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Of Belly-Button Lint and Bogus Ads PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Steve Cuno   

Perhaps you have seen TV commercials for a product called 5-Hour Energy. In one version, video and monolog imply that for pepping up sleepy office workers, the product beats a cup of coffee. But bring your nose to the screen, and you’ll see that the small type says the opposite: “Contains caffeine comparable to a cup of the leading coffee.” Then, as the video segues to people enjoying improved physical performance, dexterity and endurance, a new batch of small type says: “Not proven to improve physical performance, dexterity or endurance.” And, you’ll read that the product “does not provide caloric energy.” Interesting, since the energy that runs bodies is measured in calories.

Like many advertisers, the makers of 5-Hour Energy know they can safely and legally imply the bogus in large type as long as they properly disclaim it in small. My own term for such tactics is Clintonian advertising: messaging that is technically accurate but designed to mislead. Legislation can only do so much. While the ideal behind truth-in-advertising rules may be consumer protection, often the reality is a kind of arms race wherein marketers respond to new rules with an escalation of circumventive ingenuity.

Not that all marketers play that way. Abundant products and services are sold in a forthright manner and perform as promised. But this isn’t an article about good advertising practices. It’s about the other kind, and what we can do about them.

As a marketer who happens to be a skeptic and to have been cursed with a conscience, I have encountered and declined my share of earning opportunities with said other kind.

There was, for instance, the video producer who wanted me to script a direct response TV commercial for a mineral which, when placed in a refrigerator, allegedly made food last longer. Intrigued, I asked if the product worked. “No,” he said, “but that’s what we’re claiming.” I sent him on his way.

There was the New Age enthusiast who alleged that her so-called subliminal CDs helped people quit smoking, lose weight, save relationships, succeed-succeed-succeed and, for all I know, make gravy without lumps. I explained that I could not advertise the CDs in good conscience. Telling her wasn’t easy, not just because she seemed to believe in her product and not just because my shop could have used the work. You see, she happened to be about my age, single and distractingly attractive. Damn.

There was the software that claims to but doesn’t predict stock prices. The dial-an-astrologer company. The not-for-profit organization whose mission is the disenfranchisement of all who are not white, middle-aged, male, straight, ultra-conservative and, of course, right-wing Christian. The weight-loss hypnotherapist. The company whose business model is a pyramid scheme with a token product to keep it legal. The neutraceuticals company whose products are neither nutritious nor ceutical. (OK, I made up “ceutical.” It should be a word.)

My favorite decline? Hermetically sealed belly-button lint. In fairness, this was not a flimflam product. After all, though I hadn’t verified whether it truly was harvested from belly-buttons, I could at least see that it was lint. The “inventor” fancied it a novelty product in the tradition of the Pet Rock. I declined helping her market it for two reasons. One, I believed it would not catch on, and she would lose her money. Bad enough. Two, she wanted me to share in the cost, meaning that I would lose my money. Even worse.

None of this is to imply that I am any sort of paragon. I have allowed myself to be duped, and have even duped myself, more than once.

Years ago, before I knew better, I helped market a complement of antioxidant products, trumpeting the manufacturer’s myriad bogus health claims which I had accepted at face value.

I once produced ads for a high-tech device in an established, legitimate category. Two years later, I learned that the manufacturer’s PhD-level engineers had lied to me about their device’s alleged technical superiority. In good faith, I had included their claims in the ads. I’m still mad.

And now I must come clean about the stock market software. It purported to predict prices by use of Technical Analysis, the silly process of imposing scientific-looking mumbo-jumbo on a stock’s past in hopes of revealing its future. The truth is, I didn’t exactly decline them. I resigned them. Prior to that, they had been my client. During that time, did I believe in Technical Analysis? Hell no. But I rationalized. I told myself that as long as I didn’t recruit new believers, it was OK to sell the software to existing ones. But the time came when I could no longer sell a product that didn’t -- couldn’t -- do as claimed, period. Worse, I realized that people who actually used the software risked more than the not insignificant purchase price. They risked gambling away everything they owned or had saved. So, I resigned the account. (When I later discovered skepticism, I was gratified to see that Technical Analysis had not escaped scrutiny and condemnation.)

I would love to tell you that by declining or resigning work, I have changed the world. Not so. The video producer found another writer, the CDs went to market, the Technical Analysis software is still selling, you can still dial an astrologer, the right-wing public policy group still opposes rights for anyone not created in its own image, the weight-loss hypnotherapist is making a great living, legal pyramid schemes are flourishing, and neutraceuticals are big. And, last I heard, the belly-button lint magnate-hopeful has yet to give up.

But at least I know I’m not helping. That’s something.

Meanwhile, I do what I can. I write articles decrying false and Clintonian advertising. To date, three respected marketing industry publications have run them. (They even paid for them. Doubly sweet.) These publishers deserve credit for their courage, as scolding one’s own readers and advertisers is at best a risky proposition.

But you needn’t be a columnist for a marketing journal to make a difference. Individuals wield more power over marketers than many people realize. This power resides largely in a secret weapon known as “the wallet.” Marketers engage in tactics to make money. When enough people quit giving them money, they must change tactics or go out of business. Consider that no legislature forced the Coca-Cola company to replace New Coke with Coke Classic. Good old-fashioned pressure from ordinary, wallet-wielding, impassioned people took care of that.

So when you observe an objectionable marketing tactic, I would suggest for starters avoiding rewarding the marketer. You do this by not buying the damned product.

To go one better, tell your friends you’re refusing to buy, and why. Post on Facebook. Start a Facebook group. Tweet. If you have a blog, blog. Marketers have great respect for The Power of Word of Mouth, as well they should. Generate enough public snark, and they will take note. And, on occasion, action.

If you like to write, research your case and then compose letters stating it well. Send them to editors. Letters that present a well-defended case stand a good chance of publication. While you’re at it, send them to the managers of publications, networks and stations that run the offending ads, as well as to the producers of programs the ads sponsor.

Emails are good and are gaining in power. But do not overlook the power of snail mail. Right or wrong, businesspeople tend to think you’re more serious -- and more statistically significant -- when you go to the trouble of signing a letter, placing it in an envelope, affixing a stamp, and dropping it in a mailbox.

