Reading the fine print

I work with a lot of legal disclosure text so I’ve become hyper-sensitive to the fine print. I can’t help but to take note of the cautions that corporations post when pitching their products. Some of them are pretty amusing.

For instance, Nissan posted these helpful words during a recent commercial for their sporty Rogue. In it, three young, multi-racial, milt-gender, attractive (God, dare I say it?) hipsters are caught in a traffic jam and running late. Evasive action is taken by the pretty driver.


Because someone might not realize that a car flying through the air three stories off the ground is not real. After the car lands on the roof of a speeding train, they cut to the pretty driver as she flicks her hair, arches an eyebrow and smiles confidently. Easily done. The car speeds along and we are further cautioned:


Do you know what this means, don’t you? This means that a gaggle of lawyers sat in a boardroom at TBWA/ChiatDay and decided that their commercial is so well-crafted and so convincing, that some idiot out there might actually buy a Rogue and try to jump onto the roof of a speeding train, which will only result in death and, worse, litigation.

Pharmaceutical warnings are the best. I recently saw an ad for Chantix, a drug that will help you stop smoking. The usual litany of nightmare side effects were listed, but along with the constipation, gas and/or vomiting, you might experience this:


Excuse me, but I WANT vivid, unusual and strange dreams! Who doesn’t?! I’m considering becoming addicted to tobacco so I can take Chantix and enjoy a riot of colorful dreams. Thank God for the Food and Drug Administration. Do you think your friends at Chantix would reveal any of this if it wasn’t mandated by law? No, brothers and sisters, they would not.

*     *     *

I was in lovely Cleveland visiting dear family right after Christmas and you’ll never guess who I was shooting craps with at the downtown casino. Santa Claus!


After a long night of delivering gifts to all the good little boys and girls–a trip that apparently causes Santa to shed a significant amount of weight–Santa likes to cut loose at the crap tables. Mrs. Clause was nowhere to be seen. Santa was busy chatting up the tiny box girl next to him who looked suspiciously elf-like. Santa was laying money on the center prop bets. An unwise strategy, as any student of the odds will tell you.

*     *     *

I am Mia! My hypnotic gaze will penetrate your soul and enslave you! I command you to toss this ball into the next room. When I return with it, you will toss it again. And again! And again! All afternoon long.


Walk into the kitchen, fitly human, open the cupboard and get out the doggie treats. Do it now, you worthless bag of meat.


Now, scratch my belly, pig. The power of Mia compels you!

36 thoughts on “Reading the fine print

  1. I especially like the last admonishment on the car ad, where we are told as they slide into their spot that it is still a professional driver.

    At this point, I I think snorting a chapstick is the only non-specifically prohibited use of a product these days…

    • That last maneuver is surprisingly banal. They merely pull into a parking space but we are warned that it’s being executed by professionals. I see that move in the mall parking lot all the time. Jumping onto the roof of a train? Not so much.

      I especially enjoy hearing the warnings connected to erectile dysfunction medications. A long and painful list of side effects.

    • Mia belongs to my niece in Ohio. She does doggy disdain face as well. Who do they think they are?! I have a dog, Coco, who is a vicious brute. She hates me but, unfortunately for your humble host, she’s not going anywhere. My daughters would just as soon get rid of me before Coco.

  2. I don’t know about USA, but in Australia, we get warnings on TV programmes. “contains violence” “contains sex scenes” “contains sex scenes and violence.” And TV news “the following bulletin contains images that some people may find disturbing”
    No one gives a tuppenny damn about shed blood;it’s litigation that scares the bejeezlehoop out of corporations. Personally, I’d rather like to see someone jump a car onto a train.Kinda like John Wayne with wheels…

    • We get warnings but if you ask me all they do is serve to titillate and around your curiosity. The more severe the warning, the greater the likelihood that you’ll want to tune in. Isn’t that human nature?

  3. Is Santa staring at someone’s boobies? People sometimes wear dark glasses so you can’t tell what they’re staring at, but it never works – they always seem to be staring at what they shouldn’t be. That dog should belong to Hades.

    • It turns out Santa is nothing but an old letch! Ho ho ho, indeed.

      Mia is a sweet dog, despite her demonic appearance. It’s MY dog that should be guarding the gates of hell. Coco is sweet looking but she’s got a terrible attitude. I wonder what made the red eye in those pics green and orange in stead of red? Same camera.

  4. I think that the warnings in the car ads ( notice how cunningly I did’nt give them any further publicity by identifying them) were meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek, as it were.

    • That is pure GENIUS. I never once considered that those warnings could be an intentional joke but I suppose you’re right. They’re too outlandish to be taken seriously. I’ve seen the light. Well done, sir.

      • I want you to know I’m haunted by this comment. It’s the next morning and I still can’t decide if they were joking or not. It could go either way! I might write the ad agency and ask them.

      • i saw the same disclaimers and have come to the conclusion that they are intended to be both legal and funny. the erectile dysfunction drugs, on the other hand, are hysterically funny, and that is totally unintentional!

      • I have come to realize that it’s a parody. As I stated down below, I was considering deleting this post to preserve my reputation, but decided to offer myself to the world warts and all.

        You’re right about the ED warnings. I think I’d almost rather do without an erection than put up with the tsunami of ailments those things bring on. Who wants a four hour hard on anyway?! No woman that I know.

