Gleaming awards were announced for major U.S. corporations in an Academy Awards-style ceremony Thursday but the recipients said they were undeserving and wouldn’t accept.
The awards, bronze figures each holding aloft a fresh lemon, were presented for trying to sell products through “misleading, unfair and irresponsible” advertising campaigns.
They were presented in absentia by a coalition of consumer, safety and health advocacy groups.
The Harlan Page Hubbard Lemon awards are named, according to the coalition, for Hubbard, a 19th century ad man who touted Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound as a virtual cure-all, effective against everything from cancer to flatulence, headaches, sleeplessness and low sex drive.
“The Hubbard spirit is still alive and well in the advertising community today and I am sure that old Harlan would be proud of this year’s winners,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Whether it’s a long-distance telephone company that promises ‘free’ phone calls or a diet program that promises weight loss ‘without the risks,’ deceptive ads can empty our pocketbooks and endanger our health.”
“The Lemon awards are fun but they carry a very serious message,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, guest speaker at the awards ceremony. “Every year consumers are invited to spend billions of dollars on products and services that are misrepresented, that undermine good health and that sometimes are downright dangerous.”
Among the recipients and their responses:
R.J. Reynolds, for implying that its new “no additive” Winston cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. The company’s response: it was emphasizing “true taste,” not safety. “New Winston is simply a choice we are offering to the 45 million adults in this country who choose to smoke,” corporate spokeswoman Carole Crosslin said.
The American Egg Board, for ads claiming that eating eggs will probably not raise a healthy person’s cholesterol level. The board’s response: “The advertising is supported by over 25 years of scientific data that show very clearly that it is OK for most Americans to eat one or two eggs every day.”
Sprint, for promising free calls on Monday nights without disclosing a variety of hidden restrictions, including that the free calls were limited to the month of November for existing Sprint customers. Sprint spokesman Steve Lunceford said, “We feel they have misinterpreted the ad, which clearly states the program is for new customers. They focused on existing customers. The terms were one month for old customers, three months of free Monday night calls for new ones.”
Cadillac Motor Cars, for an “irresponsible TV ad showing its new Catera illegally crossing a double yellow line to pass other cars,” allegedly showing a disregard for safety. Cadillac’s response: “The ad portrays safe, normal driving. … The car passes legally and safely across a broken yellow line. In the interest of avoiding any misunderstanding, the spot was re-edited, so that the driving conditions cannot be misinterpreted.”
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