Quick and tiny disclaimers on TV ads

What is the reasoning behind the way some TV commercials flash those disclaimers (contest rules, car leasing details, etc.) at the end? In most cases they’re too small to read, and there’s way too much text to read in the couple seconds it’s flashed up there.
Now if there’s a legal obligation to provide this info, surely this method doesn’t meet the requirement. You can say, “we gave all the contest details at the end,” but if you flash the info in such a way that no human could possibly access it, that’s not really providing the info at all. At least in print ads you’re free to study the tiny little print at your leisure.
Do they really get away with the technicality of saying they provided that information, even though no one can read it?
– Greg, Atlanta

Yeah, it’s just a technicality to say that they warned us. Kind of like the radio ads where they get some speed-talker to say 3 paragraphs of info in as many seconds.

What I think are funny are the “Profession Driver on Closed Track” disclaimers. Like I’m gonna go skidding my new Maxima at 120 mph in the Mohave desert. No, no, not again.

I looked in the mirror today/My eyes just didn’t seem so bright
I’ve lost a few more hairs/I think I’m going bald - Rush

Dialogue approximated:

Krusty: Hey hey! Watch my show, kids, and I’ll send you a cheque for forty dollars!

Announcer (quickly and quietly): Cheques will not be honoured.

My favorite: “Buy this new $30,000 car for only $159 a month.”

Then the fine print tells you they need a $18,000 down payment, followed by 6 1/2 years of payments.

It’s deceptive, but nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it. There must be a huge car dealer lobby in my state.


My favourite one of these disclaimers is a recent SUV ad (I can’t remember the make and model) in which a couple of guys take the ashes of their Uncle Carl up a mountain, only to find that he’s spilled all over the back seat. The disclaimer reads: Drive like this and you’ll end up like Uncle Carl.

My favorite disclaimer is in a new commercial that shows a pregnant woman and her hubby looking concerned as they try and match a specific paint color. Finally, someone hits on the right color, and she says, “This is going to be perfect!”

Flash to the stands of Mile High Stadium, and the couple is wearing face paint - you guessed it, including that “perfect” shade, and she’s yelling, “Catch the stinkin’ ball!”

At the bottom, the disclaimer:

“Do not use house paint on your face.”

Also, when the band Ministry did a song called “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” the record company sent out promotional motor oil.

Among the many disclaimers on it, one begs, “Do not use as a sexual lubricant.”

Yer pal,

Some states do take them to court to make them change those notices. So they are bigger & stay on the screen longer.

They did that for a Lawyer group. The one that said you don’t pay anything unless you win. It has a black fella talking always so you can’t miss which one it is.

The fine print, if you could read 2,000 words per second, stated that if you didn’t win, you’d still be responsible for lawyer fees. tsk. They had to change it though.

There was a commercial for a kid’s guessing game which worked something like this: one kid picks a face out of a deck of cards; the other kid has a board with representations of all the cards in the deck that stand up on little hinges; 2nd kid tries to guess mystery face by asking questions like, “does it have red hair?”–if no, he flips down all the pictures that have red hair; continue until all but the correct face have been eliminated.

Anyway, in the commercial, when the kid flips down the panels that don’t match the new information, they do close-ups of some of the panels, and animate the faces saying things like, “Not me!” and “I’m out of here!” Then at the end of the commercial, they have the disclaimer, “Game pieces do not actually talk.” This always cracks me up.

Yeah, the “game pieces do not actually talk” disclaimer is pretty dumb. However, while 30 or 40 years ago any parent would have said “I don’t care what you saw on the commercial, the game does NOT talk to you,” now that’s not such a sure bet; my kids have several games that DO include recorded or digitized voices.

I don’t remember disclaimers like this from the late 60s and early 70s. I seem to recall the first one (and I think it was for the same game you mention!) from the mid-70s sometime.

I like the “alternative” herbal vitamin commercials that Annie Potts and whatshisname do, where they talk about how ginkgo biloba and tannis root and screaming mandrake will balance your mental health and give you more energy, while the teeny little warning at the bottom basically says, “This is total crap. You might as well eat cat food.”

I hate to defend car dealers, but…

what are they supposed to do? If the law says that they must show the disclaimer, and the disclaimer is 17 paragraphs long, they can’t really be expected to buy 5 minutes of air time, can they? Besides, what ntwork would agree to run it? That’d be a channel flipper for sure.

Isn’t there some way they could just tell you to be sure to ask the dealer (or whoever) about restrictions, additional costs–whatever–and have that be enough of a warning? You know, like they could just say, “Nearly everything we’ve just told you is a lie. Ask your dealer for more details”.

Don’t get me wrong–I love life. I’m just finding it harder and harder to keep myself amused.

Actually, Flora, I recorded one, and the disclaimer actually tells you that cat food is not only better for you, but has far more fiber, as well.

Flick Lives!

Well let’s see, maybe…just maybe** if they were honest in the first place, they wouldn’t deed 17 paragraphs of disclaimers!**


Well that’s an excellent point, but I was trying to work within the parameters of reality :wink:

Don’t get me wrong–I love life. I’m just finding it harder and harder to keep myself amused.

A cynical friend of mine actually put together a completely honest car commercial that gave the total price.
He couldn’t help flashing a disclosure at the bottom that read:
“100% down, 0 APR for no months, no credit approval required”
No one called the dealer to comment on it.

Of course, in this day and age of VCRs, disclaimers aren’t as impenetrable as they used to be. You can always record it and read at your leisure with the picture paused.

I love the closing credits of, um, I think it’s “Dharma and Greg” that have a complete page of text that reads like a cross between a short story and beat poetry. You could never read it all without taping it and pausing the tape. Does anyone know of a website or something that has those archived?

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

I just saw another one.

A Saturn commercial shows a guy talking about his accident with a semi, and how he walked away from it. Kudos to the Saturn safety features and all that.

In small print: “Accident results vary”

Did they really need to tell us that?

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the pharmaceutical adds where the disclaimers nearly dominate the commercial. I particularly liked the one I heard the other day for a pill you can take for vaginal yeast infections. Apparently this pill is not 100% effective, can cause headaches, nose bleeds, vaginal cramps and bleeding, may cause liver damage, should not be taken by expectant mothers or mothers who are breast feeding, (and seems like a few others I can’t remember)… One has to ask… is this really better than a topical cream?

Similarly, one for alergy relief advertised that it may cause headaches, stuffy nose, watering of the eyes, and nose bleeds… and here, all this time, I thought I’d be taking the medicine to get rid of those symptoms…

Is this some kind of test to see if people are paying attention?

Oh, Joey, I love the warning for Propecia: “Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or have ever used the word ‘pregnant’ should not handle Propecia, be in the same room with Propecia, or even be watching this commercial. Run–run now!”