You might also send a letter to the person ultimately responsible for creating the marketing in the first place. It’s a long shot, but who knows? Early in my career, I received an angry letter from a reader who had taken offense at an inadvertent stereotype in ad I’d approved. Theretofore oblivious, I saw the unintended slight the moment she pointed it out, pulled the ad, and sent her a letter of apology and thanks.

My glasses aren’t so rose-colored as for me to suggest, much less believe, that by these actions we will stop unsavory marketing practices cold. But let’s not sell short the cumulative power of individual efforts. Marketing history brims with cases where a tidal wave of individual efforts forced mighty companies to change course. An accumulation of individual efforts pushed Capitol Records to change the cover of a Beatles LP, McDonald’s to stop cooking fries in animal fat (the second time around, that is), Chrysler to stop resetting odometers to zero after test drives, Cadbury New Zealand to stop adding palm oil to milk chocolate, the Direct Marketing Association to create a Do-Not-Mail registry, food manufacturers to cut back on sugars, Apple to make good on iPhone antenna problems, and more. I might even go so far as to suggest that, in addition to efforts by the JREF and other organizations, the sheer volume of outcry from individuals has had much to do with the promise of libel reform in the UK.

Meanwhile, short of such dramatic results, there is something to be said for the satisfaction of knowing one is doing what one can.

The whole idea behind a market-driven economy is that the market does the driving. We are the market. Let’s retake the wheel.

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Thumbs up!
written by CasaRojo, November 28, 2010
A great read and it's nice to see someone in the marketing biz with scruples. Thanks!

It's difficult to fight against false advertisement I've found. Just one of a number of examples-- I saw a newspaper ad for a Ford F-150 for sale at a local dealership at a very attractive price. I drove to the dealership and asked to see that particular truck. They didn't have it in stock but had plenty more but nowhere near the advertised price. It was the old bait and switch routine. I complained and even went to the newspaper but nada, zip, nothing and I checked the ads for weeks after the newspaper rep told me they'd pull the ad. As far as I know that Ford dealership in Deland FL never had and never got that specific model F-150 at the advertised price. It was a battle I wasn't interested in pursuing. However, I didn't buy a vehicle there and probably never will. And now you guys are aware of it.
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written by mikemarsh, November 28, 2010
For bait-and-switch, a better thing to do would have been to contact the BBB/Chamber of Commerce and your state's AG. Bait-and-switch isn't just unethical, in most places it's criminal.
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Couches and TVs
written by Donovan from New England, November 28, 2010
I just got a mailer here from John Eye's Big Sandy's furniture. It advertises on the front of the flyer in huge bright letter that when you buy a leather sofa, you get a 46 inch HD flat-screen. The price was nice for just the couch, so I tossed the rest of the junk mail in the recycling and sat back to read the flyer. At the bottom of the add's front, not even really part of the couch/TV add itself, we the small print that one had to purchase the love-seat as well, for a good chunk of change more. I'm not going to lie. Even with the love-seat price, the trio was still a pretty sweet deal. Had the company made the entire disclosure in the big add, I wouldn't be telling this right now and would instead be kicked back on a leather sofa watching Monty Python. But I hate dirty tricks and stupid games. While this store often has nice deals and I've been eying a new washer from there with every intention on getting it for my wife for Christmas, they have just lost all of my business.
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Dude....
written by Caller X, November 28, 2010
Technical analysis is just one of many never-been-proved-invalid methods of predicting movement of stock prices (not the prices themselves). Is it possible that you mistook multi-level marketing for a pyramid scheme?
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written by Able, November 28, 2010
Good article but I swear, some people just insist on getting ripped off. My Mother in-law still uses Airborne because dispite knowing about the law suit she still believes their advertising. Oh, what really gets me is that many other ads that she is prone to fall for have such small fine print that she cant read it. Grrrrrrrrr
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written by noahgus, November 28, 2010
When I see this junk I always think how desparate the media guys are who sell that ad space. I mean can't they say no to anything? Thank you! I do believe one persons actions matter and hope other people are inspired to act responsibly.

I remember hearing a really sleezy ad for some investment scheme on a radio talk show. It seemed so shady that the host of the show actually said "you know before you invest money you really should do some research. Just because you heard it here, doesn't mean I would buy into it". Wow! I was so impressed that he took a stand. It's really hard for a talk show host to take that stand. They could be fired or reprimanded for losing advertisers. Bravo for the ones who have the guts to speak out.

Thank you, again.
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Speaking of which...
written by Steve Cuno, November 28, 2010
This recent coup orchestrated by Skepchick illustrates the power of a lot of us making noise. See http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/11/good-guys-win/
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written by shanek, November 29, 2010
And, you’ll read that the product “does not provide caloric energy.” Interesting, since the energy that runs bodies is measured in calories.


Maybe it gives you ergs instead? smilies/tongue.gif
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Ethics
written by peterwbarber, November 29, 2010
Ethics. Oh, Ethics. Wherefore art thou, oh, Ethics.
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@mikemarsh
written by CasaRojo, November 29, 2010
>>For bait-and-switch, a better thing to do would have been to contact the BBB/Chamber of Commerce and your state's AG. Bait-and-switch isn't just unethical, in most places it's criminal.
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dadgummit! I used the
written by CasaRojo, November 29, 2010
"For bait-and-switch, a better thing to do would have been to contact the BBB/Chamber of Commerce and your state's AG. Bait-and-switch isn't just unethical, in most places it's criminal."

Yeah, I know. Sometimes it helps and sometimes they're idiots. I've even contacted the Labor Board re Wendys labor practices (ultimately, there was a class action lawsuit and Wendys lost). I've found that no matter what, it's a process and often a pain in the arse. It can be exhausting for those of us who care and sometimes I get tired of fighting for people that aren't willing to fight for themselves. I picketed Wendys for a week by myself. I don't know if the employees were too dumb to know that they were being illegally taken advantage of or if they were too scared to do anything about it. Nevertheless, I felt that someone else ought to take up the fight with the Ford dealership as I saw it would be a big hassle. But that's one reason that I have such great respect for Mr. Randi. He's tireless in his crusade for reason. That's pretty amazing!

smilies/grin.gif
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For a Good Time
written by Caller X, November 29, 2010
written by peterwbarber, November 29, 2010
Ethics. Oh, Ethics. Wherefore art thou, oh, Ethics.



