I saw a TV advert the other day that left me just short of jumping up and down, screaming and throwing things at the television. It took the 'dubious promise' technique to a whole new level.
The advert in question was for the quaintly named Arm and Hammer toothpaste. In it, ex-Blue Peter presenter Katy Hill was very enthuasiastic about their whitening toothpaste. She told us it would make your teeth 'up to 3 shades whiter or your money back.'
Let's examine that claim. 'Up to' is of course the magnificent marketing weasel words term. 'Up to' is totally meaningless in that it can be anything from zero to the amount specified. So 'Up to 50% off' could mean 'nothing off'. The '3 shades whiter' bit is sort of okay. No normal punter probably knows what three shades whiter looks like, but there is an official definition. But here's the killer. 'Or your money back.'
By combining 'Up to' and 'or your money back' Arm and Hammer has produced a magnificent paradox. We have to ask the makers, what do we have to do to get our money back? The ONLY circumstances in which you can get your money back is if it actually makes your teeth darker, or if it makes them more than three shades whiter. Anything else and there's no refund. Surely this wasn't the intention? Boggle.
Thanks to the wonder of the interwebz I can show you the ad, though interestingly it has been trimmed to avoid the offending claim: