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Bastard Children
by Michael Giardina

They are small, quick, deceptive, and dishonorable. They are the bastard children of advertising and should be filled with guilt like Rosie O'Donnell after a four-hour gorge session at Sizzler.

I'm talking about those tiny disclaimers that pop up at the bottom of every television commercial, the ones that say (roughly): "We are currently deceiving you, but it's your fault for not reading the fine print, moron."

For example, a Vonage Broadband commercial adds the disclaimer, "Vonage 9-1-1 Dialing is different than traditional 9-1-1 service." So, it's better? No. In 2006, a Minnesota homeowner, after calling 9-1-1 to report a house fire, was put on hold. When firefighters arrived, the house was destroyed. Sucker.

I'm also sick of car commercials with vehicles zooming by at 200 miles per hour over gorgeous landscapes, alongside disclaimers like, "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt." Newsflash: Neither Tahiti, nor a sunrise or the Alaskan tundra qualifies as a closed course. Sorry, but if I am driving my children to kindergarten in a Porsche, they are going to arrive at a velocity of about 110 mph.

Then there's that Ford F-150 commercial. "Built with innovation," they say, explaining that the truck is one of the strongest, toughest on the market. Then two huge machines attempt to crush the car, but the underbody holds tight. Meanwhile, a disclaimer flashes, "Dramatization. Underbody digitally modified." Yes, their cars are built with innovation, while their commercials are built with imagination.

Speaking of digitally modified, one Cingular Wireless commercial cuts to a new cell phone with a stunning screen. Immediately, a disclaimer explains that all screens are simulated. Simulated cell phone screens? That's like advertising hot sauce and then selling ketchup, only to later argue that the advertised "hot spice" was a simulation.

On a commercial for Berg Injury Lawyers, the company displays an image of sad-looking people. Immediately, a disclaimer reads, "Representative photo." In legal terms, I believe that roughly translates to "fake actors that the company has never met." But, it's the thought that counts.

Now, alcohol. Let's answer the question in unison, children: How should we drink alcohol? Responsibly! Every commercial reminds us, but isn't drinking responsibly an oxymoron? How do you drink poison responsibly?

One brand of liquor, Disaronno, juxtaposes its disclaimer with a pleasant description: "The warm and sensual taste makes you wish it would never end." Never? You mean never, like, after the party while I'm driving home, never?

Getting the government to enforce laws against false advertising is about as likely as getting Michael Jackson to stick to a passion for more than 16 years, so how far are we going to take this disclaimer craze?

On a commercial for the Curves weight loss program, hundreds of allegedly previously fat women throw XXL pants out of windows.

Throwing your pants into the street is considered littering and may result in a $270 fine, which is more than you'll pay for ineffective weight loss treatments. These are professional pants throwers. Do not try at home, as you may blind a recently styled poodle.

Giddy and agitated? Just grab a full night's sleep with Lunesta. To ensure that consumers know what "full night" means, its disclaimer explains, "A full night = 8 hours." Thank God that's been settled. For some reason my employers think it's 6.5 hours. I'll inform them of the mistake.




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