A Washington-based consumer organization on Thursday announced its picks for the 10 most misleading ads of the year, but some advertisers accused the critics of being misleading.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest bestows its Harlan Page Hubbard Lemon awards to draw attention to what it considers to be the "most misleading, unfair and irresponsible ad campaigns." Among the recipients:
* Prudential Securities, for ads promising consumers "straight talk." The company recently paid a $600-million penalty for misrepresenting risky limited partnership stakes as safe investments. Prudential had no comment.
* Walt Disney Co., for its "Movie News" television commercials that look like news reports, complete with an anchor. A Disney spokesman could not be reached.
* Texaco Inc., for claiming its Clean System 3 gasoline provides "highest performance." A Texaco spokesman said that in response to a challenge from the Better Business Bureau, the company has reworded the claim to say "higher performance."
* GMC Truck, for claiming its Safari minivan is "safe enough for your precious cargo," even though the van ranked near the bottom in a government crash test. A GM spokesman said the Safari meets all government safety standards and that its fatality rate in actual driving is about average for minivans. "As usual, this group has taken information out of context and has ignored the full amount of available data," he said.
* Van Den Bergh Food, for Promise Margarine ads advising consumers to get "heart smart." The margarine is high in total fat, which is a factor in obesity and heart disease. A spokesman for the company said the ad has not been used in a year.
* Johnson & Johnson, for its Arthritis Foundation line of pain relievers. The products consist of aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen but may cost as much as $150 a year more than other brands. A J&J spokesman said customers can receive a free membership in the foundation, a $20 value.