A good time, a teachable moment, to point out that a lot of people get that wrong. What you wrote translates as:

"Ethics. Oh, Ethics. How is it that you are oh Ethics." I have retained your punctuation and use of the vocative.
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Bad choice of your "own term"
written by Skeptigirl, November 29, 2010
I'm sure you'd anger someone regardless of the political side of the isle your nick name for misleading advertising belonged on. But "Clintonian advertising" seems an especially erroneous label given the incredibly pervasive tactics of misleading messages coming from the right wing at this time. Seems you are stuck on what the definition of 'is' is and what constitutes 'cheating' on one's spouse short of the 'missionary style'. Not only is that passe, Clinton's misleading statements were about covering up personal behavior. Big deal.

For the last decade (or longer) the conservatives and Republican Party from the top down have adopted PRIMARY campaign practices that are centered around deceiving. I don't make this charge lightly or because I'm a liberal. I make it because the pervasiveness of misleading propaganda in our political system is on par with the deceptive marketing you are writing about. And it is not equal on both sides, "both sides do it" is not a valid conclusion currently.

Deceptive marketing is hardly limited to fake products.
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written by lytrigian, November 29, 2010
On the F-150, bait-and-switch is probably the wrong label. Auto dealerships do this all the time: They have a very limited number of vehicles available at the advertised price -- but they gotta have 'em, and at least in California they're required to list the VINs in the ad to prove it. It's more in the nature of a loss-leader, a very old marketing technique. If you can prove they NEVER have that model truck in stock at the advertised price, your state's consumer protection agency will probably be very interested.

Last time I bought a car, the salesman told me how to make it more probable the loss-leaders are still available. At least locally, auto sales ads tend to run most often on Fridays, so as to attract buyers for the weekends, but the dealership is required to have the car available at that price as soon as it's so advertised. Therefore, if you show up as soon as the dealership opens on Friday morning, whatever specials they were advertising will LIKELY be there.

I said "likely" because when I did this, instead of the 2 advertised cars available there was just one. It seems that a salesman was desperate for a sale the evening before and let a car go for a sale price that technically wasn't offered until the next day. But I *did* get one. First thing Friday morning. Anyone who showed up afterward hoping for a brand new car at around $9k would have been disappointed.
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"own term" is appropriate
written by Able, November 29, 2010
Skeptigirl, I understand and endorse most of your views but even I don’t have a problem with the term Clintonian. I have heard it many times from Dems and Reps since his misleading statements on national TV. One of the better definitions of Clintonian is from the Urban dictionary “A Clintonian Statement typically skirts the issue or spins words”. I’m not saying he is a bad guy or even a bad president (I voted for him) but we have to face the fact that he very publicly twisted words around trying to deny his actions without appearing to lie. Because he got caught, a new word was created. Please don’t hit me smilies/smiley.gif
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Able, the words we use should not be careless. As critical thought promoters, we can't afford it.
written by Skeptigirl, November 29, 2010
If there was a not a current assault on the facts, on rational thinking, and on science being heavily promoted by the right, and a unthinking response by the mainstream news media claiming a false equivalency on the left, it would not be an issue to use the stereotype of Clinton's particular communication history.

But there is a current assault. Looking back, you may recall the incessant pursuit of Clinton by the right wing during his Presidency and for another year following it. Besides Clinton's explanations squirming to respond the the Lewinsky scandal, can you cite any other specific Clintonian speak as you believe you heard? Are you sure your stereotype of Clinton isn't the product of the very effective and extremely persistent campaign to malign him?

Have you heard of the phenomena that people remember the false campaign years later even when the campaign was discredited at the time it was new?

And even if it were true, using the term, "Clintonian advertising", feeds into the current lie beng promoted that there is some equivalency going on in the political realm of false advertising. We should not be promoting that false equivalency with careless use of our own word choices.

Media literacy is, IMO, one of the key issues for skeptics today. Critical thinking cannot be taught if we don't address media literacy. This Swift article is about one piece of that very important media literacy, revealing the magic tricks marketers use. It's amazing anyone needs these magic tricks revealed, but they do. College educated intelligent people need marketers' magic tricks revealed to them. They do not all realize how they are being manipulated.

But just as people need marketing magic tricks revealed to them, so do skeptics need the secret messages inherent in the very language and word choices the skeptic uses revealed to the skeptic. If you were aware that accurate or not, (and I would challenge the claim the Clinton stereotype is accurate), that using the term, Clintonian advertising, reinforced the media misrepresentation of a false equivalency (they all do it), would you still choose to use the term?
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written by Steel Rat, November 29, 2010
My opinion of marketers is similar to that of politicians. Anyone who wants to be one should by no means be allowed to do so.

Seriously, if you want to be a marketer, just shoot yourself in the head instead*. The world will be much better off.

*=Sarcasm. Shooting one's self in the head is not considered healthy.
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written by lytrigian, November 29, 2010
And even if it were true, using the term, "Clintonian advertising", feeds into the current lie beng promoted that there is some equivalency going on in the political realm of false advertising. We should not be promoting that false equivalency with careless use of our own word choices.

I think you would have a hard time convincing many people, myself included, that such an equivalency does not exist.

Are you saying that politicians don't lie? That they don't mislead? That they don't manipulate?
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Caller X
written by Kajabla61, November 29, 2010
Multilevel Marketing IS a pyramid scheme with a token product available to skirt the law. It still relies on recruitment in order to make the early joiners rich at the expense of the late joiners.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, November 30, 2010
"Clintonian Advertising" is an apt phrase for the person who once said "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Not to mention "But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. "

If a blowjob isn't "sexual relations", perhaps you'll let me know when you're in town, because I would definitely not want to have sexual relations with you.
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DM have you ever thought of talking to a doctor about your problems?
written by drxym, November 30, 2010
Seriously.
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Maybe more fuel to the fire, re: Clintonian
written by TlalocW, November 30, 2010
From what I understand, and it's been a while since I've read the Starr Report, Clinton didn't so much as weasel his way around the term, "sexual relations," but outfoxed the republicans by asking them to formally enter into the investigation (or whatever you want to call it), what their (republican) definition of it was. For whatever reason*, the republicans did not include oral sex as part of it so Clinton was - in a sneaky, lawerly way - correct in his statement.

