As you might have heard, the big controversy here last week was that our greatest client ever, Airborne
, was sued
for false advertising and settled for $23 million. The complaint argued, among other things, that my highly scientific and suggestive pictures of germs and sneezing humans on the box deceived a whole class of honest, hard-working people into believing that Airborne cures colds.
The story has gotten a lot of play––my cartoons are on the news everywhere––even in a tongue-in-cheek segment on the Colbert Report
. New York Magazine
wrote a snarky piece under the headline: Sickos Behind Marketing Airborne Lied To Us All. But, with the exception of a few, the tone of the coverage was that of indignant, torch-carrying righteousness, matched with glee over the settlement and Airborne's long overdue comeuppance. Plus, Airborne agreed to refund customers for up to six boxes, which is almost as good as Bush's stimulus package.
"Airborne is basically an overpriced, run-of-the-mill vitamin pill that's been cleverly, but deceptively, marketed,
" snarled one critic. Funny, I thought it was pretty commonly accepted that vitamin C, the main ingredient in Airborne, is a natural cold-fighter. The once popular natural cold remedy Echinacea
, another ingredient, was debunked
recently by the New York Times, causing sales of the plant extract to plummet, but then re-bunked
by the same newspaper.
Remember when margarine was supposed to be healthier than artery-clogging butter, but then it turned out to be trans-fat that stops your heart in half the time and makes lab rats sprout with tumors? Eggs were bad now they're good but muffins are bad. And as many anonymous posters to this blog know painfully well, the ointments, patches, and devices purported to enlarge penises
don't work. No wonder they're so angry! How do those companies
get away with it? The answer, I'll bet, is that they don't haul in the kind of bucks that Airborne does, making it unattractive to the lawyers.
As to Airborne being overpriced, as one of my anonymous posters explained, it's only expensive because Dangle was so overpaid for the cartoons. Yeah, right.
So what will happen to Airborne? Will it lose its customers and go down the tubes? Will the school teacher have to go back to teaching in the California public schools? Brandweek
Airborne's false advertising claim will probably be quickly forgotten, asserted Laura Ries, partner of branding consultancy Ries & Ries, Great Neck, N.Y."As a brand, Airborne has a lot of trust with consumers," she said. "It has been immensely successful with its marketing and packaging. Strong brands tend to survive and consumers are willing to forgive."
But will America forgive my deceptive cartoonery?