Is this false advertising?

Note I’m not going to stir up trouble for the local restaurant discussed below. I’m just curious.

So there is a restaurant that has a sign out front that says “4 out of 5 dentists prefer our restaurant.” Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume they did not poll any dentists. Assuming they did not is this false advertising? If someone (not me, don’t care, I think it is funny) made an issue out of what would be a penalty? Fine I assume?

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From wiki’s page on False Advertising, I see:

It seems to me that this would exonerate a restaurants unsubstantiated, **humorous **(you said yourself it was funny) claim about the percentage of dentists that prefer the restaurant.

Also, if the sign didn’t say what they preferred it over, it would be **meaningless **as well.

And since they’re not doing it to deliberately mislead you, that probably would make it even less illegal.

ETA, if the sign had said that 4 out of 5 food critics prefer that restaurant, it might be different.

Wait, do you mean that Subarus really aren’t dog approved?

Yea, I assumed I was talking to the gecko when I called Geico. Nope.

Even if it was false advertising (and, I agree with Joey P, this’d almost undoubtedly count as puffery), about the worst that would happen is that, if someone called them out on it, they’d be told to stop using it – the FTC isn’t likely to get involved in some dispute about a local restaurant’s advertising, and you’d be looking at some state regulatory agency weighing in.

If it were seen as being deceptive to the point that it were misleading consumers about the restaurant or its food, then I suppose you might possibly be seeing fines, or criminal investigation.

I’m in the UK and quite often you see the same sort of phrasing in adverts.
However they usually include how many people were polled e.g.

“75% of women said our moisturiser improved their skin (90 out of 120 women polled.)”

I assume that’s some sort of legal regulation.

Therefore over here you could poll 5 dentists and if 4 of them agreed you could say “4 out of 5 dentists prefer our restaurant.”

I feel like Trident Gum isn’t going to come after them for stealing their slogan. :smiley:

People have gotten so used to exaggerations in advertising that lying seems now totally acceptable so long as you can get away with it. For instance, I was watching a flipping automobile repair shop show where the show host said he thought a particular renovated car joint was better than any around and asked the owner whether he concurred, which the man did. So they put up a huge sign declaring people voted this automobile repair shop to be best in town. The truth is they both raised their hands when they agreed.

I’m failing to see why a dentist’s culinary recommendations would carry any weight whatsoever.

Plus, what if the fifth dentist is in a drug induced coma due to extreme food poisoning aquired at the restaurant?

“4 out of 5 gastroenterologists prefer our restaurant”

Yes, this is what I was wondering. What kind of food does this place serve? Dental sticks?

[Foghorn voice] I say, its a joke son! [/Foghorn voice]

A place up the road from where I lived a few years ago, used to claim on their menu, “Our chips and gravy voted the best in Sydney.” A friend asked while ordering, who had voted in the poll. “All the staff here,” said the woman serving him.

It’s not false advertising, it’s a joke. The Internet is full of photos of clever chalkboard signs in front of bars and restaurants that would be false advertising if people took them literally.

(Advertising and market research professional checking in :slight_smile: )

In the U.S., the instances in which companies generally will need to substantiate advertising claims is if they want to make a claim like “Our brand is preferred over our competitor’s brand.” In order to be able to make such a claim (and, more importantly, to be able to have it survive the inevitable legal challenge from the competitor), there are some very particular details of the market research that would have to be done among consumers (number of interviews, nationally-inclusive sample, etc.) It’s called “claim substantiation research,” and it’s an expensive and fussy sort of study to conduct.

Without that sort of research, if a company tries to make that sort of claim in their advertising, the FTC will almost undoubtedly find in favor of the competitor, and force the original company to stop using the claim.

In nearly 30 years of working in market research and advertising, I’ve developed proposals to do this kind of research at least a dozen times – and I’ve never actually done a claims substantiation study, as, in every case, it was decided that it was just too much of a pain in the butt.

By the way, here’s Cecil’s 1980 column about the original Dentyne “4 out of 5 dentists” claim.

And, yes, in a lot of cases, if you see a little mom-and-pop place, like a local restaurant, put up a sign saying something like, “voted best hamburger in town,” it’s very likely that, at best, they did something like ask a few of their patrons. :slight_smile:

Essentially, the only ways that a claim will wind up coming under scrutiny (and some regulatory or legal agency will ask to see substantiation) will be:

  1. A competitor disputes the claim, or
  2. Someone (usually consumers or a consumer-protection agency) comes to believe that the claim is deceptive or injurious

Something like “best hamburger in town” or “Our chips and gravy voted the best in Sydney” is highly unlikely to suffer from either of those.

Generally speaking, surveying your patrons, or your employees, or anything in which you only do a small number of surveys, isn’t going to meet legal muster, but it’s also highly unlikely that it would ever get to the point in which there’d be a legal challenge, either.

Puffery applies to non-factual claims. “We have the best hamburger in town!” is puffery and is legal, because “best hamburger” is subjective, and there’s no way to say that they’re not the best. On the other hand, “Clevelanders voted us the best hamburger in town!” is a factual statement: There either was or wasn’t a vote by Clevelanders on what the best hamburger was, and this place either did or didn’t win. If there wasn’t in fact such a vote, or this place did not in fact win it, then that’s false advertising. On the other hand, if there’s such a vote every year, and this place last won it back in 1972, and for the past ten years they’ve consistently been in last place, the claim is still true: Clevelanders did, in fact, at some point in the past, vote for them as the best.

Very interesting.
What sort of numbers does a claims substantiation study in the US involve?

As I say, here in the UK companies seem to ‘get away’ with polling about 100 people.

Yes, but “4 out of 5” is a statistic and implies a survey of real dentists and real opinions. That’s not “puffery” as far as I’m concerned, it’s LYING.

Could it actually be true? Say a family with several dentists in it own the restaurant (not unlikely considering how much they make) and the only other dentist in town has never been there.