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Dog-Food Makers Say 'Improved,' but Who'd They Ask?

The folks at Nike recently shook up Madison Avenue by changing their corporate slogan from "Just Do It" to "I Can." Marketing experts are now anxiously debating how the switch may help or hurt public opinion.

At least Nike is trying to bring some intelligence to its campaigns. My biggest gripe as I stroll the shopping aisles of America is the insidious proliferation of advertising claims that are unprovable, misleading, or blatantly incorrect.

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For example, my usual brand of dog kibble claims to have "Improved Taste/Same Great Nutrition." Improved according to whom? Whose dog did they ask? My canine pal will happily gorge himself on lawn clippings. For him, food is whatever he can swallow, including sweat socks with a Swoosh. There is no comparative analysis involved, and to imply otherwise is disingenuous at best, boneheaded at worst.

Another bold proclamation caught my eye when I went to replace a pair of rubber gloves. The brand I usually buy now bears the slogan "New! Completely Redesigned." Last time I looked, the basic design of a glove included four fingers and a thumb, not unlike the basic design of a hand. Any major reconfiguration of that pattern will change it into a completely different garment, such as a hat. My new gloves, which look almost exactly like my previous pair, obviously have not been completely redesigned. They do fit well, however, so it's possible that they've been improved. If the glove company decides to start a new campaign focusing on improvements, I know a dog food company that can help.

Worst of all are claims meant to inspire consumer frenzy. The marquee at my supermarket carried this warning: "Last Chance for Whole Fryers!" I felt a momentary panic until I realized that Oregon's chicken industry was not in jeopardy. The store was simply concluding a sale in the poultry department, and an alarmist approach seemed like a good idea to someone in charge.

Advertisers need to give consumers like me a little more credit. I can make an informed decision about a product without a lot of hype. Really. I Can.

* Jeffrey Shaffer is a freelance writer in Portland, Ore.

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