* My guess would be since the loudest, "most moral" republicans going after him all turned out to be philanderers as well, they didn't want the definition to include oral sex either so as not to be hoist on their own collective petard. Gingrich, one of the loudest moral crusaders, is on record as saying the reason he liked to receive oral sex from the women he had affairs with is because he could then "honestly" say that he never slept with them.

TlalocW
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Clinton cheated on his wife, Bush started a questionable war: The problem with promoting false equivalencies
written by Skeptigirl, November 30, 2010
TialocW, in case you haven't heard, the Starr Report was a 54 million dollar right wing witch hunt that didn't find very much which really mattered to the vast majority of people in this country. And if you read my post you'd have seen I already noted what you felt needed repeating. I have not said "Clintonian advertising" was an outright error or lie. I said the Clinton stereotype might be the result, more of a smear campaign, than of the pervasive behavior the stereotype implies. We all know Clinton lied trying to cover up an affair including an absurd attempt to rationalize the lies. If it were not for the intense media repetition of everything stupid Clinton said regarding the Lewinsky affair, would you still be associating him with "Clintonian advertising" as it has been used here? Was it really a constant pervasive style of Clinton's? Where are the examples not related to the definition of "is" and the definition of "marriage infidelity"?

And why not call this Frank Luntzian framing, or how about Karl Rovian advertising? Those references really are about pervasive consistent misleading advertising used as a primary tactic by both men. Perhaps it's because the media has not repeated these men's modus operandi ad nauseum thereby marketing an image befitting them.


But that was not the point I was making. My point was the use of the term, Clintonian, accurate or not, contributes to the current very serious problem of purposeful dishonesty as a primary campaign tactic by the right, including being promoted by the top leadership of the Republican Party, and the current very serious problem of false equivalency blindly spewed out by the mainstream media.

Media Matters points out the problem which goes beyond the political message itself:
http://mediamatters.org/blog/201007260032
When the media blames both sides equally for a flaw that is significantly more prevalent in one side, that encourages the bad actors to continue doing what they’re doing: They get the benefit of lobbing false allegations, and they don’t get any more blame for it than their victims do. This is a form of privileging the lie.

It does something else, too: It gives the people who aren’t bad actors incentive to become bad actors. If you’re getting equal blame for your counterpart’s dishonest behavior, anyway, you might decide -- consciously or not -- that it’s time to level the playing field by spreading some lies yourself.



If I put too many links here, the post will need to be reviewed. These sources can easily be found by Googling the titles in "".

Michael Tomasky of the Guardian (UK - Jan 2010) said it quite well: "Can you play False Equivalency!?"
And no, people, I'm not saying liberals never do anything bad. I am saying (read slowly now): this. is. a. constant. habit. of. conservatives. in. a. way. it. is. not. quite. with. liberals.


The WA Post, Jul, 2010: "Do 'both sides' really do what Breitbart does?"

Politico, Nov, 2010: "Maddow: Olbermann suspension lays “false equivalencies” to rest"

Crooks and Liars, Mar, 2010: "Kelly O'Donnell Keeps Furthering Right Wing Media Meme That Massa Identical To Foley"


When we use this particular term, Clintonian advertising, accurate or not, it inadvertently feeds into the very media illiteracy which the OP would like to end.
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written by Able, November 30, 2010
Skeptigirl As normal I agree with most of what you are saying but If you or I got caught mincing words the way Clinton did it wouldn’t make the papers. However, he was president. When you have people in other countries using the phrase “pulled a Clinton” (I even heard it from Chinese students) than its not going to go away.
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You are missing the forest for the trees, Able.
written by Skeptigirl, November 30, 2010
The issue is not accuracy or validity. The issue is inadvertently contributing to uncritical thinking.
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Point taken Skeptigirl
written by Able, November 30, 2010
You are correct. I was skirting the point. Even the great mesmilies/cheesy.gif can be guilty of uncritical thinking.
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Big Business Marketing and Reason are Enemies
written by Michael Dawson, November 30, 2010
Despite his self-declared conscience, Mr. Cuno is engaging in special pleading. Corporate marketing is deeply and profoundly dishonest and irrational. Take a look at any serious account of what goes on behind the scenes. It is a world of Pavlovian conditioning and constant searching for subconscious "buttons" to push.

One might also ask what our corporate capitalist economy has to do with markets, if by "markets" we mean the classical unrestrained competition described by Adam Smith. The first premise of such a "market system" is price competition. Nobody hates price competition more than major corporations. Indeed, that's why they were formed in the first place.

Marketing is the studied management of people's off-the-job perceptions and behaviors, for the purpose of bringing them into compliance with corporate bottom lines. The means employed are secrecy, mis-information, and operant conditioning. The costs are added into the sales prices of the products so promoted. This applies not just to 5 Hour Energy and other naked scams, but to virtually every big business product.

Need one also remark that, in America, television and the other mass media are almost completely funded through big business marketing?

I know the JREF insists that capitalism is a form of reason rather than a form of class coercion.

If you are interested in skepticism rather than mysticism, however, Mr. Cuno's attempts to convince himself it's otherwise don't hold much water. Take a look for yourself.
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Origin of “Clintonian” with regard to subterfuge
written by Steve Cuno, November 30, 2010
Attuned as I am to subtlety, I gather that some of you take umbrage at my use of “Clintonian advertising: messaging that is technically accurate but designed to mislead.” Alas, I derived the expression from President Clinton himself, who publicly characterized his own statements as “misleading” but “literally true.” Any who wish to make more of it than that or to continue taking umbrage, by all means, have at it.
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written by wardenclyffe, November 30, 2010
While Cuno's defense of his "own term" might be technically accurate and designed not to mislead, it has certainly misled this thread onto a derail. While the choice was clear, artistic and accurate, it was also political (whether intentionally so or not). That tiny piece of a larger, more important message has managed to overshadow the whole thing. It's unfortunate, but not surprising. Something we probably should all remember as we try to not muddle our points with unnecessary distractions.
Just sayin',

Ward
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@TlalocW
written by Caller X, November 30, 2010
written by TlalocW, November 30, 2010
From what I understand, and it's been a while since I've read the Starr Report, Clinton didn't so much as weasel his way around the term, "sexual relations," but outfoxed the republicans by asking them to formally enter into the investigation (or whatever you want to call it), what their (republican) definition of it was. For whatever reason*, the republicans did not include oral sex as part of it so Clinton was - in a sneaky, lawerly way - correct in his statement.


