A germ of truth in a Petri dish full of lies

youre-on-diet-coke-realisticI’m an entrepreneur who plies his craft in the wonderful world of public relations. I’m paid to generate factual and accurate information either directly to the consumer or through an intermediary, AKA the media. People often confuse PR with advertising, but they are two different animals.

Advertising continues to make totally bogus and unrealistic claims in its messaging, while we end users experience something far less desirable.

The most recent instance of such a transgression occurred when Diet Coke decided to connect with my fellow entrepreneurs through a campaign, titled: ‘You’re on Diet Coke.’.

You can peruse the details, but the gist of Diet Coke’s ad strategy was to position their product as THE ideal solution for the time-starved, information-overloaded entrepreneur who needs to get mountains of work completed before sunrise.

As might be expected, health experts objected, suggesting that Diet Coke was knowingly encouraging my fellow Terps to add Diet Coke to their existing list of such stimulants as kale, Rosa Labs’ Soylent and, of course, caffeine.

Instead of admitting the truth, a Diet Coke spokesperson said the ad targeted, “ambitious young achievers from all walks of life and the ‘You’re On’ reference served as a nod to Diet Coke’s ‘uplift for those moments when you need to be on.” Yeah, sure. And, the Mets will win the World Series this year.

Had I been counseling Diet Coke, I’d have advised them to close the gap between their value proposition and the actual end user experience. Maybe a headline that read: “Need to finish that business plan tonight? Easy. Wash down two Adderall with a Diet Coke and call us in the morning. And, let’s all raise a glass to your Series A funding!”


I’m pleased to report I’ve found a glimmer of sunshine in advertising’s otherwise cloudy skies. And, it comes from JetBlue, whose new campaign, “Air on the side of humanity” tells it like it is.

Sadly, though, JetBlue is a rare germ of truth in a Petri dish full of false advertising promises.

United’s “Fly the friendly skies” is laugh out loud funny considering the airline’s consistently horrible rankings in annual customer service rankings. I recently dealt with a five-hour plus United delay in Las Vegas because a broken part wasn’t available at McCarren, and had to be flown in from Newark! That prompted me to suggest a new destination-specific motto for United: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Especially United Aircraft.”

McDonald’s is just as bad. Their brand promise is, “I’m lovin’ it!” I suggest they be more specific, and rotate the word it with others, such as: high blood pressure, obesity and stroke.

And Coca-Cola’s new slogan is, “The world of ahh.” Now, that’s just two letters away from authenticity. Had it read, “The world or argh”, we’d be in business. Coke’s Argh could refer to everything from the bloated, unclean feeling one experiences after consuming a Happy Meal, or it reflect the pain of having to buy a whole new wardrobe to accommodate a far larger frame.

I walk the talk when it comes to authentic taglines. Whenever I perform comedy on stage, I warn audiences to “Expect less.” And, I deliver on that promise each, and every, time.

And, after Crain’s New York Business named Peppercomm’s the city single best workplace (topping 930 other competitors, thank you very much), it provided us with an authentic slogan for the following year: “Nowhere to go but down.”

When will marketers finally wise up and align their messaging with the actual audience experience? I’d suggest the 12th of Never as the entire industry’s response to the question.

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