A common occurrence in advertising copy is the use of vague, flexible and ambiguous words and phrases designed to blur the lines between expectation and reality, presenting the offering as something more than it really is.
The Wikipedia community calls these types of phrases “weasel words”, neatly highlighting the sneaky intentions behind their usage.
Sale advertisements are the most common culprits for this type of copy, with discounts routinely over-exaggerated with a deliberate and calculated lack of clarity.
Movie advertising copy is another classic example of openly suggestive claims. Almost every billboard or bus-stop movie ad will have a one-liner “review” on it somewhere, such as; “Sensational… the best <whatever genre> movie of the year!”, attributed to a little-known commentator in the most miniscule small-print.
The “blurb” on a book cover is yet another prime location for completely ambiguous and out of context superlatives.
The reason these terms are still so common in advertising copy is that for every savvy reader they turn off there’ll be another reader who they hook. Despite their bluntly successful approach, there really shouldn’t be any need to use these terms at all.
Being specific in your copy translates to being honest, open and accountable for the claims that you’re making. If a price is “43% off” then it should be advertised as exactly that, not “Nearly 50% off” or something similarly vague. When copy is particularly specific in this way it becomes instantly credible, and therefore more effective.
So, next time you’re tasked with producing ad copy for a sale or promotion, try and stick to the specifics and be as open as possible, no matter how pedantic and unusual it appears. You’ll end up with more informed customers and by definition, better results.