Can this be real? As often with claims of a religious nature, Poe's law rears its head. (The real religious stuff is often so crazy that it's indistinguishable from the spoof stuff). But let's review some of the typical signs that a website is a hoax:
The site makes a claim that seems outrageous or absurd.
It advertises a product, but doesn't actually allow you to buy it.
It's registered anonymously, and no business address is provided.
Although you can't buy the main product, you can buy a related t-shirt or mug.
Google ads (or other unrelated ads) are posted to profit from traffic to the site.
An outrageous or absurd claim? Check. You can't buy Mass: We Pray, but the company claims that on Friday, Nov. 20 you'll be able to pre-order it. (Let's wait and see if they hold true to that promise.) The website is also registered anonymously through Domain Discreet, and Prayer Works Interactive offers no business address.
That's three signs of being a hoax. So my guess is that Mass: We Pray is probably fake. But the real test, of course, will be to wait and see if they ever offer this thing for sale.
Below is a video demonstration of the game.
Update: On November 20 Mass: We Pray was revealed to be a hoax. (No surprise there!) The pre-order link, which previously had been dead, became clickable, leading to an ad for the video game Dante's Inferno.
That story about those Ivar's underwater billboards at the bottom of Puget Sound, supposedly anchored in the mid-1950s?...
Fake, fake, fake.
The documents were faked on a computer. The billboard was a wooden prop, says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's Inc. The only thing real about it was the barnacles stuck to it...
It was a great marketing campaign. Donegan says about $250,000 was spent on the hoax and the follow-up TV and radio ads and real highway billboards. The hoax was reported Oct. 23 in the industry publication Nation's Restaurant News. Donegan says he wasn't to reveal the hoax until after the ad campaign ended this month, but decided to come clean when the industry publication called.
The Case of the Carbolic Smoke Ball —
Clive Coleman tells the story for BBC Radio 4 of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company. It was an 1892 case of fraudulent advertising. The case against them is "seen by some as the birth of modern consumer protection":
The carbolic smoke ball was a peculiar device marketed as a cure for various ailments including influenza. It consisted of a rubber ball, filled with powdered carbolic acid. You squeezed the ball sending a puff of acidic smoke right up a tube inserted into your nose. The idea was that your nose would run and the cold would be flushed out.
The company making the ball advertised it in the Pall Mall Gazette offering a £100 reward to anyone using it correctly who then contracted influenza. They deposited £1,000 in the Alliance Bank in Regent Street to show the money was there.
Billboards for Submarines? —
Around 1954 Ivar Haglund anchored billboards to the bottom of Puget Sound. He said that he thought it would be a good way to advertise his restaurant, Ivar's Chowder, to anyone who happened to be passing by in a submarine. The modern-day Ivar's restaurant chain is now raising the billboards from the sea. Or are they? Some suspect a hoax. From the Seattle Times:
In the past month, the company has had divers bring up three of the billboards — about 7 by 22 feet and made of stainless steel — using a map found in their founder's immense collection of artifacts stored on the top floor of the chain's headquarters at Pier 54.
Included in that collection are Haglund's LP vinyl collection, his rosé wine collection, illustrations, photos and... apparently the actual naval architectural drawings, permit and location map for the billboards.The operative word is "apparently."
"This still could be a hoax. Someone could be doing something," says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's. "That's why we're being careful on the authentication."
Of course, if it was a hoax, a prime suspect would be the Ivar's chain itself.
Ivar's is promoting the find of the underwater billboards on its Web site, which includes a 2 ½-minute mini-documentary about finding that first billboard Aug. 21 off Alki Beach.
It's also started running 30-second commercials about the billboards during prime time, budgeting more than $100,000 for television ads through mid-October.
The article goes on to say that Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, who's writing a book about Haglund, thinks the billboards are the real deal. (Thanks, Bob!)
This legend arose to explain the incredible popularity of the poster, which sold over 12 million copies (by some accounts). It was always a bit of a mystery why that image in particular became such a focus of popular fixation. After all, there were plenty of other posters of scantily clad attractive young women. The subliminal seduction theory offered a seemingly plausible explanation. The poster was so popular, according to this theory, because the brains of young men were subconsciously perceiving the word "SEX" in her hair, and this triggered desire for the poster.
The word "SEX" is supposed to begin with the curls on her right shoulder that form an S. I can see the S, but I can't see an E-X.
