Truthiness ...

The Print Parties that we hold in our new Asakusa shop are really turning out to be a big hit with the customers. In one part of the pamphlet that I have prepared to advertise these Parties, I use the phrase "We have decades of experience at coaching people through the process of making a woodblock print ..." and although this might sound like an empty boast with little substance, it is actually very important.

It is precisely because of those decades of experience at doing this, that I was able to create a 'setup' - a well-designed set of blocks, accompanied by very user-friendly tools - that allows pretty much anybody to attain an excellent result on their first try. I shouldn't exaggerate too much and say 'Perfect results everytime for everybody!" because that's not true; we have had the occasional person who has just been a bit too ham-handed to get it quite right, but even those people do have fun doing this, due to the non-threatening and cheerful atmosphere we maintain.

I had an interesting conversation about this with one of the recent attendees. She had really had a good time, so at the end of the Party when she suggested to me that I was guilty of 'false advertising', I must have looked a bit surprised. But before I could say anything in reply, she set me straight, "You didn't say it would be so much fun!"

I had a quick reply for this, "Well, I don't want to be accused of 'washing machine' type advertising!" She didn't know what I meant so I had to explain ...

One of the major appliance makers here in Japan is currently running a massive advertising campaign for their new 'Eco-friendly' line of home appliances - refrigerators, rice cookers, washing machines, etc. etc. The ads run on the video screens in commuter trains, on TV, in newspapers, and basically everywhere. One of them shows a young man on a crowded train who is so proud of his clean white shirt - of course washed by this company's machine - that he ostentatiously shoots his cuffs while strap-hanging on the train, in order that a nearby young lady will see how bright white they are. (And live happily ever after, I suppose).

The same ad is also in the trains in a printed version, and I happened to look at it the other day. A photo of the young man was there, accompanied by a graphic of his shirt in the 'before' and 'after' states - dingy yellow, and bright white. Next to this was a block of (extremely) tiny type, far too small to read. I was curious about what it said, so took out my camera, snapped a closeup of the ad, and then returned to my seat to enlarge it and read the content.

I didn't get past the first line before giving out a laugh that startled people sitting nearby. Washing temperature: over 40 degrees C. Washing time: 420 minutes ...

Wait, what? They are showing a photo of a shirt with white clean cuffs, but in order to get to that point you have to wash it for seven hours in steaming hot water? And this is a machine they are advertising as "Friendly to the environment ... Save the Earth!" Who are they kidding?

Well, they are obviously kidding all the people who didn't read the fine print!

This now makes me think about what our next Print Party pamphlet should say. I mean, once you start playing those games, the sky's the limit really. How about this for a start?

"Guaranteed! Every print you make at one of our Print Parties will be snapped up by eager buyers for a five-figure sum!" *

And then, over on the back page of the pamphlet, in the tiniest type possible:

* "Guarantee not guaranteed ..."


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Jakub Makalowski

As long as the fine prints states that figures are in a low value currency, for example the Vietnamese dong(10000 equivalent to about 60 yen) then no one can actually blame you for false advertising.

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