These Products Would Crash and Burn if Their Ads Told the Truth

Do you ever wish truth in advertising actually existed? We’ve all opened up a package and found the product inside does not match up to the expectations the ads set for us. Read further for the worst offenders, and take note for the next time you add to your shopping cart. The last one will have you nodding along.

1. Mascara commercials

Young woman applying makeup

Do you think she looks like this in real life? | iStock/Getty Images

Reddit user Too-turnt pointed out that, “at the bottom in teeny tiny print it always says ‘the model is wearing inserts.’” While true, some users have gotten upset in the past. In 2013, Maybelline fielded a judgement by the National Advertising Division for ads in which the model wore falsies. Rebecca Caruso, the executive vice president of corporate communications for L’Oréal U.S.A., defended the fine-print disclosure at the bottom.

“Women know that the product’s results will differ for reasons such as their own personal features and makeup techniques,” Caruso told The New York Times. “They do not expect to look like the model in the ads.” Well, now we don’t.

Next: These industries have long come under fire for similar reasons.

2. Dieting and weight loss industries

Healthy diet and exercise help prevent cancer

Fake images abound in this industry. | Getty Images

Ads for diet and weight loss industries like meal plans, fitness programs, and the like often use before-and-after photos to demonstrate their efficacy. But a lot of people have called their bluff. CowboyLaw said some go so far as to actually use professional athletes.

“Classically, these same agencies would find semi-pro athletes who had been injured … and would take their ‘before’ picture right when they were finally allowed to do some physical rehab, and then take the ‘after’ photo after they’re all done,” they explained. Others, as Fast Company explains, just use good lighting and angles to get the same effect. The moral? Don’t believe everything you see.

Next: Those of us who live in apartments have seen this in action.

3. Real estate

a pair of keys rests on a photo of a house

You guessed it. Real estate ads lie. | Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

We all know we can’t trust Craigslist apartment ads, right? TheDoorDoesntWork pointed out that high-end apartments often use augmented reality or just photoshop to make their properties look top-notch. When looking for apartments, it pays to make an in-person to visit to make sure what you see at least comes close to what you get. For inspiration, Buzzfeed rounded up some of the ways a professional photographer gets those great shots.

Next: Learn why your hamburger doesn’t stack up to the advertisement.

4. Fast food

fast food signs

Fast food almost never looks as good in real life. | David McNew/Getty Images

Food stylists have a lot to do with making cheap food look appetizing. Redditor Apleima2 pointed out that the often stack the toppings on the front of a burger to make it look juicy, plump, and full of pickles. EddZachary explained that “White PVA glue is most often substituted for milk in photo shoots. White shaving cream instead of whipped cream. Mashed potatoes or lard in place of ice cream. Glycerin or hairspray to make food look moist and shiny.” Who’s hungry? If you want to really get a peek behind the scenes, McDonalds offers one.

Next: Just like mascara, these products do not deliver what they advertise.

5. Drugstore hair products

young girl model with dense, curly hair

Drugstore products will not get you this hair. |

ByeByeFlutterPie complained that, “If shampoo and conditioner companies used an actual person for their ads, who used the products, I can guarantee their hair would not be coming out shiny and nice like that. I used Suave and Pantene, and my hair is not all nice and brunette and pretty.” A lot of work goes into making hair look perfect onscreen, hairstylist Damon Givens told Today.

“Some examples include stapling hair into place, spraying hairspray on the brush instead of directly onto the hair, inserting Styrofoam balls to create shape, mixing glitter with gel to enhance light reflection and create the ‘shiny hair’ look, crinkling foil with heat to add texture or even using wooden sticks or textured cardboard to shape a bun,” he shared.

Next: These products quickly reveal how poorly they work in a real home.

6. Household cleaning products

Cleaning supplies

Many cleaning products do work, but not always as advertised. | Jevtic/iStock/Getty Images

TRex_N_Truex calls the ref on “Anything that claims to be tough on grease.” Other users pointed out that, a lot of the time, a single swipe with a sponge or paper towel takes away even baked-on residue. Those of us who do dishes know it just doesn’t work that way. While some really do work, nobody gets baked-on lasagna off with one wipe.

Next: You will start singing this next jingle in a minute.

7. Diamond jewelry

Wedding proposal

Does every kiss really begin with you-know-what? | Nadore/iStock/Getty Images

We all know the “every kiss begins with Kay” jingle, right? Well, Reddit user InuGhost adds that “I can’t count the [number] of times my wife kissed me without having to buy her jewelry. Plus, I prefer better quality stuff then whatever you are selling.” Racked explains how Signet — the company that owns Kay, Zales, and Jared — keeps its prices lower and its advertising top-of-mind. In a nutshell? There’s a reason you know that jingle, and it isn’t because their diamonds are top-shelf.

