Advertising Absurdity

Updated 2005-04-09 (At long last!)
The photographs shown here are original, unaltered photographs taken in generally public places. All comments are strictly the personal opinion of the photographer. No photographs or comments are misleading, or known to be false.


Copy of Publication C7664 PC3220 4/03 - 2003-12-12

Copy of Publication C30079 NA Dir Promo Bro 10/03 - 2003-12-12


I'm shopping for a PC-card for wireless internet access, and when I visit this Verizon Wireless store in the Boston area. I picked-up their literature and am excited to see that from the literature obtained there, that I would be able to use their products and services with my Macintosh-OS PC laptop.

The new G4 Powerbook has a PC card, as required by this device, and they even have a photograph if the product being used in a Powerbook.


Apparently this is a boldfaced lie, as my further research reveals that this product is actually NOT compatible with the Macintosh OS. Why they indicate otherwise and why all three of the PC Card products they sell are apparently similarly flawed, I would like to know.

If I am wrong about any of this, I hope someone at Verizon Wireless will let us know!


Fine Print Department

Listen At Your Own Risk *

Kia Motors Commercial - 2003-07
*** Verbal Vomit Award ***

This is part of a 60-second radio commercial I get to hear several times a day on the weekends. About 30 seconds into the spot, there's the usual ten seconds of an announcer's voice reading what sounds like the legal wrap-up that always follows car commercials.

But that's far from the end. Just listen to this full 20 seconds of legal disclaimer that some committee of attorneys felt just had to be included.

It's an affront to the ear, and actually makes me feel sick to my stomach, as the barely intelligible words come forth in a steady, unrelenting stream not unlike projectile puke.

This is almost as ridiculous as the tiny print on television ads that even if it were on the screen long enough, is often too small to read.

There must be a better way for advertisers to inform the public that what they just heard was only the carrot part of the offer, and that a (sometimes awesome) stick lurks in the details.

* Used without permission, for documentary purposes

American Airlines MBTA Bus Advertisement - 2003-07-10

Note the VERY fine print.

As I wrote to American Airlines, I feel it is unfair to say a customer can fly for $61, when they actually paid $122.

After all, you would never see a grocery store advertise cans of soda for fifty cents apiece when you have to buy them in a six-pack.


MBTA Subway Advertisement - 2002-09-20

I think I know what this is advertising.

But since I don't watch that show, I'm not sure. It would be helpful if the advertiser mentioned their product in the ad, huh?


"Before" Ad - 2002-05

"After" Ad - 2002-05


Do unsightly power lines bother you?

Call these folks to get rid of 'em!


Ad - 2002-05

False advertising.

Someday I'll tell you about the freaky talking moose head at the Detroit airport.



Fortune Cookie Ad - 2002-05

Keep your stinkin' advertisements OUTTA my fortune cookies!!!


Duncan Hines Coupon Ad - 2002-05

Visually... strange.


OfficeMax, Arsenal St., Brighton, MA - 2002-04-17

Good news / bad news coupon.

The good news: It never expires.

The bad news: Well, you figure it out.



OfficeMax, Arsenal St., Brighton, MA - 2002-04-17

"Built." The word is BUILT!



Storefront, Cambridgeside Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2002-03-28

Wow! Really? Eight issues without ANY entertainment whatsoever every week?


Newspaper Insert Advertisement, 2001-11-03


"Hi-Tech Windows Are Under Ice And Snow 4 Months A Year And Still Perform With Maximum Efficiency." No kidding. Did you know that snow--especially a 12-foot drift--is a good insulator? The Alaskan Innuit know that. Mountaineers know that.

"Who Can Say The Same?" Just any other window manufacturer that advocates letting snow accumulate up the wall of a building. Just wait for the thaw: I hope this structure is waterproof!

And about that ubiquitous "As seen On TV" notice... as if seeing something on television validated it. Quite the opposite, I find sometimes. Hucksters are sometimes too smooth, overselling their miracle product on infomercials so I'm loathe to find out the hard way why a product seems too good to be true.

I called the nearest Hi-Tech office to ask them if their definition of "efficiency" referred to their product's heat insulation properties. Nobody in sales was available, so I called their toll-free number, expecting to reach headquarters or main sales office. Nope. I was routed to the same office that answered the phone thirty seconds earlier, without realizing it. I felt really stupid.


