By Alan Graner
You’re reading an ad promoting a ridiculously low airline fare. You’re truly excited…until you encounter the dreaded asterisk. Down below (isn’t that the direction of Hell?), in type too small for the human eye to discern, is the bad news: yes, the fare is low. But because of various airport fees and taxes, the final cost is almost double. The ad is true. The cost is true. But the asterisk twists it into a cunning lie.
An ad for a luxury sedan features a surprisingly low monthly lease payment well within your affordability range. Then once again the evil asterisk raises its tiny head. At the bottom of the page you discover the fee is low because…wait for it…the deposit required equals three house payments. Suckered again!
And what would a housing ad be without the inevitable little star referring you to the bottom of the page where resides, in microscopic type, a long list of restrictions, conditions, exceptions and, quite possibly, America’s nuclear secrets (don’t worry, they’re safe—no one reads small print anyway).
Oh my yes. The legal beagles have even brought the asterisk to radio ads—often for automobile and money lending ads. Since, however, one can’t use tiny print in radio spots, advertisers use the verbal equivalent, i.e., extremely fast speech thatrunsallthewordstogethersothey’realmostimpossibletounderstand.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me again and again, you must be an asterisk.
And now you know why the asterisk is the most devious, unscrupulous, double-dealing punctuation mark ever conceived.*
Disagree with me if you dare.
*Made you look!
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.