Weasel Words-Sales and Advertising

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isingWhy Ads Work

Suite 301
641 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60661
P 80A0.634.4941
F 800.998.0854

Why Ads Work

Page i of 8

Why Ads Work
Legal Niceties
The Video
Copyright © 1996 Learning Seed.
This video program is protected under U.S. copyright law. No part of this video may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. This Teaching Guide

Copyright © 1996 Learning Seed.
This teaching guide is copyrighted according to the terms of the Creative Commons non-commercial license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/). It may be reproduced, in its part or its entirety, for classroom use. No part of this guide may be reproduced for sale by any party.

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LS-1199-96-DVD ISBN 1-55740-925-0
LS-1199-96-VHS ISBN 0-917159-46-2

Learning Seed
Suite 301
641 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60661
P 800.634.4941
F 800.998.0854

Why Ads Work

Page ii of 8

The Program
The most important words in advertising are the ones you don't see or hear. Why Ads Work proposes that ads rarely lie, they merely allow plenty of room for self-deception. Ads use humor, drama, and entertainment because people being humored and entertained are not critical - they "suspend their disbelief." In short, they become the perfect consumer.

Why Ads Work will help your students reclaim their critical powers. Think of this video as a retraining of listening and reading skills. The technique is to focus on claims made by ads - the actual selling part that "claims" some benefits or value for the product.


How claims are devalued by small words or phrases such as up to, as much as, from, can, or fights. These phrases can completely change the meaning of a claim, yet most listeners fail to hear them. They see "works to fight wrinkles," but hear "prevents wrinkles."

When "best" means "better" and "better" means "best". Why so many products can claim to be the best, the strongest, the most powerful, etc.

The meaning of puffery and the difference between facts and opinions.

The "magic" of Water is Wet claims. These are claims true for all brands but phrased in such a way as to make it sound unique and exciting.

Why Ads Work

Page 1 of 8

Why Ads Work
Questions & Answers
What's so special about small words and phrases like "from," "up to" or "as much as" These little words are sometimes called "weasel words." The dictionary defines a weasel word as "words used to avoid making a direct statement." They don't lie, but they don't reveal much truth either. They are named after the weasel, a cunning animal that can slip into the farmer's chicken house and supposedly suck out the inside of an egg without completely breaking the shell. The drained egg looks whole. Only upon close inspection does the farmer discover it is empty. Weasel words drain meaning from ad claims turning forthright statements into hollow shells.

Why are these small words so effective?
Consumers tend to "tune out" these little words. So “save up to 40%" is often heard as "save 40%." Or "Helps prevent cavities" becomes "prevents cavities." These little words are so effective because they have become nearly invisible. As the video observes, "when spoken...
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