I wasn't talking about the time he committed perjury, I was talking about the time when during a televised address to the American people he said "But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
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I am convinced, However----
written by Able, November 30, 2010
Ok. I finally had to admit that using the term Clintonian might have been slightly out of line but only because the swift article could have used other terms to describe the idea without offending some individuals thus not dissuading people from listening to the real point of the article.

As you may know, I did vote for Clinton twice not because I am a Dem but because I believed he was the best choice at the time. However, I firmly believe everybody should be an Independent.

With that said, I still have two main reasons to not object to the term. One is my frequent dealings with people from other countries (some communist). As I mentioned before, some still routinely refer to misleading statements as "trying to pull a Clinton". I blame Mr. Clinton for my embarrassment.

My second reason is more personal. Because I really like Mr. Clinton I actually yelled at my TV when I heard him saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". I was yelling "don't deny it!". "Just say you refuse to talk about it!". If he had refused to talk about it instead of trying to twist the definition of sex to suit his needs he wouldn't have wound up with world snickering and his name forever linked to twisting the truth.

To this day, if you go to any city in the US, you will still be arrested if you ask an undercover cop for a blow job. Just because Mr. Clinton tried to evade the truth with misleading words, oral sex is still sex in all 50 States and most countries.

Bottom line is yes, the term shouldn't have been used because it offended some people thus immediately taking away from the gist of the article. But, it doesn't bother me.
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@Michael Dawson
written by Caller X, November 30, 2010

written by Michael Dawson, November 30, 2010
Despite his self-declared conscience, Mr. Cuno is engaging in special pleading. Corporate marketing is deeply and profoundly dishonest and irrational. Take a look at any serious account of what goes on behind the scenes. It is a world of Pavlovian conditioning and constant searching for subconscious "buttons" to push.


Additionally, they're out to get you.

One might also ask what our corporate capitalist economy has to do with markets, if by "markets" we mean the classical unrestrained competition described by Adam Smith. The first premise of such a "market system" is price competition. Nobody hates price competition more than major corporations. Indeed, that's why they were formed in the first place.


That certainly explains Walmart, certainly a "major corporation". What orifice did you pull that out of?

Marketing is the studied management of people's off-the-job perceptions and behaviors, for the purpose of bringing them into compliance with corporate bottom lines. The means employed are secrecy, mis-information, and operant conditioning. The costs are added into the sales prices of the products so promoted. This applies not just to 5 Hour Energy and other naked scams, but to virtually every big business product.

Need one also remark that, in America, television and the other mass media are almost completely funded through big business marketing?


This is the kind of stuff that wows the college girls at the anti-globalism demonstrations. I bet you pull in poon like there's no tomorrow.

I know the JREF insists that capitalism is a form of reason rather than a form of class coercion.


See above.

If you are interested in skepticism rather than mysticism, however, Mr. Cuno's attempts to convince himself it's otherwise don't hold much water. Take a look for yourself.


What the hell does that mean, "If you are interested in skepticism rather than mysticism"?
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Check your politics at the door and look at the actual issue here. It's not about dissing Clinton.
written by Skeptigirl, November 30, 2010
Able:
Bottom line is yes, the term shouldn't have been used because it offended some people thus immediately taking away from the gist of the article.

Steve Cuno:
Any who wish to make more of it than that or to continue taking umbrage, by all means, have at it.

Wardenclyffe:
While Cuno's defense of his "own term" might be technically accurate and designed not to mislead, it has certainly misled this thread onto a derail. While the choice was clear, artistic and accurate, it was also political (whether intentionally so or not).


All the discussion is about the validity of the term, 'Clintonian advertising,' and the distraction of the politics from the important topic in the article.

Not one word about the problem I cared about, that using this term promotes false equivalency at a time when dishonest political propaganda has reached a serious level in the US on the right, and the media, instead of addressing the increasingly dishonest propaganda, feels the need to give equal criticism to "both sides".

Once again some skeptics can't see through their blind spots. If politics are involved, then check the skeptics' issues at the door.

I'd like to ask people to check their politics at the door, not your dedication to skepticism. Whatever side of the political isle you perceive yourself to be on, you should be concerned about the degree and kind of manipulation of public opinion that is going on. And it ties into this particular subject for this very reason:

Steve Cuno:
As a marketer who happens to be a skeptic and to have been cursed with a conscience, I have encountered and declined my share of earning opportunities with said other kind....Meanwhile, short of such dramatic results, there is something to be said for the satisfaction of knowing one is doing what one can.
If you address one kind of false advertising and don't notice you are contributing to another, where does that leave you?
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written by wardenclyffe, November 30, 2010
Skeptigirl:
Not one word about the problem I cared about, that using this term promotes false equivalency at a time when dishonest political propaganda has reached a serious level in the US on the right, and the media, instead of addressing the increasingly dishonest propaganda, feels the need to give equal criticism to "both sides".


Whether it's a complaint about specific politics or about false equivalency, my point was that the term was destined to derail the commentary and distract from the original point. While this gets Steve Cuno's piece a lot of action, I think it ultimately does a long-term disservice to the piece. I think it's an object lesson for us all.

Ward
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@skeptigirl
written by Caller X, November 30, 2010
Not one word about the problem I cared about,


I experienced something similar. I had the dickens of a time finding something I wanted to watch on TV.

that using this term promotes false equivalency at a time when dishonest political propaganda has reached a serious level in the US on the right


Gosh, I think we're lucky it's only on the right!


I'd like to ask people to check their politics at the door


After you. It's okay, I'll wait.
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Who’s fault is it really!
written by Able, December 01, 2010
my point was that the term was destined to derail the commentary and distract from the original point

Ummm, you have to remember. Prior to your comments, nobody had raised an eyebrow concerning his use of the Clintonian term. So your complaint of
destined to derail the commentary and distract from the original point
does not hold much water to me because you appeared to be the original derailleur (hey! That’s a word you don’t use everyday, if its actually a word)smilies/cheesy.gif.

I could be wrong but it seems like your bias was the reason for the article getting sidetracked, not ours.
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Caller X
written by Michael Dawson, December 01, 2010
Do you have a point, other than displaying your profound ignorance and disregard for facts?

