06 January 2015

Bad copywriting. Kills credibility by up to 99.9%

I've written here before about how incongruous it is that therapeutic product claims directed at trained health professionals are subject to a rigorous code endorsed by the ACCC while general consumers - who are much less equipped and able to evaluate such claims - are not afforded the same degree of protection.

Here's an example of a therapeutic claim - on a bottle of Colgate Plax mouthwash - that not only goes unexplained and unreferenced, but is also written in such a way as to render it nonsensical.

Just take a moment to consider that top line: KILLS GERMS by up to 99.9%. What does that actually mean?

Usually, if I see the phrase "Kills germs by...", I expect the rest of the sentence to be about the mechanism of action, for example "Kills germs by inhibiting enzymes involved in protein biosynthesis" or "Kills germs by disrupting cell membrane structure".

Alternatively, it could be read as claiming that each individual germ is rendered "up to 99.9%" killed. So germs are left at death's door, but not completely dispatched.

OK, so I think we know what they were trying to say - presumably Kills up to 99.9% of germs - but that's an inherently dodgy claim from which Colgate could easily walk away: "Hey, we only said 'up to 99.9% of germs', so if even 10% or 20% of germs survive, we're still OK".

Hey, Colgate... if you're going to make a health claim, for Pete's sake find someone who knows how to write one.

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