By Lindsay Moyer & Bonnie Liebman

What’ll they think of next? Madison Avenue execs are happy to run up their billable hours dreaming up new shticks to make their clients’ products look good.

And if some of those marketing ploys mislead people or encourage them to overeat? Hey! That’s business!

Here’s the latest crop.

Half Caked

“Cut the sugar calories in half and keep the whole cake,” says the ad for Stevia In The Raw.

So if you use stevia to replace half the sugar, you can cut enough calories to eat the whole cake? Sure sounds that way.

But stevia only cuts the sugar’s calories—not the cake’s calories—roughly in half. Made with stevia, the cake has 430 calories per slice (a twelfth of the cake), claims the company’s website. Made without stevia, it would have about 510 calories per slice.

So why show that half cake?

“Reduce sugar, calories and confusion from your recipes by swapping out half the sugar for Stevia In The Raw,” says the ad.

So much for reducing confusion.

Much Ado About...Not Much

“Brewed with no corn syrup,” says the Bud Lightad, which ran during the Super Bowl.

The ad follows a medieval Bud Light brewer as he and his crew schlep a misdelivered barrel of corn syrup first to the Miller Lite castle (“We received our shipment this morning”), then to the Coors Light castle (“Looks like the corn syrup has come home to be brewed!”).

Yes, Miller and Coors use corn syrup, but it gets fermented. So a 12 oz. can of Coors ends up with an insignificant 1 gram of sugar. Miller and Bud lights have none. And corn syrup is no worse than any added sweetener.

Talk about a non-issue. In March, MillerCoors sued Anheuser-Busch over the ad.

Here’s the real problem: With 70 percent of U.S. adults overweight or obese, both industry giants should start labeling calories on all their beers, not just the lights.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, has written to them and to the Treasury Department to press for “Alcohol Facts” labels.

Eat Up!

“Erin imagined a world with unlimited pizzabilities,” says the ad for the drug Nexium. “Can you?”

“Just one pill a day offers all-day, all-night protection from frequent heartburn.”

That’s right. Overeat to your heart’s content, then just pop a pill to tamp down your stomach acid.

Voilà! No heartburn!

Never mind that people with excess weight are more likely to suffer from acid reflux.

That Nexium. So concerned about the public’s health.

Churn that Sugar & Oil!

“Keep calm. It’s triple churned and 2X richer than milk,” gushes the ad for Caramel Latte Coffeemate coffee creamer.

Triple churned? Since when do they even single-churn mixtures of water, sugar, oil, casein, natural and artificial flavor, mono- and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate, salt, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, and carrageenan?

And yes, each tablespoon has more fat (1½ grams) than you’d get in a tablespoon of whole milk (½ gram). But so does half-and-half or just about any creamer.

Surely, Coffeemate isn’t trying to cash in on the cream-is-back craze? Nah.

Protein Puffery

“With that much protein is this still a snack?” asks the American Quality Pistachios ad. Wow. Just how much protein are we talking about? You’d think the ad would say.

In fact, an ounce of pistachios has 6 grams of protein—not a trivial amount, but pretty average for nuts and seeds.

Pumpkin seeds (9 grams) and peanuts (7 grams) have more, almonds and sunflower seeds have the same amount, and walnuts (4 grams) and pecans (3 grams) have less.

Don’t get us wrong. Nuts rock. But protein-wise, they pale next to, say, plain greek yogurt or extra-firm tofu. Each has about 15 grams of protein in 5 ounces...and fewer calories.

Guess it’s easier to exaggerate when you hide the numbers.


“Little choices make a big difference,” says the ad for Naked Strawberry Banana, as a woman parks far from a store and checks her Fitbit to see her step count.

“Like nutritious fruit smoothies,” the ad continues, as the woman takes a long swig.

Let’s hope that woman didn’t think she was burning up those smoothie calories in her 30-second parking lot trek. That wouldn’t make a dent in the 250 calories she’d get by downing the 15.2 oz. bottle.

What’s more, liquid calories don’t curb your appetite as well as solid calories. And along with the featured strawberry and banana purée, Naked adds apple and orange juice.

Want a naked snack? Dump the juice. Eat the fruit.

It’s Complicated

“2 eggs made fresh in seconds,” says the ad for Jimmy Dean Sausage Simple Scrambles.

Jimmy blends his eggs with sausage (pork plus water, potassium lactate, caramel color, sodium phosphate and diacetate, beef fat, and a touch of MSG in the “seasoning”) and “pasteurized process colored cheddar cheese” (cheese, water, cream, sodium phosphate, salt, vegetable color, powdered cellulose, and the preservatives sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, and natamycin).

Simple? Fresh? Not so much.