Specious advertising copywriting

As a former advertising copywriter, I have to admit that, apart from some wonderful exceptions, most copywriting is rather specious, but there’s one particular weasel-phrase for skin cream on UK TV that has me perplexed:

They’re clearly sailing as close as they can to the limit of what claims they’re legally allowed to make.

So does anyone know what the word appearance indicates here?

Does this mean that a) the cream stops fine lines and wrinkles from appearing? or b) it alters the way they look?

Is the ambiguity deliberate? (And does the cream actually do these things?)

This pdf. version of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletries and Fragrance Association guidelines (page 14) allows terms for anti-wrinkle creams as:

This is apparently linked into the standards authority in Canada and the health services there.

I would say that “reduce the appearance” in this instance means both of your definitions, jjimm, and I’d say that it is legal unless challenged by the UK standards watchdogs.

It’s my understanding that a lot of these products contain plasticisers. They smooth the skin temporarily but don’t change the skin in any way. Hence “reduces the appearance of fine lines.”

A lot of the “thigh reducing” creams worked the same way. All they really did was coat the skin with a thin layer of plastic so it looked smoother and this was supposed to make your thighs look thinner. (Sure.)

Also, the FDA has made threating sounds several times in recent years about products that claim to “reduce wrinkles.” The FDA has made it clear that anything that can change the skin to this degree is a drug, and has to go through the long expensive drug testing process to be approved.

So saying “reduces the appearance” is safer for the companies.

My favorite was in the 70s when that great advance of modern man – cheese-flavored dog food – was being advertised. The ad said

The statement was unassailable.