It is boilerplate, unarguable history that the modern, conglomerate corporate organization was legalized in the late 1800s as a conscious means for reducing price competition. You could look that up, if you bothered to think: William Nelson Cromwell and his clients. The New Jersey Corporation Law of 1888. Etc., etc. But, then, you aren't interested, are you?

Meanwhile, your thoughtless, rote insults are amply showing how wrong are JREF's continuing excuses for capitalism.
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Missed the point even when it was carefully spelled out.
written by Skeptigirl, December 01, 2010
wardenclyffe:
Whether it's a complaint about specific politics or about false equivalency, my point was that the term was destined to derail the commentary and distract from the original point.


Check the politics, consider the issue I bring up is closely related to the article. Here's what Steve wrote that makes this related:
Not that all marketers play that way. Abundant products and services are sold in a forthright manner and perform as promised. But this isn’t an article about good advertising practices. It’s about the other kind, and what we can do about them.
As a marketer who happens to be a skeptic and to have been cursed with a conscience, I have encountered and declined my share of earning opportunities with said other kind....
...But at least I know I’m not helping. That’s something.
Meanwhile, I do what I can. I write articles decrying false and Clintonian [misleading] advertising....
...But you needn’t be a columnist for a marketing journal to make a difference. Individuals wield more power over marketers than many people realize.
...To go one better, tell your friends you’re refusing to buy, and why....
...You might also send a letter to the person ultimately responsible for creating the marketing in the first place....
... But let’s not sell short the cumulative power of individual efforts. ...
...Meanwhile, short of such dramatic results, there is something to be said for the satisfaction of knowing one is doing what one can....
The whole gist of the article is saying speak up when you see something that amounts to misleading advertising. An individual can accomplish something by speaking up. The only thing that is not related is that the article speaks only of monetary profit. Political gain is also a goal of marketing and is also motive for seriously misleading advertising.


Steve Cuno:
Meanwhile, I do what I can. I write articles decrying false and Clintonian advertising. To date, three respected marketing industry publications have run them. (They even paid for them. Doubly sweet.) These publishers deserve credit for their courage, as scolding one’s own readers and advertisers is at best a risky proposition.
If you used the term, Clintonian advertising, in these articles, like you did here, you've contributed to the spread of the term and added fuel for the false equivalency falsehood. This is not about left vs right politics. It's not about dissing Clinton. It's not about the validity of the term you say is your "own term".

Your use of this term adds to the current false equivalency falsehood. Put your term away and should the current level of overtly purposefully deceptive political propaganda ever subside, you can bring your term back out. You'll know it has subsided when Fox News goes off the air, Beck, O'Keefe, John Funt, and Breitbart are faded memories, Karl Rove and Frank Luntz retire, and the Republican Party leadership suffers real consequences, not a wrist slap, for caging practices that disenfranchise large voter blocks.
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@Michael Dawson
written by Caller X, December 01, 2010
Caller X
written by Michael Dawson, December 01, 2010
Do you have a point, other than displaying your profound ignorance and disregard for facts?


Pretty much just mocking yours.

It is boilerplate, unarguable history that the modern, conglomerate corporate organization was legalized in the late 1800s as a conscious means for reducing price competition. You could look that up, if you bothered to think: William Nelson Cromwell and his clients. The New Jersey Corporation Law of 1888. Etc., etc. But, then, you aren't interested, are you?


No, why should I be? I learned about this in high school, so it's not likely that you'll be educating me anytime soon. Save that for the college age pelt at the next anti-globalization protest. It'll wow'em. I like the current system. That computer you used to post your message? Made by a corporation. And they keep getting cheaper.

Meanwhile, your thoughtless, rote insults are amply showing how wrong are JREF's continuing excuses for capitalism.


That's an impressive leak of logic. You went from A to B to complete nonsense in one sentence. Is it any wonder that I mock you?

I just reread my earlier post to you and there's nothing thoughtless, rote (do you know what the word means?), or insulting in it. Maybe you need to get over yourself.
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Well, anyway.
written by lytrigian, December 01, 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKPLHLVZtD0

Sketch starts 0:52 in.
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We all need marketers. Accept it.
written by Autahskeptic, December 01, 2010
Couple of things. 1 I'm entertained about the number of people who have chosen to take offense by Mr Cuno's use of the word "Clintonian." Y'all accuse him of derailing his own point? Come on. No matter what side of the political fence your on, we all know president Clinton lied and defamed a young woman. Not cool, and immoral. No, Mr Cuno did not derail his whole point. The people who chose to take offense, the same posters who find something to blast on every thread derailed this insightful blog.
2 In reading through most of Mr Cunos blog posts I see many posts along the lines of "all marketers are bad" "all marketers should die, or shoot themselves." This is insane, and pure stupidity. Sure, there are dishonest marketers out there and Kudos to Mr Cuno for stepping up against his own kind. But you all need to realize that every one of you rely on marketing. Why? Because every dollar you earn was the result of a product or service sold. Every sale starts with a product, then some sort of marketing has to be involved before a customer becomes aware of it. If any of you manage to get a paycheck without some sort of financial transaction involved, please speak up.
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Autahskeptic, your reading skills leave a lot to be desired.
written by Skeptigirl, December 02, 2010
I'm the only one complaining about the Clintonian term (I think) and I am NOT OFFENDED by the term.
It's been said numerous times, the VALIDITY of the term is NOT the issue.
I did not say Cuno DERAILED his whole point.
And Cuno made a point of noting there are MANY HONEST advertisers.

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Continuing the above..
written by Skeptigirl, December 02, 2010
I can't find the posts you refer to of which you claim:
many posts along the lines of "all marketers are bad" "all marketers should die, or shoot themselves."
The only posts referring to "all marketers" are your's and Cuno's, and Cuno's references are preceded by NOT as in not all marketers....

A number of posts cite anecdotes of specific instances of unethical marketing. They don't refer to "all marketers" that I can see.


But you all need to realize that every one of you rely on marketing. Why? Because every dollar you earn was the result of a product or service sold. Every sale starts with a product, then some sort of marketing has to be involved before a customer becomes aware of it. If any of you manage to get a paycheck without some sort of financial transaction involved, please speak up.
It would appear you are the one over-generalizing here.
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written by Autahskeptic, December 02, 2010
Skeppy girl. I'm flattered that think my arguements were directed to you personally. Since you like to argue just to argue, I will argue because I think it's funny. Please note I said "along the lines," that was to save myself the time of actually having to search out specific quotes. In general there are a lot of complaints about marketers that are unfounded.
Please, skeppy, enlighten me on what line of work you do that has no marketing involved...
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B Vitamins and Metabolism
written by sosiosh, December 02, 2010
While I agree that most of 5 Hour Energy's implicit claims are unsupported, and many are likely unsupportable, I seem to recall that B Vitamins, which are present in noticeable amounts in almost all "energy" drinks, do have an impact on metabolism of carbohydrates, including those that are >already within the body< at the time they are taken. So, even though 5 Hour Energy may not provide any additional energy potential to a person in the form of calories, there's a strong likelihood (if I am right about B vitamins) that it can help that person's body use stored carbs more efficiently or more quickly. That would be experienced by that person as "more energy" for the period of time that the metabolic effects of the increased B vitamins are felt.

I bet the general public has a pretty hard time understanding any of the biology involved, and I think I know very little myself. So, if the way this stuff works is too hard to explain to the people that might benefit, does that mean it shouldn't be marketed in easier-to-understand, although not wholly accurate, terms?

Is there a skeptical nutritionist in the hizzy?
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Still not reading carefully there, Autahskeptic
written by Skeptigirl, December 02, 2010
Autah wrote:
Skeppy girl. I'm flattered that think my arguements were directed to you personally. Since you like to argue just to argue, I will argue because I think it's funny. Please note I said "along the lines," that was to save myself the time of actually having to search out specific quotes. In general there are a lot of complaints about marketers that are unfounded.
Please, skeppy, enlighten me on what line of work you do that has no marketing involved...
Where do you see anything I wrote that implied I thought you were replying to me personally?

I don't see any posts that were "along the lines" of the comments you made. Are you perhaps reading imaginary comments? Can you point to even a single post that is "along the lines" you say?

As for the unfounded complaints about marketers, I only see complaints supported by specific examples and a lot of comments to the effect not all marketers are unethical.

I don't do much marketing for my business. I invested in a mailing list and brochures advertising the business 20 years ago. But I got so much work right away by word of mouth that I never mailed the brochures. I still have the brochures, the mailing list labels and the unused bulk mail stamps in a box in storage.

My own view here is one cannot control the dishonesty of SOME marketers. In an ideal world, misleading and dishonest advertising would not be allowed. But since we don't live in an ideal world, the next best thing is to teach media literacy to the public instead, to immunize them against the tactics used to mislead.

Advertising/marketing of course, has some usefulness. But it also has the ability to completely distort the efficiency of free market forces. We can't have an efficient free market if the competition is more about the best persuasion marketing tactics and less about the merits of the best products.

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written by Autahskeptic, December 02, 2010
I'm really confused, Skeppy. For argument sake, what do we disagree on? Your line of work, like all others, requires some sort of marketing. Second we both agree marketing is important but should be used responsibly. Now that I think about it, that's exactly what Mr Cuno's swift blog was all about. This is why I'm so confused. What in the heck in tarnation are you upset about?
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The error in your assumptions, sosiosh
written by Skeptigirl, December 02, 2010
Sosiosh wrote:
B Vitamins, which are present in noticeable amounts in almost all "energy" drinks, do have an impact on metabolism of carbohydrates, including those that are >already within the body< at the time they are taken. So, even though 5 Hour Energy may not provide any additional energy potential to a person in the form of calories, there's a strong likelihood (if I am right about B vitamins) that it can help that person's body use stored carbs more efficiently or more quickly.
The fact B vitamins are involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose does not mean more B vitamins will result in more carbohydrate breakdown or more glucose use. This is a common misconception people have reading various medical studies. There are many complex factors involved in all human physiology. But you cannot just add more ingredient [x] into the mix and expect to get more of what ingredient [x] is involved in the production of.

Our physiology is not the product of simply putting ingredients together and watching the reaction like one maybe saw playing with the chemicals in one's childhood chemistry set. Rather, we have incredibly complex physiology that consists of many gas pedals and many brakes. More B vitamins, when you already have a sufficient source of B vitamins are not going to stimulate the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into glucose and even if it did, there are other aspects of your physiology which control whether or not the body uses that glucose or stores it in fat cells. Unless you have a serious deficiency in B vitamins, it is unlikely taking excess vitamin B will have any effect at all except to stimulate your body to simply get rid of the excess.

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written by Skeptigirl, December 03, 2010
written by Autahskeptic, December 02, 2010
I'm really confused, Skeppy. ... What in the heck in tarnation are you upset about?
I'm not upset. I pointed out the false claims you made in your post. You have yet to demonstrate your claims were not false by, at a minimum, citing the posts you were referring to when you made your false generalizations. You should start there.
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written by Autahskeptic, December 03, 2010
"My opinion of marketers is similar to that of politicians. Anyone who wants to be one should by no means be allowed to do so.

Seriously, if you want to be a marketer, just shoot yourself in the head instead*. The world will be much better off.

*=Sarcasm. Shooting one's self in the head is not considered healthy."

As I said before, I was generalizing. If you want to pick at every detail, keep doing so because antagonizing you has become my new entertainment. This I know, makes me immature. I've been having fun poking fun at you and exposing that you agree with Mr Cuno on every level. However, you have a tendency to try to "one up" the author whenever you can, but your arguments never make sense. You just like the sight of your own words. You are a good writer, I'll give you that. But, if your words were as meaningful as you like to pretend...well let's just say there's a good reason you haven't been commissioned to write a blog on Swift. Neener, neener, neener.
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written by Autahskeptic, December 03, 2010
I would like to point out one last thing. Mr Cuno is not to blame for turning this into a political debate. I'm not sure how anyone can tell which party he belongs to from his blog. There's a lot of "seeing" things that are not present.
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@Autahskeptic
written by Steel Rat, December 03, 2010
You might want to quote the person you're actually speaking to.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, December 03, 2010


written by Autahskeptic, December 02, 2010
I'm really confused, Skeppy. ... What in the heck in tarnation are you upset about?

I'm not upset. I pointed out the false claims you made in your post. You have yet to demonstrate your claims were not false by, at a minimum, citing the posts you were referring to when you made your false generalizations. You should start there.