Anyway, I don't think one needs to invoke subliminal seduction to explain the popularity of the poster. The combination of the smile and the nipples makes it an eye-catching image. And once it started to become popular, then the dynamics of group psychology kicked in, turning it into a fad.
Update: Thanks to Joel B1, I think I've now identified where the "EX" is supposed to be. For the benefit of those still unable to see it, I've highlighted the entire word in the relevant section of the image.
Moms Behaving Badly —
A dispute between two young girls escalated into an online fight between the mothers. The mother of one of the girls posted an ad on Craigslist offering sex with men, and listed the phone number of the other girl's mother as the contact. Twenty-two people called the number. The woman has now been charged with aggravated harrassment. [Newsday]
Brain Ads —
Some woman (who doesn't name herself) has realized that for years people have been reading her mind. "TV shows were following my daily thoughts and stores began bringing products I had been wishing for, it finally dawned on me that they were not just teasing me, they were actually getting more viewers and selling more products!" Instead of fighting this condition, she's decided to accept it and profit from it. For which reason, she's now accepting "brain ads." In return for a donation, she will project the telepathic ad of your choice. I'm assuming this is a joke. (Thanks, Bob!)
Ads Disguised as News Columns —
Should the LA Times have run an ad designed to look like a regular news column on its front page? (The ad was for an NBC news show Southland.) Critics, who include quite a few of the paper's own staffers, argue that it crossed a line of journalistic integrity. The paper's defenders point out that all newspapers are losing money nowadays, so whether you like it or not, expect to see more ads disguised as news columns in the future. [Editors Weblog]
The Airbrushed Asian —
When Scottish tourism officials first unveiled the promotional poster for next year's Homecoming Scotland campaign (whose purpose is to get people of Scottish descent to visit the homeland), people looked at it and remarked, "You know, not everyone in Scotland is white."
Your classmates aren’t looking for you —
Classmates.com told Anthony Michaels that former classmates were looking for him. If only he would upgrade to a premium membership, they would put him in touch with his school buddies. So Michaels paid the money. Then he discovered that no one was looking for him. Now he's brought a class-action suit against classmates.com for deceptive advertising.
There's a fine line in advertising between what's legal and what's not. "Puffery," which is defined as making exaggerated claims that the average consumer would never take literally, is legal. Example: "You'll love it!" However, making specific, factually misleading claims is illegal. For instance, you can't claim that a product regrows hair if it doesn't.
Classmates.com seems to be on the illegal side of that line, so I predict they'll end up paying out money in this suit.
McCain wins debate that hasn’t happened yet —
Apparently John McCain's campaign has access to the same time machine used by the Chinese journalists at Xinhua News who reported the launch of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft (including the astronaut's dialogue) hours before it happened. (See previous post.)
McCain's campaign has been running an ad in the Wall Street Journal's online edition declaring that "McCain Wins Debate," which is a bold assertion considering that the debate will only happen tonight.
The assignment is simple: We are going to write letters to the editor and we are allowed to make up whatever we want -- as long as it adds to the campaign. After today we are supposed to use our free moments at home to create a flow of fictional fan mail for McCain. "Your letters," says Phil Tuchman, "will be sent to our campaign offices in battle states. Ohio. Pennsylvania. Virginia. New Hampshire. There we'll place them in local newspapers." ...
"We will show your letters to our supporters in those states," explains Phil. "If they say: 'Yeah, he/she is right!' then we ask them to sign your letter. And then we send that letter to the local newspaper. That's how we send dozens of letters at once."
This is called "astroturf" (i.e. an artificial grassroots campaign). It's a popular campaign strategy. Basically a variation on the fake testimonial technique in advertising.
Some notable moments in the history of Astroturf:
• In 2003 democrats noticed similar letters in support of President Bush's economic policies appearing in papers such as the Boston Globe, the Cincinnati Post, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The letters all began with the line: "When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership." The letter was traced back to a Republican website, gopteamleader.com, that had posted it and was encouraging readers to print it out and send it to local papers.
• In 1997, when the Justice Department was suing Microsoft for violating antitrust laws, Utah's attorney general noticed he was receiving numerous pro-Microsoft letters peppered with similar phrases such as "strong competition and innovation have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry." Upon closer investigation, he discovered that some of the letters came from people who were dead. It turned out Microsoft was composing the letters and then sending them to individuals who had expressed positive sentiments about Microsoft in phone polls. The individuals were instructed to sign the letters and forward them to their attorney general. But unfortunately for Microsoft, some of the individuals had died in between being polled and receiving the letter. Their family members, thinking the letter was some kind of official document, had signed the letter and forwarded it on with a note explaining the situation, thereby exposing the whole scheme.
