A fast-food kiddie club promises "fun, non-stop." Beer is billed as the beverage of choice on Halloween. And a cigarettemaker portrays itself as a patriotic defender of freedom.
Those are some of the advertisements an array of consumer, environmental and health groups contended Monday are among the year's "most misleading, unfair or irresponsible."The sixth annual "Harlan Page Hubbard Lemon Awards" honor the legacy of the man who tirelessly promoted Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound as a remedy for ailments ranging from fatigue to cancer.
Needless to say, the cure-all claim was pure quackery.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest called Hubbard "the first advertising executive to employ deceptive advertising techniques on a national scale" and said his spirit lives in the commercials of today.
The sponsors of the modern-day ads begged to differ. Those who could be found said they stood firmly behind their products and commercials.
"It's been wonderfully successful and lots of fun," Burger King spokesman Cori Zywtow said of the chain's "Kid's Clubs" program.
Exactly how much fun was the question asked by Action for Children's Television in nominating Burger King for a Hubbard.
The ad promises "fun, non-stop" and shows groups of children happily engaged in what are presumably club activities. But ACT said they actually receive little more than a membership card and some stickers. Zywtow said the 2.7 million members also get posters, a newsletter and special meals. Does that constitute non-stop fun? "It has been a terrific program," she replied. "We're very proud of it."
General Motors also took issue with its two citations by the Center for Auto Safety and the Safe Energy Communication Council.
The safety center said GM misrepresented itself in one ad by claiming that it "pioneered the air bag." It said the company fought government rules to require air bags and now equips fewer models with them than Ford or Chrysler.
The energy council denounced an ad touting the Cutlass Supreme as fuel-efficient even though it gets lower mileage than most of GM's other models.
Gus Buenz, a spokesman for Oldsmobile, countered that GM had air bags in cars as early as 1974 and has a strong tradition of safety research.
He said the Cutlass ad was meant to highlight the car's roominess, price and responsiveness, as well as fuel economy.
Another double winner was Philip Morris, the cigarettemaker. Its alleged lemons:
-A Virginia Slims ad that, according to the National Women's Health Network, implies a brand called "Superslims" can help women stay thin.
-A series of ads celebrating the Bill of Rights. The Coalition on Smoking or Health accused the firm of appropriating one of the country's most important documents "for its own greedy purposes" - namely the defeat of government restrictions on tobacco promotion.
Philip Morris spokesman Les Zuke said it was "absurd" to read a weight pitch in the Superslims ad.
Kellogg received laurels for saying that protein in Special K cereal can help women maintain healthy muscle tone while dieting. The Iowa attorney general has alleged in federal court that the ads are misleading, said the Center for Science in the Public Interest.