Nobody is ever going to improve the fork. It does its job perfectly, they nailed it the first time around. But if you are a company that manufactures some rock-simple product, the fact that there is no room left for innovation makes advertising a nightmare. Soap is soap. What else is there to say about it? How do you make people buy yours instead of your competitor's?
With a torrent of technical-sounding bullshit, that's how.
#6. Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
Toothpaste commercials always like to make it sound like your teeth are ticking time bombs that could explode at any moment and take out you and everyone you love. Like this one, in which a fake scientist confronts a woman in a mall using the worst pickup line we've ever heard: "Good morning, did you know that your mouth is under attack right now?"
The scientist's high-tech mouth-scanning wand reveals her greatest fear -- her teeth are positively caked with maximum bacteria density, even though she brushes every morning. Her regular, non-super-powered toothpaste just doesn't do a damn thing.
"I'm afraid you have four weeks to live. I'm so sorry."
Colgate's mortal enemy, Crest, also provides a sciency demonstration showing that only their toothpaste can reach the deadly bacteria under your gums. You don't even have to brush! Just hold the toothbrush close to your mouth and a wave of white science will do the rest.
Everyone calm down! It's not real! It's only a dramatization!
This Oral-B ad avoids lame special effects, but it reminds you that choosing a toothbrush is literally the hardest thing you'll ever have to do, so it's lucky that virtually all dentists will tell you to pick up an Oral-B, otherwise you may as well be brushing with your own dick. But does it really have to be this hard?
Not according to this study, where dental health experts concluded that as long as your toothpaste contains fluoride and powdered calcium (and basically all of them do), your teeth are going to be just fine. And what about that claim that four out of five dentists think you should use an Oral-B toothbrush? When some researchers did a poll, they found that most dentists don't think there's any significant difference, with 62 percent saying that it's not about what you have, but how you use it.
That's right -- there is no brush advanced enough that it will save you from learning proper brushing technique and then, most importantly, remembering to actually do it.
Not so long ago, men removed their excess facial hair with a single-blade cutthroat razor, or if they were jungle commandos, a Bowie knife. Then safety razors became popular around World War I -- they had a simple handle with a small angled blade at the end that made it much harder to slice open an artery before breakfast.
"I can feel death's embrace ..."
It was a fantastic invention, and there wasn't much that could be improved upon in the design -- it's a razor blade attached to a stick, and it does what it's supposed to do. When it comes to innovation, razors are more like toothpicks than cars.
But that hasn't stopped Gillette from spending a century trying to find ways to convince consumers that each new version of the razor-on-a-stick is a game changer. For instance, in 1999, they punched the days of low-tech shaving right in the dick by inventing the Mach 3, a shaving experience so advanced that your clothing will literally explode off your body:
But there was no way they could stop there. For 21st century stubble, three blades isn't anywhere near enough. You might as well just try to slap that beard off. That's why Gillette spent eight years and earned 20 patents designing the Gillette Fusion, a five-blade razor that made the Mach 3 look like a giant piece of shit.
According to Gillette, their team of engineers engaged in "intensive laboratory and clinical research" and "thousands of test shaves" to bring us this Manhattan Project of razors. Apparently, the result was two more blades!
But this shit ain't done. In 2011, they introduced an "advanced, low-resistance coating," a "blade stabilizer," "lubricating polymers," and all sorts of other wonders, complete with a technical video that explains what all this stuff does. So why are these guys building razors and not working for NASA?
"Gillette -- for men who like to shave blind while creating extra crevices by smiling obliviously."
Because none of it does shit. According to consumer studies, not only is there no practical difference between the various Gillette razors, but people can't even spot the differences between brands, even if they come equipped with warp drives and flux capacitors. In 2005, a judge forced the company to retract some claims from their advertising, ruling that they ranged from "greatly exaggerated" to "literally false."
It's not that their razors don't work. They work great. They worked great in 1975. They just can't admit that they nailed the design back during the Wilson administration.
"Take it from me, Smoothcheek Wilson -- Gillette is sweet as a mothafucka."
Unless you're bald (or a hippie), shampoo is a daily essential. But with a billion brands out there, how do you even enter the shampoo aisle without collapsing into a fetal position? After all, isn't that shit just soap for your hair? How can there be ten thousand meaningful variations on that concept?
Organic shampoo. Picked straight from the shampoo bushes of the local shampoo farms.
Well, advertisers have been taking advantage of the confusion since the '50s -- this early ad said that its shampoo cleaned your hair with "floating action" and came in a bottle designed by a doctor, as though that's important. It also bragged about how much lather it produced, a claim you may recognize from every shampoo ad ever. And no, lather actually has nothing to do with the cleansing process -- it's only there because we expect it.
Other shampoo ads have long claimed that their detergent will be gentle, while its competitors will violently tear through your follicles like wildfire and leave second-degree burns on your scalp. In reality, detergent is the active ingredient in every shampoo made since the 1930s, so unless you're trying to add some shine to your retinas, there's never going to be enough present to hurt.
"I CAN FEEL IT BURNING INTO MY THOUGHTS!"
As a last resort, shampoo makers started going wild with the razor strategy of pouring on the meaningless technobabble. Like in this commercial for shampoo with a "pro-vitamin formula that actually strengthens your hair from inside!" In 2011, Garnier Fructis bragged about its "antioxidant fruit extracts" that were "proven to be four times healthier." If you read the fine print that flashes by, you'll see that the claim was proven ... when compared to a shampoo that doesn't contain a conditioner, which nearly all shampoos do. That's like saying your car stereo is way better when compared to a bicycle.
A recent commercial from Head & Shoulders hit bullshit critical mass with its "high performance HydraZinc formula." That sounds like something you'd use to buff your Pokemon. Shockingly, this mythological element doesn't help -- a study found that expensive shampoos are no more effective than cheap drugstore brands. Unless you need a special shampoo for medical reasons, there's no need to pay more than a few bucks for a bottle. Unless it turns out 30 years from now that HydraZinc gives everyone mutant superpowers, which is entirely possible, we suppose.
"Soon, the world shall know me as Mandusa."