  5. I’m here with Little Dude, who makes me read your blog to him. Thank God, there are no words or pictures like mine on your blog (well, obviously, which is why we read it). He marvels at your ability to weave together 4 things that, as he puts it, have nothing to do with each other – yet somehow all make sense. How do you do that?

    Little Dude would like Chantix to supplement his already vivid dreams. Thanks for that. He also reads the comments, and his Lexile reading profile has him at 9th grade proficient – even though he’s 10 – so I just told him erectile dysfunction was an unsafe building.

    • I like my bouillabaisse posts. If I have just one subject at hand, I’m always afraid people will be bored. If I throw a few things on the wall, something is bound to entertain. It’s the law of averages!

      Do me a favor and read the last post prior to this one. It’s something about old New York and I think you’d get a kick out of it.

  6. I think the Pharna Company Ads should be deemed illegal and removed from ALL advertising! It’s no wonder our drugs cost a fortune….The money they spend on Advertising is repulsive and sickening in every way! The only GOOD thing about these ads are all the warnings….The fact that they could make your condition worse and maybe even kill you is really good to know….!

    Mia is quite a doggie! I LOVE the way dogs get their way….they are tenacious, aren’t they? She is a cutie pie—though I am glad it’s not me that has to through that ball endlessly!!! lol.

    • They should let me write all those disclosures. I’ll tell the people what they really need to know and it won’t be masked with flowery legalese.

      Mia is a pleasant sort. Not like that beast in my house. I wish we could swap dogs with my niece but my daughters wouldn’t have it.

    • You guys are so smart. Seriously. That MUST be it. It never once dawned on me that it could be part of the fun/fantasy spirit of the advert. This is what I get for being so cynical about things. Lesson learned.

  7. In another life I worked on Chantix/Champix during it’s development …I remember dreams being a significant issue with it – it actually attaches itself in the brain to the same receptors that nicotine does, but then stays there essentially as a blocker against nicotine. Therefore you should both lose the effect of smoking – the high and also not have the craving as that should be satisfied with it latching on. So the theory goes, problem is seems those receptors are something to do with dreaming as well.

    • That’s interesting! It all sounds very torture movie-esque. I don’t want anything attached to my brain receptors that isn’t supposed to be. I need their input unimpeded, thank you very much. Although, I have to admit, would enjoy the wild dreams. It all sounds very creepy to me.

      • when Mom was considering using Chantix, i found the disclaimer to be a bit more frightening than usual — beyond the freaky dreams, they warn against “thoughts of suicide”. as if you need a drug to feel suicidal when you quit smoking…

      • Graham gets the award for most interesting/informative comment. (I just invented the honor.) I’d still like the weird dreams.

    • All the dogs back in Ohio where my family still lives (I relocated decades ago) are sweet and pleasant. I, on the other hand, have a cockapoo who’s as ornery as they come. She looks like a cuddly teddy bear and her tail is always wagging, but just try to take something away from her she doesn’t want to give up. She’ll turn on you.

      • Incidentally…I cannot access your blog from my office. The firewall won’t let it through! I wonder what buzzwords are causing that?

      • I’ve had other people tell me that, my husband included. It happened after I switched to a premium theme, a theme I’m not thrilled with anyway. I’m glad you told me. I need an incentive to change my theme. It’s not like it’s that hard to do, but my procrastination in it is terrible.

      • Don’t be hard on yourself. Life will gladly perform that service for you. Welcome to the human race.

  8. When I was away with some mates, one of them had these painkillers (hardcore ones for us Brits, probably just over the counter ones for you USA folk) and I needed one pretty sharpish. Anyway I took a couple then read the back of the packet and any pain relief I felt was immediately marred by the fear that I would get any one of the HORRENDOUS side effects listed no doubt to cover someone company’s back, including stomach bleeding, hallucinations and all sorts. Jee-eeez.

    (Needless to say, I had none and just felt a bit sleepy for a bit.)

    • Hi Jo. It’s always nice to see you. You don’t post enough, methinks.

      I went through an ill-advised recreational narcotic phase when I was young and not very bright. I used to try to achieve some of the conditions the drug makers warn us about. Be glad all you felt was sleepy. It would’ve made for an interesting post, but it’s a wretched experience.

  9. Hey, lawyers gotta eat. That Santa Claus dude looks like Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard… and also like Santa Claus. If any vivid, unusual dreams come your way, Mark, please send them up here when you’re done with them.

    • So you’re a lawyer?

      The Dukes of Hazzard!? Not only have you outed your profession, now you’re dating yourself, too.

      A couple of commentators have pointed out that that disclosure is probably part of the joke. Stepping back and looking at it again, I am inclined to agree. I feel like an idiot and was considering taking the post down to protect my sterling reputation as a deep thinker but decided against it just to show everyone who they’re dealing with.

  10. I mute all commercials anyway, so it’s fun to read disclaimers. I think lawyers, doctors, hospitals and drug manufacturers should be BANNED from posting ads on TV! I say back to booze and smokes on TV!!* xoxoxoox

    *This comment was meant to be humorous and in no way reflects an endorsement by the writer. 😉

    • Ignoring the ads is a good policy.

      Do you remember cig ads? I do. Come to where the flavor is…

      I remember Pan Am, too. And smoking on planes.

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