Fake iPhone Queues —
There probably is some sound marketing psychology to the idea that if people are seen lining up for something, other people will assume it's desirable. I've often suspected that those people who line up to buy Sony Playstations (or whatever the product might be) are getting paid. From Scotsman.com:
A POLISH mobile phone operator said yesterday it had hired actors to stand in line to buy Apple's iPhone as the device went on sale for the first time in the eastern European country. The company, Orange, said it hired the fake customers as a way to stimulate interest.
Wine Spectator Hoaxed —
Osteria L’Intrepido, a restaurant in Milan, Italy, was recently awarded Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for its wine list. Problem is, Osteria L'Intrepido doesn't exist. It was a hoax restaurant created by Robin Goldstein (author of The Wine Trials) which he created to test the validity of Wine Spectator's award program.
Goldstein's description of the hoax can be read here. Wine Spectator's response is here.
If you don't know much about Wine Spectator's award program (as I didn't) this article in the NY Times provides some good background. Basically, the awards have long been recognized as a bit of a joke within the restaurant industry. Almost everyone who sends in the $250 application fee along with a copy of their menu and wine list gets the award. It's the restaurant equivalent of getting a Brillante Weblog Premio Award.
However, most restaurant goers don't know that. (I didn't.) And they're likely to be impressed by seeing a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence plaque hanging on the wall. That's the whole idea. It's a marketing scheme masquerading as an award program.
For Wine Spectator and their awardees it was a cozy little arrangement. I'm sure they never figured that someone would pay the $250 application fee just to poop on the party. (Thanks to Joe Littrell and Cranky Media Guy)
Fake Coffee with the News —
Product placement has reached the TV news. On the desk in front of the anchors of Las Vegas's Fox 5 TV news sit two cups of McDonald's iced coffee. McDonald's is paying for the coffee to be there. But the best part: it's not real coffee. It's just a plastic simulation of iced coffee. From the Las Vegas Sun:
The anchors aren’t even supposed to acknowledge them, McDonald’s reps explain. That’s part of their genius, my little lambs! They get into your mind without you knowing it. So they just sit there, two logo-emblazoned plastic cups, percolating into the psyche. Made-to-scale models that weigh something like seven pounds each — refreshing, and bottom-line boosting!
The Las Vegas news isn't alone in doing this. Lots of news shows are joining in. I think I've seen similar cups on the San Diego news. I'd like to see one of the anchors forced to drink the cup down. (Thanks, Bob!)
There's been a lot of speculation that the video is a (not-so) covert marketing campaign by Nintendo. People grew even more suspicious after it was discovered that the woman in the video, 25-year-old Lauren Bernat, and her boyfriend, 30-year-old Giovanny Gutierrez, both work in advertising. Even better, they both specialize in internet advertising. But Nintendo insists it had nothing to do with the video. The Telegraph reports:
"This has and is absolutely 100 per cent nothing to do with Nintendo," a spokesman said.
"Nintendo did not create it and were not aware of it until it was brought it to our attention."
Mr Gutierrez has also denied that it was a viral advert for the Wii Fit.
Nintendo may not have created it, but I'm sure their pr people have been busy trying to spread the word about it, once they realized the interest it was attracting. Of course, it could also be a "sub-viral" campaign (defined as a viral campaign a company creates, but then denies having any hand in.)
Office Freakout Video Turns Out to be Fake —
For the past few weeks a video (apparently Russian) of some guy freaking out at his office has been doing the rounds. Tobester posted about it in the forum, speculating that it was real. But no, it isn't. Wired reports that it was covert marketing for the upcoming movie Wanted, starring Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie:
The undercover advert hit its target spot-on, amassing nearly 4 million views and almost 5,500 Diggs in the week since it was posted.
The video is supposed to invoke themes about escaping one's everyday life -- a point that was probably missed by many, seeing as the guy in the video (above) appears to be going completely and utterly insane.
Wanted hits theaters June 27. It's the first stateside production for Russian director Bekmambetov, whose previous works include the phenomenal dark fantasy flicks Day Watch and Night Watch.