Contac - Name the logical fallacy.

This ad is not interesting or cool-looking for any reason. That should bring it up short against the granite editorial policy of P.A.G. and relegate it to the "reject" pile of post fodder. However, it does present to the reader a fairly huge misdirection to the consumer that has always bugged the crap out of me even since I was a kid. So, in it goes. Get ready to help us Name That Logical Fallacy
"All the aspirin in the world can't do for your cold what one Contac capsule can." This pitch is a long-time favorite of the ad business. It's lazy and insulting, and represents a big logical fallacy.

As far back as I can remember, me and my dad used to enjoy tearing apart the retarded logic of commercials. We would watch TV and point out the wild assumptions, misdirections and general lies that the ad business feeds the viewer. We never cited the list of logical fallacies, mostly because we hadn't heard about such a list. But it's good to be able to put a name on the type of bullshit someone's is asking you to accept as fact.

This Contac ad features the "one of ours does what all of theirs could never do" fallacy. It's a confusion of quality for quantity that makes for a striking picture. One little pill going up against a Limbaugh-sized jug of the competitor's pills. The pills in the jug aren't meant to address the same symptoms as the single little hero pill, but that doesn't stop the advertiser from implying that they try but fail massively to measure up to just one little Contac.

Advertisers are so in love with this deception that they still use the hell out of it today. One notable example is the Total cereal campaign, which uses the "You'd need to eat sixteen metric tons of Special K to equal all the fiber in one thimble of Total" argument. Special K is marketed to people who are trying to lose weight, not people trying to "get the train going". This is the pitch that was so exquisitely satirized by the Colon Blow parody on SNL. It demonstrates to the consumer that advertisers hope you're soft-minded and easily fooled. In short, they hope you're stupid. Thanks, ad men.

So what logical fallacy is this? There are a lot of them, and I don't have them memorized. I think it's a "straw man" fallacy, in which an argument is "based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position". The name implies doing battle with a thing that doesn't exist. Nobody made the claim you're trying to dispute. Straw Man fallacies are pretty common. People often attack each others' standpoints incorrectly - either by intent or misunderstanding. It's an easy mistake to make, but there's no excuse to build an ad campaign around it. That's just dishonest. Maybe someone can name a more appropriate logical fallacy for this Contac ad in the comments?

Here are some other ad campaigns that use the same reasoning as today's ad...

-"All the corn in the world won't carry as much lawn furniture as the new Ford F150."

-"You'd need to eat over fifty carpet samples to get the vitamin C found in just one cup of Langer's Apple Juice."

-"I hope you like badgers. You'd need to buy over seven hundred badgers to equal the iron found in just one box of dry wall screws!"


Jim D. said...

Oh, Phil Hartman. We still miss you!

Oh, Phil. You passed up a great opportunity to talk about titanium dioxide in yesterday's post!

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Right you are. TD is the pigment that makes white oil paint insanely expensive. Sometimes I miss the old days of "analog painting", but the mess and expense I do not miss.

Feel free to joke it up about titanium dioxide in the Toastettes post. Let no opportunity go missed!

Thanks for reading, Jim!


Anonymous said...

Another great post P.A.G.!! (I LOL'ed in my pants) LOVED the Limbaugh reference.

And I thought my brother and I were the only ones who still quote the "Colon Blow" SNL sketch.

Nicely done, Sir!

Anonymous 2

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Poor, poor, Phil Hartman. His was the one celebrity death I can recall that actually hit me like the death of a friend.

Thanks, Anon 2!


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