Wait a gosh darned minute right there little lady. Take a seat. You're asking this varmint to demonstrate his claims were not false by talking about his false claims? You're talking nonsense. My diagnosis? Hysteria. A soothing massage will set you right.

Not one word about the problem I cared about


That is the crux of the problem. You are the derailer.

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As Steel Rat notes,
written by Skeptigirl, December 04, 2010
Autahskeptic, you have amplified a single post into "many posts" in your mind.

I will add, it would also seem your imagination has allowed you to confuse a discussion on political marketing with a debate about politics. It suggests you might approve of dishonest marketing if you have some gain to be had should the dishonest marketing be successful.
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written by Steel Rat, December 04, 2010
Sorry Skeptigirl, but your very first post in this thread was entirely political and had very little to do with marketing.
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@skeppy girl
written by Autahskeptic, December 04, 2010
written by Autahskeptic, December 02, 2010
I'm really confused, Skeppy. ... What in the heck in tarnation are you upset about?

I'm not upset. I pointed out the false claims you made in your post. You have yet to demonstrate your claims were not false by, at a minimum, citing the posts you were referring to when you made your false generalizations. You should start there.


Skeppy, I couldn't care less why you're upset with me. I want to know what the heck you're upset about in Mr. Cuno's blog. Your first post attacked his article because of the use of his word "clintonian" and the intentions he had using that word." Then later on you defend yourself by summarizing the entire article. My question is, what the heck is your point, and what is your beef with the article?

It suggests you might approve of dishonest marketing if you have some gain to be had should the dishonest marketing be successful.


Huh?
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@skeppy girl
written by Autahskeptic, December 04, 2010
Skeppy, it would seem that your imagination has allowed you to assume that anyone who hints that President Clinton made a poor choice, is aiding the right's propaganda. It suggests you might approve of cheating on one's wife, as long as the act is only oral and you would gain if said act should not be successful in producing offspring.
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Like I said, skeptics can't see much through any political haze.
written by Skeptigirl, December 04, 2010
written by Steel Rat, December 04, 2010
Sorry Skeptigirl, but your very first post in this thread was entirely political and had very little to do with marketing.
Obviously people are welcome to their own conclusions, but my comments have all been about marketing. However, I don't expect everyone to be able to see that. Natural brain filters will prevent the people who are unable to see through their own filters from separating the marketing from the politics.
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@skeppy
written by Autahskeptic, December 04, 2010
written by Skeptigirl, November 29, 2010
I'm sure you'd anger someone regardless of the political side of the isle your nick name for misleading advertising belonged on. But "Clintonian advertising" seems an especially erroneous label given the incredibly pervasive tactics of misleading messages coming from the right wing at this time. Seems you are stuck on what the definition of 'is' is and what constitutes 'cheating' on one's spouse short of the 'missionary style'. Not only is that passe, Clinton's misleading statements were about covering up personal behavior. Big deal.

For the last decade (or longer) the conservatives and Republican Party from the top down have adopted PRIMARY campaign practices that are centered around deceiving. I don't make this charge lightly or because I'm a liberal. I make it because the pervasiveness of misleading propaganda in our political system is on par with the deceptive marketing you are writing about. And it is not equal on both sides, "both sides do it" is not a valid conclusion currently.

Deceptive marketing is hardly limited to fake products.

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@skeppy
written by Autahskeptic, December 04, 2010
Not only was the above quote political, it was the first political post...
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If anyone else has any comments...
written by Skeptigirl, December 04, 2010
I doubt I can say anything which would help Autahskeptic take a more objective look at this thread. And I think anyone who has had exchanges with Caller X knows that discussion isn't likely going anywhere.

I stand by what I've already said. The term Clintonian has some truth to it. I question whether the focus in the media on the Lewinsky affair reflects a true picture of Clinton's use of misleading statements, but I don't know the outcome if we were to take a closer look.

OTOH, it is a moot point because the issue is the fact that using the term, Clintonian advertising, at this time in history, inadvertently reinforces the false equivalency the mainstream media has implied regarding the extreme use of deceptive political marketing by the right wing.

Without fabricating a false equivalency, there are few ways to address the extreme use of deceptive marketing by the right wing in some politically neutral way. But for anyone who applies some objectivity here, the success of the deceptive marketing of such things as right wing talking points should be disconcerting at a minimum.

We can teach critical thinking without suggesting people reach specific conclusions. I don't care whether people are conservative, liberal, progressive or middle of the road. I believe if people can see when they are being conned, there is not as much daylight between our positions as one would think. Yes, there are big differences on some social issues. But if you recognize your social position is beng manipulated to get you to vote a certain way, that's a healthy thing whether that social issue is conservative or progressive. The same is true for economic and other political positions. The better people are with their critical thinking skills, the wiser decisions ALL voters make.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, December 04, 2010
I don't care whether people are conservative, liberal, progressive or middle of the road. I believe if people can see when they are being conned,


So you can see that you're being conned? How about citing an example or two?

there is not as much daylight between our positions as one would think. Yes, there are big differences on some social issues. But if you recognize your social position is beng manipulated to get you to vote a certain way, that's a healthy thing whether that social issue is conservative or progressive.


But I want to say one thing to the JREF community. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I look forward to not having sexual relations with that woman, Skeptigirl. "
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written by Steel Rat, December 05, 2010
Back to marketing/advertising...

Most hair care products (shampoos/conditioners) claim to make your hair "healthy". As far as I know, hair is dead tissue. No amount of vitamins or cell therapy applied to the hair is going to make it healthy. Maybe there is some topical application that can penetrate down into the follicle where the growing occurs, but any result would take a long time to be evident.

Some advertisers use the weasel words "healthy-looking hair". They're still trying to con you into thinking hair can be made healthy by washing it with something.
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Healthy Hair?
written by sosiosh, December 06, 2010
The average consumer of shampoo probably doesn't care about technicalities like whether their hair is living or not. People that care about their hair and how it affects their appearance want hair that makes them look healthier, which means shiny and thick, and not frizzy and full of split ends. Sure it's illusion, but illusion is about as real as this healthy hair magic gets. Marketers are appealing to and speaking to those people, and I think that's fine, even if they are not using the word "healthy" in a way that an uptight grammarian like myself thinks is technically correct. smilies/tongue.gif
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written by SashaNichole, December 06, 2010
Great article! smilies/smiley.gif
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