In case you weren’t one of the 111 million people watching the Super Bowl last Sunday, Chevy ran an ad showing its trucks surviving the apocalypse while rival Ford’s trucks did not. According to published reports, Ford failed to find the humor in the ads and sent Chevrolet a cease and desist letter along with trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade NBC to pull the ad from its broadcast. Humor is often a great advertising tool and humorous claims aren’t generally meant to be taken literally. Even if the folks from National Geographic’s new Doomsday Preppers show run out and buy Chevy Trucks they might not be viewed as “reasonable consumers” and there’s little likelihood of any post-apocalyptic class action relief.
However, while we may all have a good laugh, courts and the NAD often find that humor isn’t just puffery and that it can be a vehicle for making a claim that must be substantiated. (For example, several years ago the NAD turned thumbs down on a humorous ad on additives in chicken that featured giant mutant chickens running wild because there was no evidence that chicken with additives was less safe.) In this case Chevy recognized that its humor had a point and claimed that its trucks were longer lasting and more dependable than Fords, even providing a disclaimer defining its use of “dependable.” No word yet on whether Ford intends to pursue any legal or self-regulatory options now that the commercial has aired. In the meantime, we wonder whether the Twinkies folks also found little humor in the suggestion in the ad that their product, too, was tough enough to survive the apocalypse.