"Positively Contains No..."

By ELINOR GOULDING SMITH

MOST advertisements announce proudly that their product contains something special and wonderful that other similar products, to their everlasting shame, do not contain. The Pepsodent people, for instance, proclaim loudly, in a tone of voice that suggests they have just laid an egg, that Pepsodent “contains irium.” What irium is, of course, has never been made clear to the general public — and for all I know, it might be made of the brown stuff that accumulates in the bottoms of pockets; but the implication is that it is something marvelous which no other tooth paste has.

The Old Gold cigarette company announced brightly, some time ago, that Old Golds contained Latakia, and now it says in a syrupy voice that they contain Apple Honey. The advertisements never said that no other cigarette contained Latakia, but they insisted that Old Golds did, and that furthermore it was something new. (Little lines fanning out all around it showed the shininess and brightness of the new part.) As for the Apple Honey, what could be sweeter?

But then they were faced with the fly in the Apple Honey. It sounded as though the cigarette would taste sweet and honeyish, and what would happen to the people who like the taste of tobacco in their cigarettes? So after many more long and harrowing conferences, involving hundreds of mimeographed memoranda and thousands of shoe soles worn out by office boys running around with the memoranda, the words “Apple Honey” sprouted a little asterisk and a careful explanation that Apple Honey really doesn’t affect the taste of the cigarette at all.

All food advertisements have discovered vitamins, and no advertisement for an edible product is complete without its alphabetical list. Philadelphia Cream Cheese helps supply food energy with Vitamin A, Parkay Oleomargarine is a good source of Vitamin A with 9000 (count ‘em) units in every pound. Swift’s Prem has Vitamin B complex, and Libby’s tomato juice hits the jack pot with C, A, B1, and G. The thing that nobody ever mentions any more is that vitamins are supposed to be in foods. That’s where they were found in the first place, and they’ve always been there as far as I know. It would be just too bad if cheese or tomato juice or meat didn’t have them. But each advertiser rides along with the public discovery of vitamins, and each one mentions its vitamins as the exclusive virtue of that particular brand.

So much for the look-what-we’ve-got-that-nobody-else-has-got school of advertising.

2

The other night I was standing around in a drugstore when my eye was caught by a jar of hand cream. “Contains no Lanolin,” the label shouted excitedly, as though lanolin were some frightful poison which would make you turn green and itch. There was a stroke of genius. The whole advertising world has been limping along, trying to sell its products on the grounds that they contain something unique or something extra. Here, in three simple words, is a totally unexplored angle which may well revolutionize the entire advertising industry.

“High Skies,” some cigarette will advertise, “are absolutely guaranteed to contain no tobacco. Only the highest quality splinters, grown in the cool green forests of Oregon, are used in High Skies.”

Or, “Fludge, the bread that mothers prefer. Fludge contains no vitamins, and is made from the finest flour, carefully milled from home-grown wheat and pure crystal-clear well water. There are absolutely no injurious chemicals added to Fludge, no indigestible fats.”

Or, “Sludge, the soap that soothes, cannot irritate your skin. Sludge is specially whipped up with air, so that the smooth cream-colored cake you find in the green and pink package contains less of the irritating lyes and fats with which ordinary soaps are made. Sludge is guaranteed to be at least 92 per cent pure, unadulterated air. The expensive whipping process which makes Sludge so different from ordinary soaps is your insurance against rough, red skin.” Or, “Spatter, the different tooth paste, contains absolutely no whitening agent.”

Then of course you can turn it inside out and come up with this sort of thing: “Puffo is the smoothest, lastingest face powder you’ve ever used. Puffo contains more lead than any other face powder.” “ Brighten up your table with Bangup Ketchup. Bangup Ketchup’s beautiful bright red color comes from the expensive chemical dyes which are used in place of the tomatoes found in ordinary ketchups.”

I could think up dozens more terrific advertising slogans for not quite poisonous products, but I’m in a hurry. I have to get to the drugstore for some lanolin for a slight rash.