THE STP Company, which makes motor oil additives, has been ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to pay a $500,000 penalty for falsely advertising its product. While the company can probably live with that, its big problem is that it has also been ordered to spend $200,000 in advertising, publicizing the fact that its previous advertising was not true.
This is a new precedent in FTC rulings and it has Madison Avenue in a dither. How does an advertising agency devise a campaign saying that its client's product was a bummer?
We are now in the offices or Deal, Rehobeth and Gluckstein advertising agency where they are making a presentation to J.B. Rabbit, president of LS & D Company, who has just been ordered by the FTC to spend a million dollajrs to inform the public that it was misled by claims that an LS & D coffee ground additive would give people 20 extra miles to the gallon.
"J.B." says Gluckstein, "as you know a million dollars is a lot of money to spend to inform the American public LS & D stinks, but I think we can do it."
"And bankrupt me in the process," J.B. snarls.
"Relax, J.B. Our campaign is going to fulfill the FTC consent agreement and at the same time do as little damage as possible," Gluckstein says. "First we need a catchy slogan. How's this: 'Anyone who put LS & D coffee grounds in his motor ought to have his head examined'?"
"That's a good slogan?"
"Wait, J.B. The FTC didn't say where we had to put the ads. We've worked out a media plan. One third for newspapers, one third for magazines and one third for television. We'll place full-page ads in The New York Herald Tribune, The New York Journal American, The New York Sun, The New York World Telegram and The Long Island Daily Press."
"But those papers don't exist any more."
"You got it, J.B. But they'll be grateful to get the ads anyway. Now for magazines. We'll put four-color spreads in Collier's, The Woman's Home Companion, and The Literary Digest, saying we're sorry we lied."
"They also aren't published anymore."
"That's for the FTC to find out."
Gluckstein continued, "Our big thrust will be in television. We've devised some outstanding commercials. But we need well-known people to endorse the product, personalities that the public doesn't trust. We're trying to sign up Roman Polanski for a spot. We'd show him standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and have him say, 'I've been putting LS & D coffee grounds in my Rolls Royce for twelve months. When I found out what it did to my motor, I decided to skip the country."
"That's good," J.B. said.
"One of our people is now trying to talk Robert Vesco into doing a commercial. We'd show him on his yacht and he would say, 'Some people say I stole money from widows and orphans. Others say I'm just a slick guy trying to make a buck. But whatever they hink, they're all agreed that if I hand't put LS & D in my private Boeing 707, I would have never made it to Costa Rica.'"
J.B. says, "That could turn them off."
"Now we have a blindfold commercial. We're hoping to get the 'Son of Sam' to do this one for us. We'll blindfold him and let him drink a glass of LS & D coffee grounds and a glass of STP motor additive. Then we'll ask him which one had more gusto. He, of course, will say LS & D."
"Suppose he croaks?" J.B. asks.
"All the better. We'll save the State of New York a lot of money."
"Where are you going to put the commercials?"
"On the Saturday Night Live Howard Cosell Variety Show."
"Is that still one the air?"
"Only in Bangladesh."