Miller Lite Sign, Bar, Church St., Toronto, Canada, 2001-08-29

I hate that frozen concentrated beer that you have to thaw and then mix with water. I prefer "ready to drink" beer*, where you can get it.


* "Lite" Beer is not beer!!!


Restaurant, Central Square, Cambridge, MA, 1994

Restaurant, Central Square, Cambridge, MA, 2001-04-09

Restaurant, Boylston St., Boston, MA, 2001-09-13

Restaurant, Brookline, MA, 2001-07-26


You know... there oughtta be some kind of rule that after five years, you have to remove the "Best of Boston" award from your restaurant window. Chances are a lot has changed at this restaurant between 1987 and 1994, and they may or may not be as good -- or better -- than they were then. Is the sign still there in 2003? Go take a look for yourself!

Update 2001-01-11: After several years and several attempts to obtain an answer to this question, a representative from Boston Magazine finally responded to my query. Apparently there is such a policy. Award winners are urged to remove the certificate from display after five years, and must always indicate the year in which they were awarded. Nonetheless, this guideline isn't enforced too vigorously.


Pick-up Truck, Boston - 2000-09-07

I only saw the back of this truck, so I have no idea what company "Federated" is or what this company does.

"Federated" is a pretty generic name, isn't it?

And what exactly does "Federated" mean, anyway in this context?

Boston Area Phone Book Coupon Ad - 2000-08-24


This coupon was printed in a non-classified or categorized section.

(And, for those of you not familiar with Eastern Massachusetts, Brookline, Allston and Brighton are nowhere near the South Shore, where this "Local Family Business" claims to have been serving since 1960).

You are the missing link. -- Good-bye!

"Boston's Internet City"
176 Lincoln St., Brighton, MA - 2001-07-21
Cabot, Cabot & Forbes & Meredith & Grew;
Elkus/Manfredi, Architects, Ltd.

Sure looks like a lovely place to lease for your high-tech business.

Back in 2001, I received a solicitation in the mail regarding the construction of this new high-tech dot-com facility in Brighton. They touted its excellent location, proximity to a main power station and to the main high speed communications trunk.

Except... At least for now, it's just a facade (façade) - literally.

That was before the dot-com business went bust. So I figure that's why construction on this building suddenly stopped a few months ago.

And then I see their attempt to make the building at least look completed... with painted-on landscaping, no less!

Not very convincing... or confidence-inspiring.

"Space Available," yes. But that seems to be about all that's available here for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: 2002-10: For the past few of months, there has been some--slow--activity here. The fake stuff fell down, so I guess they figured it would be better to put up the real thing. In the past two or three weeks, a few exterior panels have been installed.

How long until it's finished? Probably after our 'Big Dig' is done.


UPDATE: 2003-06: It looks like they're nearly done at least putting the REAL fascade on this building. Funny, though, they're advertising it now as "biotech space available." I'm still not holding my breath.

Unidentified purpose product Billboard, 1993

Just say no to "Stealth Advertising!!!" Hey, folks: You just gotta tell me what you're advertising if I'm gonna buy it. I'm not going to bug my doctor about this for more information. Is it a laxative? Treatment for depression? PMS medication?

Several pharmaceuticals are guilty of this (Claritin® (Schering), Lipitor® (Pfizer/Warner-Lambert), Celebrex® and Ambien® (Pharmacia), Zocor® and Vioxx® (Merck), Crestor® (AstraZeneca), etc).

And what about those side effects? It's great that the advertising is obligated to mention potentially serious complications. But when they list several and claim that the side effects are "similar to a sugar pill" or placebo, I just have to wonder. Why are they getting statistically significant side effect results with test patients using the placebos?

This tactic is also not limited to drugs. Hollywood will frequently advertise with huge billboards revealing absolutely nothing about what's "COMING THIS SUMMER" -- except sometimes the clue that it's "COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU!"

Update: 2003-07: I couldn't believe even I missed this. An observant visitor pointed out to me that this ad is even more absurd, because the "Clear New Day" is really partly cloudy. Ha!


Coca Cola Museum, Atlanta, GA - 2000-11-21

Yes, Virginia (um... Georgia), there really is a Coca Cola museum.

So, what did I do for Thanksgiving, 2000? I visited relatives in Atlanta. During my stay, I re-affirmed my standing as a patriotic red-blooded American by recognizing the Coca Cola museum as one of the 'cultural Meccas' not to be missed.

This unabashed edifice is a three-story homage to the carbonated sugar water the world has come to know as the symbol of all that is American success. At the entrance to the first gallery stands a giant kinetic sculpture, shown above, meant to represent a modern mechanical bottling production line. This multi-armed god--our version of Shiva or Kali or Buddha--offers its syrupy ambrosia to thirsty visitors at last reaching the end of their pilgrimage from far away lands.

Continue onward through the exhibit featuring the "Coke" logo on every surface. It begins to grate on the mind as much as "It's a Small World After All." Yet the product name and advertisements have undeniably and indelibly homogenized themselves with our culture like no other product or campaign ever. The Budweiser frogs and Taco Bell Chihuahua, as contemporary as they are, are already history. But Santa Claus with a bottle of Coke? Immortal. "Have a Coke and a Smile." "I Want to Give the World a Coke." Unforgettable.

After an educational chronicle of the history of Coca Cola, and a nostalgic stroll through decades of print, radio, TV and other ad campaigns, it's time for a treat. Each of the Coca Cola brand products sold in the U.S.A. are on tap at the end of the exhibit. Here however, instead of ho-hum soda fountains, carbonated sugar water dances about in a pyrotechnic flurry of light and pulsating sound before reaching your plastic cup.

Finally, visitors are challenged to sample strange-tasting beverages--also all carbonated--that Coca Cola sells under alien names to exotic palettes around the globe. Lychee-flavor for Indonesian consumers; a bitter Israeli drink; Mango soda from India, etc., etc.

After this respite, you're all prepped for the gift shop, which occupies the entire first floor. Here, you'll find anything and everything emblazoned with the Coke logo. So overwhelming... I couldn't find a thing I wanted to buy.

I was amused, though, by these minuscule ceramic items likened, evidently, to Limoge pieces. Perhaps these are useful to people who prefer their product in crystal or powder form?

- | -

And after all this fuss... is carbonated sugar water really even refreshing? Try a blind taste test with a cool glass of water, iced tea, fruit juice... beer even... anything but another carbonated beverage. You decide.

It's usually quite difficult to find non-carbonated beverages at a pizza or sub shop, bar, restaurant or fast-food joint. Sometimes they have water or unsweetened iced tea. Maybe milk. Why so few fruit juices, sweetened iced teas, lemonade, etc? Why? Markup! The reason you get a "super big gulp" for under a dollar is because that half-gallon of carbonated sugar water costs pennies to sell and the profits are astronomical.

Update 2000-12: I was about to write that I wished these soda-giants would add non-carbonated beverages to their product lines. If I am to believe a recent news announcement that Coke plans to do just that, we might be able to pour ourselves a tall cranberry juice at the drink fountain sometime next year (at least in public schools). Sure.

Update 2003-07: Nope. I haven't heard about noncarbonated Coke products, but I have heard of some pretty awful new flavors... vanilla?!?!

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Allston, MA 2000-09-20

Reflection in the drive-through window. Which figure is more ghostly?

Speaking of American Icons...

Does anyone remember that 'Colonel' Sanders was actually a real person who created this decent restaurant chain and starred in his own commercials? But unlike the similarly departed Orville Redenbacher and Frank Purdue, nobody at KFC continues to champion the cause. No person, that is. Instead, the company's advertising agency has chosen to recreate the 'Colonel' in animated form. But none too faithfully. This animated spokes-character doesn't project the same low key, familiar/stereotypical Southern charm of his namesake. No, instead this little guy is a 'hip dude,' designed to appeal more to the young crowd. You'd never see the real 'Colonel' on roller blades or talkin' street jive like his ink-and-paint replacement.

Why does this strike me as unappealing? I think it probably comes down to two reasons, which you might find surprising. I don't particularly object to the animated character's 'hipness.' After all, the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, had been his own spokesperson for years, and with an appealing persona equally adaptive to pop culture. I find it rather entertaining. No, I think the qualities projected by this animated 'Colonel' are not only so alien to those of us who grew up with the genuine article, but also convey just a little more than disrespect for the late Sanders.

Every time I drive through for lunch at my local KFC restaurant, I'm greeted by the animated voice over the speaker, and I'm forced to listen to the prerecorded pitch... before a real person has a chance to say hello and take my order in a live human voice.

Then there's the sticker in the window, pictured above. There he is again, telling me "Next time, try my chicken sandwiches." - even if that's what I've already ordered.

But I still prefer the 'old' Sanders, and probably will remember him long after they stop using his stylized, yet more faithful likeness as the company logo.


