Hidden Facts in Ads

We have all seen the ads with the small-small print that is the same color as the paper of the ad.  These important ad statements are almost impossible to read, and that’s what they are supposed to be.  Many times these statements counter what is said in the large print.

The state and federal agencies have regulations about truth in advertising but some advertisers try to hide the true facts, this is “bait and switch” in the same ad.

Here is an example of a colorful large flyer from a Doctors plastic surgical group that states surgical prices for liposuction, breast augmentation and tummy tucks for low prices.  Like liposuction just $889, but there is a very very small astride after all the low prices.  I look all over the slick-mailer to find what the astride applies to, and finally I found it in the smallest print at the lower right corner of the ad.  Guess what, this advertised price does not include all the doctors and nurses in the operating room that you will need for the surgical operation.  The small print says: “does not include Operating Room (nurses) and anesthesia (another doctor) fees.”

Here is another example, a colorful advertising flyer send out in the mail for a Mexican resort property.  It follows California and federal laws, but trying to read the small print that is supposed to be a warning is almost impossible. The flyer has a brown background and the warning is in small brown type.  The warning is printed at the bottom of the flyer and the brown background becomes so dark that you can no longer read the small print in lighter brown.

It is so obvious that the developer does not want you to read this warning. The government warning says: “Warning:  The California Department of Real Estate has not examined this offering, including but not limited to the conditions of title, the status of blanket liens on the project (if any), arrangements to assure project completion, escrow practices, control over project management, racially discriminatory practices (if any), terms, conditions and price of the offer, control over annual assessments (if any), or the availability of water, services, utilities or improvements. It continues it may be advisable for you to consult an attorney or now it is not readable because the brown of the letters is blotted out by the heavy brown of the border.  The developer is not eager for you to read this part because it brings up too many questions about the property that need to be answered.
If  the promoter would print the State of California Warning in regular size and color print so you could read it I would respect the information in the flyer, but trying to hide it this way makes me file this information in the round file at my feet.

TV advertising does not get a pass when it comes to hidden facts in small print that cannot be read on a TV screen.  We have all seen the TV commercials that end with three-seconds of half a screen filled with print that no one could read, even if they paused the broadcast.  It leaves the viewer wondering if they are reversing everything they just said in the TV commercial. In some mortgage TV ads that promote a low mortgage interest rate the small print at the end will tell you that this includes “negative amortization,” which will get you in big trouble with a mortgage on your home.

Radio advertising cannot use small print but still must meet state regulations has a different way of presenting information they do not want you to hear.  I call it the “cartoon voice”.  It is where the announcer reads the required material at the end of the commercial at a speed that makes him or her sound like a cartoon voice or a machine gun.  In the radio business it is termed reading six-seconds of copy in three-seconds.
Bottom Line:  The advertisers who use these approaches do not want you to read or hear this information, and some TV and Radio advertisers don¹t care if you hear or see it, but it cuts into their message time.

I am the kind of consumer who will call the main office of the advertiser and asked what the unreadable material at the end of their TV commercial says and why don¹t they want me to know what it says.  I have found that most corporate executives have no idea what the secrete words say at the end of their TV commercials.

A straight-as-an-arrow advertiser told me an ad-man suggested to him that he make the wording about the items included in the price in his ad much smaller. The advertiser said no-way, I want my customers to know exactly what they will get for the price and not make them think I use “bait & Switch”.  Give this merchant a Gold Star!