Marketing Campaigns that are Duping Consumers – and Messing with The Planet


The other day I was watching an episode of The Mindy Project on Fox. In one scene she and her boyfriend go to a drugstore and buy conventional shampoo which they toss into plastic bags. This is one of those things that only someone like me would notice. But my reaction was surprising – I actually felt a bit jealous. Look how carefree they are, not reading labels or worried about bringing their own bags! I remember when that was me. But once you are awoken to the real problems with these things it’s hard not to notice them popping up everywhere you turn.

While the innocent actions of TV characters doesn’t bother me, what I see in advertising does. And the onslaught of consumer propaganda from corporations with no regard for toxic chemicals or the environment is truly astounding once you open your eyes. Here are just a few of the current ad campaigns making me want to smash my TV, rip up my magazines, and go live in a yurt.

Kleenex Hand Towels

I have loathed this campaign for years and the commercials just keep getting more annoying.

“Busy bathrooms can get messy, especially this time of year. By offering your family and guests single-use towels, you can help reduce the spread of germs and keep your bathroom beautiful. Watch the Clean Hands Campaign in action and see why 16 million people are on board.”

And from the product’s “sustainability” page:

“Why is this product necessary? Aren’t my cloth towels acceptable? KLEENEX® Brand Hand Towels offer a hygienic option for our consumers by providing an alternative to traditional cloth bathroom hand towels. KLEENEX® Hand Towels– a clean, fresh towel every time.

Are KLEENEX® Brand Hand Towels made with recycled fiber? Because of the superior softness consumers expect from KLEENEX® Brand, KLEENEX® Brand Hand Towels are made with 100 percent virgin fiber.”

Total waste.

Lysol’s Healthing Campaign

In the same vein there is Lysol’s new ad campaign, which wants to convince you, like every other chemical or single-use-product manufacturer, that you and your home is wrought with disease and the only way to be healthy is to use hardcore,  germ-killing  chemicals. But most of the doctors and scientists I have spoken to agree that germ-killing overkill isn’t just unnecessary, it’s dangerous. It diminishes immunity and causes superbugs. It’s why the FDA is currently reviewing the safety of triclosan. Plus there are a wide array of dangerous chemicals in products like Lysol linked to asthma and hormone disruption. Soap and water works perfectly fine for your hands and vinegar or eco-cleaners work great for your home. Read what my friend Gretchen at Healthful Mama has to say about this campaign.

Pantene Nature Fusion (and similar greener-packaged products with toxic contents)

The bottle might be better, but not what’s inside. Procter & Gamble uses sugarcane plastic packaging for its Pantene’s Nature Fusion line. Too bad the ingredients include SLS (classified as a skin irritant with 1,4-dioxane carcinogen contamination concerns), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (known human immunity system toxicant and suspected to be an environmental toxin), Methylchloroisothiazolinone (human immune system toxicant), and fragrance (any arbitrary combination of hormone disrupting phtalates). Here’s what my friend at Safe Mama has to say about this one.

Safe Fruits + Veggies (a campaign by The Alliance for Food and Farming)

When Environmental Working Group came out with this year’s Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, The Alliance for Food and Farming came out with blog comments and tweets (@safeproduce) aiming to discredit the findings and say that all conventional produce is perfectly safe. “Moms deserve the truth! Use facts not fear to make healthy food choices. Scientists and health experts overwhelmingly agree that the mere presence of pesticide residues on food does not mean they are harmful.”


Most of the AFF’s members use synthetic pesticides. Despite all the scientific research and recommendations from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid giving children produce treated with pesticides, AFF devotes an entire website to an attempt to soothe consumers’ growing concerns about eating pesticides. In previous years the AFF’s 990 tax forms described the group’s mission as “Promote food safety and the benefits of agricultural chemicals in ensuring safe, affordable food supply for consumers.” Also, board members have ties to Monsanto. You can read more about the shadiness of this organization here. And be sure of this: there will be a comment on this post from the Alliance for Food and Farming. They set their Google alerts and don’t miss a beat…

What corporate ad campaigns do you think are duping consumers?

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