Why I hate asterisks*

I was on the subway yesterday looking at the sale ads and getting ready to score an amazing deal…on something.

But my hopes were dashed when I noticed that fateful symbol perched on BIG OFFER’s shoulder. And though it’s barely visible, it packs a wallop that slaps you back to your senses.

I’m talking about the asterisk.

I don’t like asterisks because they represent exceptions. Exceptions, usually, to a screaming overpromise.

What I resent most are the enticements that purport to ‘build me up buttercup, just to let me down’. Having an asterisk is like keeping people spellbound by a sprawling story, only to admit in the end that, well, maybe much of what you said, just didn’t happen.

Granted, the promises seem too good to be true. And they’re easy to spot. In fact, the front section of today’s Toronto Star featured 24 ads; 17 of which had a disclaimer of sorts, 11 with the ubiquitous asterisk. That’s nearly 50 per cent.

Now, although I’m singling them out, asterisks aren’t the sole culprits. And to be fair, there’s a group of other hench-symbols (they know who they are) often found lurking with expressions like ‘up to 80 per cent’, ‘for a limited time’, ‘select merchandise only’, ‘dealers may vary’, ‘quantities limited’, ‘some items not exactly as shown’, etc. And while they may be just as bad, asterisks are the ones you notice most often at the scene of the crime.

Perhaps as a new, more balanced economy emerges from the tatters of our old reckless one, we can ask for a straight exchange on the asterisk and the worst parts of the sales pitch. And if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll receive a credit toward credibility – all at no extra cost!

*Not to be confused by the French comic Asterix, of which I have yet to form a definitive opinion.

Transparent talk

There’s so much talk about the importance of transparency in the communications business these days.

And that’s great. My approach as a PR person has always been to disclose who I am, who I represent and what I’m asking up front.

Then, it’s up to the person being pitched, whether MSM or social media, to say – and here I’ll quote Meat Loaf from Paradise by the Dashboard Light – ‘…Yes or No’.

It seems pretty straightforward and simple to me.

Transparent, even.