Play DECODE the advertisements!

The game is best played by three or more people, though two can play. These instructions assume a television or radio commercial, but it actually works better with print ads, because you have more time to study the ad.

Have a piece of paper and a pen or pencil for each player or use your memory. Select a commercial so all of you intently watch the same one. As soon as it is over, hit the MUTE and start the game during the next commercials.

As the commercial plays, look for words or objects that qualify or limit what is being claimed, or words that make it seem to say one thing when it really says another. Jot these onto the paper so each can recall them.

After the mute, compare the notes each has made. Hopefully you found different qualifying words or things.

Talk about these until the commercials end, then continue talking during the next spate of commercials which you mute. At the end decide which of you is the most insightful DECODER.

Examples of qualifying:

  • NO INTEREST cannot really be true; quickly look for what on the screen qualifies it, as “WAC” which means “with approved credit” approved by whom; or other qualifiers.
  • UP TO means you get or save how much? Nothing?
  • FASTEST ACCELERATION! Think of how many ways they can rig a comparison.
  • NO OTHER BRAND PREVENTS MORE HEART ATTACKS! really means nothing; why?
  • LOSE x POUNDS IN TWO WEEKS! What on the screen lets them say that when losing pounds isn't automatic? Do they say "up to"? What do they show on the screen, like people using exercise gear?
  • PAY LESS! What ways can they claim that if it is not true?

Political commercials are great for this game. How many ways can they say one thing yet the opposite be true?

Decode commercials and ads; it will sharpen your thinking and make you a better shopper (and voter). It is also a good way to use the time during commercials and get a laugh from ads.

Copyright © 2004 John F. Yeaman