My son sees me shaving and tells me I should use some new-fangled shave gel because he saw a commercial for it on TV and "it works great." My son is six and has never once shaved his face. I tell him that he can't believe everything he sees on TV. That some messages are just trying to get you to buy something.
I try to deconstruct some of the messages to show him what I mean:
"Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum."
My take: Most dentists would probably prefer you not chew gum at all.
"Buy this car - it received a five star side-impact rating."
My take: Maybe it loses half its value in the first year and gets terrible gas mileage.
"You may have already won $1,000,000."
My take: We're almost certain you didn't win anything.
Dudley Moore once made a movie called Crazy People in which advertising execs started telling the truth in their ads. (Volvo: They're boxy but good.) In this cynical age of transparency, in which we've been bombarded with advertising and spin our whole lives, companies can gain a lot of credibility by being brutally honest. Admit your mistake when you mess up. Make amends. But most of all, don't mislead us.