Next: We all know what that blue water really means.

8. Feminine hygiene products

a pile of feminine products in pink

Trust us. The blood is not blue. | Matka Wariatka/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Not only does the blue water used in pad and tampon commercials not come remotely close to the experience of real menstruation, what’s up with the ads in general? Redditor SnausageFest wants to see some reality. “Don’t show me an active lady out on a hike, at the beach, rock climbing, or something,” she scoffed. “Show me the lady who just got off the train to work and had a surprise sneeze [and] the lady who just got out of bed. Show me the lady who was fine until she stood up [and] the lady who laughed a little too hard at that joke.”

Next: This service can make us all cringe, now and then.

9. Online dating

a picture of the OKCupid dating app

Online dating can present its own challenges. |

Dating online can feel like a minefield, with highly edited photos, exaggerated profiles, and even outright lies. Reddit user Laterdude wants some truth in advertising. “Show a lonely guy constantly editing his profile and adding a little personalization to his form letter,” he suggested. “Then he attempts to master timer function on camera for the all important candid photo. [End with a] close-up on a shot of an empty inbox.” If you find yourself picking up what he puts down, try these tips for more successful love-finding online.

Next: This industry makes it looks so easy.

10. Boxed hair color

Hair Coloring

If you want to drastically change your hair, trust a professional. | Alex_Doubovitsky/iStock/Getty Images

Those little swatches never look like the color inside the box. Forget the model on the front of it. Redditor Lettiadash works at a store that sells hair color, and she confirmed the baloney. “All the ads and posters show models with lots of highlights and lowlights or really light blondes, basically color you know took hours and a lot of money to achieve,” she said. “Then the customers point to the pictures and say ‘What color is this? I want that one,’ as if they can just buy a box of it and go slap it on their hair and have it turn out like that while only paying $7. They can’t wrap their head around it when I try to explain to them it’s not how it works.” A word to the wise: Multi-dimensional hair color takes a professional.

Next: Members of this organization have a few words for you.

11. American military ads

an air craft carrier with troops

The military involves a lot of less glamorous parts. | Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

StarsBarsandPBRs hates to break it to you, but American military commercials do not accurately portray the experience. “Yeah, every single person who enlists is gonna be a fighter pilot or devgru operator,” he wrote sarcastically. Tromboneofsteel added that, “It’s a running joke in the air force. Raking leaves because NCO told you to? ‘It’s not science fiction, it’s what we do every day.’ Can’t open a case? ‘There’s strong, and then there’s air force strong!’” Before you enlist, make sure you make an educated decision.

Next: If you had a childhood, you know this next truth.

12. Toy companies

Child Playing with toys

Toys often look a lot different in person than on the ads. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

Maybe their target audience of gullible children has to do with it. Or maybe we just grew up and got cynical. But toys just do not look as good in real life, Chocolatethun-da lamented. Do yourself a favor: Check out the toy in person before you buy it. At the very least, read some reviews.

Next: These campaigns look so ridiculous, we almost had to laugh.

13. Perfume and cologne

Perfume bottles

These hardly even appear in ads for perfume. | Saddako/iStock/Getty Images

Why don’t perfume commercials tell you what it really smells like? Redditor LX_Emergency said, “I love me some perfume and cologne, but the ads are all ‘Smells like a summer evening at the beach with the horses neighing softly in the background.’” Sometimes, the user noted, the notes do not even appear on the packaging. Perfume companies: Our noses beg of you. Please do not be that guy.

Next: We all use it, and we all know the ads.

 14. Toilet paper

Closeup photo of woman sitting on toilet and using toilet paper

We all use it, and we all know the bizarre ads that sell it. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

If you have a TV, you have seen this commercial. As Xterraguy describes it, “Mom looks for skid marks while the kids are visible outside playing while wearing no underwear or any other clothing. In fact, you never see any bear wearing clothes, but they do laundry.” Really sells the paper, doesn’t it? Slate explains that using animals and babies to advertise toilet paper began in the 1950s, and continues today. Creatures like puppies and bears supposedly denote softness, although bear fur does not rank as particularly pet-able.

Next: This one hardly needs an explanation.

15. The internet, in general

users at an internet cafe in china

The internet wouldn’t lie to us. It’s our friend. | Liu Jin /AFP/Getty Images

Redditor Ptenbob lamented a fact we all live with every day. “The internet has specifically told me that there are indeed Hot Singles Living in my Area,” they noted. “The internet surely wouldn’t lie to me, right? I mean, if it wasn’t true, then the internet police would go and arrest the website, right?” Right, Ptenbob. Right.

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