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Sex, Lies, and Advertising

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Ok, I lied. There’s no sex in this post. Adverts, on the other hand, aren’t technically allowed to lie. Back in the 19th Century, you could make all kinds of wild claims about your Tincture of Gripe Water or Dr Astoundo’s Patented Baldness Liniment. Nobody could sue you if it didn’t do what it said on the tin. That changed in the early 20th Century, which is all to the good. It means marketers have to be more creative when promoting products or services, and not just resort to bare-faced lies.

But there’s no law against bad spelling, grammar, or inaccurate use of terms. I’m one of those people for whom bad spelling and grammar are akin to the screech of nails down the blackboard of my soul. I spent a good 15 minutes staring at two pieces of bad advertising on the Tube this morning:

1) Nintendo DS’s 100 Classic Books. “100 classic novels… from Jane Eyre to Hamlet”.

Hamlet is not a novel. It’s never been a novel. It’s a bloody play, as anyone with half their wits about them knows.

2) Magnum Temptation. “It’s name? Magnum Temptation”.

This kind of thing puts me in danger of injuring myself, such is my righteous ire. There are talented young people out there busting a gut to get into copywriting, and some smug pillock can’t even be bothered to read through his or her own copy and check for grammatical howlers like this one. And, apparently, neither can anyone else in the agency. It’s an insult to the audience, to people who genuinely care about the quality of their work, and to the whole institution of ice-cream -eating. I will never buy a Magnum again.

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Photo credit: Michael Karshis

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