06 August 2011


In print ads, it's called micetype; all the legal mandatories stuffed at the bottom of the ad in a font size that makes the bottom line of an eye chart read the like HOLLYWOOD sign.

It's bad in print.  It's worse on TV.  Using screen shots from YouTube, I give you exhibit A:

Specifically, this-

Okay, okay, you and I know nobody reads it.  The copywriter, the client, the account exec., the director, the broadcaster and the lawyers involved know nobody reads it.

The worst of all destinations for this meaningless high-octane legalese, by the way, is Radio, whose chronological real estate is both small and precious. When nuisance legal was necessary, the key was to consume as few precious seconds as possible, calling for (in copywriter's parlance) an ice-down-the-shorts delivery.

So why is it there?  Because advertisers haven't a clue as to a better way to cover themselves legally when making a claim or offer in a broadcast ad.  (A quick mea culpa:  I've written many a "[legal]" on broadcast scripts and print ads.  That denotes a space the account exec has to fill with the necessary mumbo jumbo from the legal department.)

Granted, this visual noise doesn't merit the ire of Shakespeare's Dick the Butcher:  "...kill the lawyers" (Henry VI); it's more in the tone of Dickens' Mr. Bumble: "...the law is an ass.  An idiot."  (Oliver Twist).  A fair assessment when, in a world cluttered plenty enough with ads, thank you, the finest legal minds in the ad game clutter the bottom of a beauty shot like this-

-with legal nonsense writ small, like this-

-and this:

If Abe Lincoln can stand in a pasture in Gettysburg and give meaning to 31 months of soul-crushing bloodshed in just 272-ish words (manuscripts vary slightly), you have to imagine the finest marketing noggins can find a way to cover the advertiser's tuccus- legally speaking- without the comic farce of print so small, and with such limited screen time, a viewer couldn't read it on a bet. 

Kill the lawyers?  Not me.

A meaningful wedgie, perhaps.