by Rob Call

May 23, 2013 (TSR) – There is a growing trend for advertisers to tie products to lying. It’s not surprising. There are plenty of TV shows, particularly sitcoms, where lying is routine.

In this Smirnoff ad, the whole ad is about series of lies.
A group of young men are at a bar waiting for their wives/girlfriends.
One of the men calls his lady.
“We’re in a cab,” she lies, as she is clearly dancing with her girlfriends, each holding a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. Then she lies again. “We’ll be there in five minutes.”
lying about time by youtube
lying about time by youtube
The man then lies to his friends, telling them she said they’d be there in 30 minutes.
lying about what his girlfriend said by youtube
lying about what his girlfriend said by youtube
The woman then goes back to her friends and tells them, “I just bought us another hour.”
The ad ends with this image:
Watch the 30 second ad.

Hyundai has a series of ads based on the phrase “Don’t tell Mom” or “Don’t tell Dad.”
The ad quickly shows a father taking his young children to a movie that’s probably PG13 or R rated, the same kids toilet-papering a tree, skiing down a dangerous slope, eating food they shouldn’t, and shows a mom taking a son parachute jumping.
telling the kids to not tell mom by youtube
telling the kids to not tell mom by youtube

View the ad:

In these ads, the lying boyfriends and girlfriends or the parents telling their children to deceive (deception by omission is a form of deception according to many honor codes) are portrayed making faces that are consistent with lying.
I don’t like these ads. They offend me.
Why is it necessary to portray people lying to have a good time?
What kind of example does it set, telling children to lie to their parent?
Rob_KallThese ads may seem like cute, funny thirty second snippets of American life. But they are insidious threads in the re-weaving of American culture moving it towards commercialism, materialism and a shallow or empty ethics devoid of character.
One commenter on the Hyundai youtube video says, ” How many times did I hear that growing up…?!”
What kind of parent repeatedly tells his or her children to hide things from the other parent? What does this do to the relationships the children have?
What kind of major corporation executive approves ads making jokes about lying and deception? Answer– the same executive who pays to run ads on sit-coms where people routinely lie.
I believe that this kind of ad and the sit-coms they are often run on is eroding the character of the USA.
Experts estimate there are 8.5 million sociopaths and one million psychopaths in the US. The research suggests there are both genetic and environmental factors that produce these predators. I fear that commercials like these, though I assume they are meant to be lighthearted, associating products with fun, are actually dangerous, adding to the subtle collection of cultural reinforcers of the behaviors that sociopaths and psychopaths engage in– in this case, lying and deception. The problem is, psychopaths don’t lie and deceive making glaringly obvious faces so they look like they’re lying. They lie with glib smiles and are brilliant in their deception, using it as part of their predatory behavior.
By the way, the Hyundai ad was created by INNOCEAN Worldwide Americas. This advertising blog says, ‘Don’t Tell’ follows a set of Gen Xer parents defined as “Alternadults’. They have grown up, but don’t necessarily want to grow old. They want to live life to the fullest, and bring their kids along for the ride.  In “Don’t Tell’ the parents want to create memorable experiences they can share as a family — whether it’s skydiving, concert-going or gorging on buckets of ice cream. Their Hyundai Santa Fe is the perfect co-conspirator to take the whole family the authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences.”
But here’s a take by another ad critic at,

“The best stories you’ll ever tell start with “don’t tell,'” the wise-old-man voiceover says. It’s a bold statement, especially in the Internet age. (Facebook pics or it didn’t happen.) But apparently–according to the Innocean camp–a subsection of Gen X parents, defined as “Alternadults,” have “grown up, but don’t necessarily want to grow old.” Since growing old means making embarrassing Facebook posts, they’re not doing that. Instead, they’re making mischief, even when their mild rule breaking includes the kids and a Hyundai Sante Fe.

“Ridiculousness of the term “alternadults” aside, I don’t think a good story has ever really started with “don’t tell.” Cool parents don’t care about keeping their black diamond runs and toilet papering a secret, and outside the family it’s a phrase that prefaces salacious gossip and abusive situations. I’d rather see an ad in which, after a crazy day of father-son mountain biking, dad says, “Tell mom about the log you jumped over today.” Alterna-mom would be stoked.”

Perhaps the reason Hyundai and Smirnoff executives feel it’s okay to run ads glorifying lying is because television shows, particularly sit-coms are often built upon sociopathic tendencies and behaviors.

I started writing this article after viewing the Smirnoff Ice commercial that was aired during an episode of the Daily Show. After the Daily Show, then the Colbert Show (a show that uses a lot of comedy based on obvious lies by Colbert who is pretending to be a conservative,) was aired on the Comedy channel, the show ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA ran. Here’s the Wikipedia description of that show:

The series follows “The Gang,” a group of five depraved underachievers: twins  Dennis Reynolds  and Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds ; their friends  Charlie KellyRonald “Mac” McDonald . From season 2 onwards they are joined by  Frank Reynolds , the man who raised Dennis and Dee. The gang run the dilapidated Paddy’s Pub, an Irish bar in  South Philadelphia . Each member of the gang shows varying degrees of dishonesty, egotism, selfishness, greed, manipulation, pettiness, ignorance, laziness and unethical behavior, and they are often engaged in controversial issues. Episodes usually find them hatching elaborate schemes, conspiring against one another and others for personal gain, vengeance, or simply for the entertainment of watching one another’s downfall. They habitually inflict mental, emotional and often physical pain. They regularly use  blackmail  to manipulate one another and others outside of the group. Their unity is never solid – any of them would quickly dump any one of the others for quick profit or personal gain regardless of the consequences. Everything they do results in competition among themselves and a considerable amount of the show’s dialogue involves the characters arguing or yelling over one another. Despite their lack of any discernible success or achievement, the people in the Gang generally maintain high opinions of themselves and display an often obsessive interest in their own reputations and public images. Despite this high sense of self-worth, the Gang often has virtually no sense of shame when attempting to get what they want and often engages in activities which others would find humiliating, disgusting, or even preposterous, such as smoking  crack cocaine  in order to qualify for welfare, seducing a priest, or hiding naked inside a leather couch in order to spy on someone.

That show description reads like a description of a sociopath. There are too many shows that make heros out of liars and narcissists and frauds. It’s no wonder the advertisers jump on the bandwagon. There was a scene in the ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA show I watched where one of the characters mocked another for criticizing one of their plans to deceive and exploit others. So, the show not only builds its plots based on sociopathic behaviors, it also mocks people who even consider questioning such behavior.

I’m no prude. But these TV shows and ads could be changing our culture in a negative way. At the end of the episode of ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA pretty much ALL the characters who engaged in lying and fraud end up injured in a car accident. Does that balance out the lying?

Much has been said about America’s “soft power” via its arts and entertainment media. These kinds of examples are not good for diplomacy or soft power. They are the kinds of media that make parts of the world hate America.


Rob Kall is executive editor and publisher of, one of the top 100 blogs overall, according to Host of the Rob Kall Bottom-Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, reaching Metro Philly & South NJ. Rob is ranked by mediate as one of the top 200 print/online columnists. He is Publisher of Futurehealth, Inc, an inventor and host of the Futurehealth Radio Show.
He is a consultant and speaker on Politics, Bottom Up New Media/Social Media, The art, science and power of story and the hero’s journey. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates. He recently retired as organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story.


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