On the subject of company CEOs appearing in their own commercials, I should point out that this is not usually considered a good idea. Even local car dealerships should spring for professional talent. I wonder if Mr. Ernie Boch Sr. realizes that casting a donkey as his own TV commercial co-star was a brilliant way to improve his own image.

MBTA Subway Ad, Boston, MA 2000-10-13

Wow! Great! I've wondered for a long time why General Cinema Corporation, a truly quality national movie 'megaplex' chain based locally here in Brookline, has so few theaters actually in the Boston area. This advertisement attempts to announce that this has changed somewhat.

Unfortunately, I had no idea where in the Fenway the new theater was located, and the advertisement failed to provide this crucial information (or a phone number). Could this be a contributing factor towards this company's recent instability?

Note: Not only are the traditional small, single-screen movie houses and 'art film' theaters endangered (Save the Coolidge!), but so too are these huge multi-screen entertainment emporia. The threat/savior: digital cinema, among other things.

And if I ever get cheated by a movie as badly as I felt with the "Blair Witch Project," I don't think I'll ever step foot into a mainstream theater again!

Finagle a Bagel, Downtown Crossing Area, Boston, MA 2000-03-25

Let me first explain that down the street is a coffee shop with a big outdoor likeness of a steaming kettle, complete with steam, piped from inside the building. Okay. Same concept here with the bagel, except I don't understand the steam part. They don't serve them when they're still that hot, do they? Ouch!

Billboard, 1999-11-13

Slightly deceptive advertising?: I've color-corrected this 'before' photo a bit so the skin color isn't so yellow. Now the yellow stains on the 'before' teeth don't look as bad in comparison to the 'after' picture (they're just more crooked).

Convenience store, Everett Square, 1999-09-13

...but mostly losers.

Direct Mail Advertisement, 1999-06-10

Whenever I see an asterisk, it raises a little red flag to me. And in this case, I found something worthy of scrutiny.

You be the judge: When I spoke with Larry Brockman, the president of this company, he didn't seem to agree that there was an inherent conflict between advertising that "you're pre-approved," and what he explained to me the footnote meant. Apparently even though "you're pre-approved," you still have to go through an approval process, with the disclaimer that you're actually only 99.5% likely to be approved. So in actuality, nobody is ever pre-approved, right?

You are the missing link. -- Good-bye!

Taxi, Brookline, MA - 1998

What's their phone number? I can't find two fourths (or one half) on my telephone! And why not affix the sign so the trim doesn't cut through the word "taxi?"

Porter Square, Cambridge, MA, 2001-06-01.

Now why would a white taxi bearing a Yellow Cab sign have a window sticker advertising drivers wanted for Green Cabs?

Billboard, 1991

The Dentist? Heck no!

With a schnoz like that, his guy should be nervous about the plastic surgeon.

Billboard, 1995-04

Is this grammatically correct?

Truck Tailgate, 1991

Which way?

Truck Tailgate, 1992

"Foot Longhot Dogs" - What are they?

Monterey, California, 1998-09

Sometimes fancy lettering gets in the way.
I honestly saw "Monterey Lothing (Loathing) Company" the first time.

Former Purity Supreme Supermarket, Harvard St., Brookline, 1993
Notice the absence of a shelf? Nice job... Actmedia!

You are the missing link. -- Good-bye!


U.S. Post Office, Newtonville (Newton), MA, 2005-02-24
This is ebay's way of trying to convince you that the stranger 6,000 miles away isn't going to rip off the $475 bucks you just paid for an online auction item?


Through the Mail Coupon 2005-04-08
Traditional Brazilian... Sushi?

Prudential Center Mall, Boston, MA, 2004-10-04
Yet more mysterious "but what is it for?" pharmaceutical advertising.

Newton Corner (Newton), MA, 2005-03-31
Do you think this company is paying the town to use our taxpayer-owned parking signpost for its own advertising?



[No photo available - 2000-04-25]

Oh my god! -- Papa John's is... PEOPLE!!! (Am I the only one that noticed this TV commercial touting their most important ingredient? Interesting that I only saw it once.)

[No photo available - 2001-01-18]

Television Ad Campaign for CitiBank: "There's More to Life than Money" (Yes, of course! But I wouldn't want to do business with a bank that believes it that much).



[Erik's Chopsticks Gallery] [Intelligent Database] [Digital Video Portfolio]

© Copyright 1996-2005 Erik Wegweiser. All Rights Reserved.