Discovering that commercials sometimes — to put this as gently as possible — bend the truth just a pinch is like learning the outcome of a Hulk Hogan wrestling match just might be predetermined.
Does anyone think Jamie Lee Curtis enjoys sitting around with complete strangers chatting about irregularity? Is this something we really need to know?
So it borders on the height of silliness to find advertisers taking each other to court because their feelings have been hurt over false or misleading claims about their product.
The New York Times reported the other day that Pantene has sued Dove, Science Diet has pursued legal action against Iams, AT&T has gotten all whiny toward Verizon and Campbell's Soup has boiled over with annoyance toward Progresso.
A simple question, really.
You're sitting around watching television when a commercial comes on featuring a sleazy, money-grubbing, oily mouthpiece who looks like a graduate of the John Gotti School of Law and Waste Hauling, suggesting that if you hire him for your phony car accident injury you will be benefiting from legal acumen rivaling Oliver Wendell Holmes, Learned Hand and Matlock.
Does anybody really believe this? Does anyone doubt that if this huckster was really all that competent an attorney he wouldn't need to promote himself as the Billy Mays of barristers?
And we all know that any commercial involving senior citizens giving their money to some Bernie Madoff wanna-be in return for a promise of lifetime financial security — just as long as that lifetime doesn't last more than a few months — is a surefire recipe for a golden years future involving cat food for dinner.
So it would seem the zenith of folly to waste precious courtroom time so that shampoo, soups and satellite technology can feud over whose prevarications are the most egregious.
Pantene has gotten all huffy over Dove's claim that its conditioner "repairs" hair better and Iams is being attacked over its tag line that "No other dog food stacks up like Iams." Or put another way, who cares?
Most of us buy stuff out of habit. If you have been using Dove's whatever for your hair, chances are Pantene could claim Dove's hair stuff will turn your head into Quasimodo and you're still going to buy Dove because …well, just because.
As for the dog food, every morning after I walk Dead Trout Breath and the Demon Seed, I ask them if they would like a nice helping of slop and they go nuts racing to their bowls in anxious anticipation of — slop. Not once have they ever looked at me as if to say, "Uh, and will we be having Iams, today?" Slop, it seems, will do just fine, thank you very much.
One of the best advertiser tiffs has to with Verizon, which has claimed it provides five times more 3G coverage than AT&T. One can only assume 3G coverage, whatever that is, is pretty spiffy.
At any rate, Verizon published a map depicting its massive coverage of the 3G whatchamacallit in red over the entire country. In comparison, AT&T controlled less real estate than the Iraqi air force. Enter the lawyers.
All this legal action offers a cautionary tale.
If we start expecting commercials to honestly represent the products they are promoting, television is about to become more stultifying than a night of charades with Malcolm Glazer's lads, Zippity and Do-Dah.
Where does it end? Suppose Cialis tries to sue Viagra over claims it does a better job of … well, you get the idea. What if Levitra demands to know of Cialis what the heck those dual bathtubs are for?
This could completely disrupt the nightly network newscasts, which are filled with nothing but magic cures and remedies and treatments for constipation, dementia, bladder leakage and geezer sexual healing.
Let us not forget that if some of these lawsuits result in Campbell's having to tell the truth in its commercials and nothing but the truth about, say, the sodium content in its soups, or if Pantene has to admit that while its shampoo gets your hair clean it still will not turn you into Kate Beckinsale, it is only a matter of time before political advertising will have to — gulp — antiseptically, accurately describe a candidate.
Before you know it, we might run the risk of having better informed consumers and voters. The truth is nice, although it has to be said the fibs are more entertaining.
Such is the price for veracity. Boredom, too.