Remember When Being Clever and Telling the Truth Were Not Mutually Exclusive?

You would think an iconic figure like Mr. Clean would be synonymous with truth, justice and the American way.  But you tell me.  Is the new Magic Eraser 30% larger AND 30% more durable or is it just 30% larger and some other percentage more durable?

And what is it 30% larger than?  Oh, wait, if you look down in the lower left corner and get out a magnifying glass, you will see that it is 30% larger than its old self.

Just yesterday, Kathy ran up to the store to take advantage of a special on Arm & Hammer toothpaste that was $.75 cheaper per tube if you purchased four tubes.  But when she arrived home – pleased with her  $3.00 savings – she learned that the tubes are significantly smaller than the old tubes.  In short, you pay less because you get less.

Did you know that in the food industry, many manufacturers have adopted something called the “clean label” approach to packaging, wherein you only tell consumers what you think they want to hear.  Terms like “natural” and “wholesome” and “found-in-the-cupboard” are preferred over terms like “additives” and “processed.”  It is nothing if not confusing.

The real problem with all this – or at least one of them – is the assumption that consumers can not be trusted with the truth.  Really?  I am pretty sure that when Gary Dahl launched the Pet Rock craze back in 1975, every consumer who bought one (or several) knew exactly what they were buying.  No one really thought they were pets.

So, here’s an idea:  Tell us the truth (You want answers?).  Keep it transparent (I want the truth!).  Be clever if you want to (You can’t handle the truth!).  But don’t play games with us (Well, we appreciate that but you are under oath now and I think as unpleasant as it may be we’d all just as soon hear the truth.).

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.