It has always been a pastime of mine to read SkyMall when I fly. I even bought something once: a “personal coolant system” that you wear around your neck, whose description thoroughly convinced me that I would be immersed in a cocoon of cool, refreshing air, even in 100 degree heat. I was maybe 10 at the time, and the cold-ish metal plate with its tiny fan didn’t quite have the promised effect. It was a cruel disillusionment.
So now I generally read such magazines for their entertainment value, as I think many do. Recently I was taking a transatlantic flight and had to settle for the Duty Free magazine, since SkyMall wasn’t available. For whatever reason, maybe because the scar of my early childhood experience with false advertising has yet to fully heal, I decided to do a little experiment: removing all the fluff from product descriptions (in this case for jewelry) to see what is left. The results are below.
Original description 1:
“Jet Teardrop Set: Inspired by the art deco facets of the Chrysler building in New York, this inspirational set consists of two beautifully cut cubic zirconias, each suspended from a stunning crystalized hoop which is hand set with the finest Austrian crystals. Chunky fancy link chain and a stunning crystal set T-bar complete the look. Complementary matching stud earrings contain the two beautifully cut cubic zirconias and a delicate hoop of the finest hand set crystals.”
With superfluous words removed:
“Jet Teardrop Set: This set consists of two cubic zirconias, each suspended from a crystalized hoop which is set with Austrian crystals. Link chain and a crystal set T-bar complete the look. Matching stud earrings contain the two cubic zirconias and a hoop of crystals.”
For those keeping count, the original description was 43% fluff.
Original description 2:
“Russian trio set: This gorgeous interlocking bangle earring and pendant set are [sic] plated in 18ct yellow gold, rose gold, rhodium, and are hand set with the finest cubic zirconias. The pendant is presented on a beautifully fluid snake chain which is also plated with 18k gold, paired with a delightful ring and stunning matching earrings. A beautiful and timeless gift.”
Again, minus the words with no real meaning (and with a little grammar correction):
“Russian trio set: This interlocking bangle earring and pendant set is plated in 18ct yellow gold, rose gold, rhodium, and is set with cubic zirconias. The pendant is on a snake chain which is also plated with 18k gold, paired with a ring and matching earrings. A gift.”
Of course, however bad such descriptions may be, they simply cannot rival perfume ads in the utter impotence of print media to convey anything of substantive value about the product. I will leave you with a parting image, one of my favorites from the perfume ads in my edition of Duty Free: