The Talismanic Use of Incomprehensible Writings: An Empirical and Legal Study of Words Displayed in TV Advertisements

46 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2007

See all articles by Arthur Best

Arthur Best

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Abstract

Many television advertisements include textual disclaimers that are displayed very quickly. This Article presents empirical research showing that these words often fail to communicate their meanings to viewers. It suggests that when 1) a commercial's message would be deceptive without additional information and 2) a disclaimer with that information is shown too quickly to be comprehended, the advertisement should be treated as deceptive by the Federal Trade Commission and by courts in the context of private false advertising lawsuits. Also, the Article suggests that continued use of video "fine print" may propagate the mistaken idea that incomprehensible words have legal significance in consumer transactions. Reinforcing that idea may deter consumers from asserting rights and may reinforce people's notions that the law treats symbolic compliance with legal requirements as equivalent to actual compliance.

Suggested Citation

Best, Arthur, The Talismanic Use of Incomprehensible Writings: An Empirical and Legal Study of Words Displayed in TV Advertisements. St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 285, 1988-1989, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1005258

Arthur Best (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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