Chevy starts with CH. So does chutzpah.

Walt at Random has the most readers of any blog in its class.*

That seems like an appropriate way to begin this little poke at a full-page Chevy ad in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. The ad’s announcing an increase in incentive money, and features three different models. The highway EPA estimate appears for each model–and for two of the three, it’s accompanied by “Best-in-class highway fuel economy” (in one case followed by “with manual transmission.” And, oh yes, there’s a footnote for each of those claims.

The mileage figures aren’t bad, but they’re also not great. Not that I’m a skeptic, but, well, I was pretty sure that the Chevy Cobalt didn’t get as good mileage as a number of other compact cars.

So I did what most readers never bother to do: I read the footnotes.

Here’s the footnote for the Cobalt:

Based on 2008 GM Compact Car 3-Door Coupe segment.

And for the Impala:

Based on Impala with 3.5L engine and 2008 GM Large Car segment.

Isn’t that great? GM’s defining “class” based entirely on cars it manufactures. I don’t know how many “compact car 3-door coupe”s GM makes, but this definitely nicely avoids comparisons with all the compact cars from Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Mazda…and even Ford and Chrysler.

Imagine if libraries had advertising budgets and the same approach to facts vs. truth. Every library could really be a star, without much trouble:

Mallsville Public Library answers more reference questions than any other comparable library^

Followed by more promotional material, followed by this substantially smaller footnote:

^Based on libraries that are not part of larger library systems, that serve between 2,000 and 2,500 people and that are located within 10 miles of the Mallsville River. Phone and IM reference excluded for purposes of comparisons.

Fortunately, libraries really aren’t businesses in some key respects…

* Based on library-related blogs written by semi-retired male non-librarians between 60 and 65 years old, living in California.

5 Responses to “Chevy starts with CH. So does chutzpah.”

  1. You were expecting maybe truth in a car advertisement? The next thing we know, you’ll be looking for fair representations in political ads!

    Great post, Walt.

  2. John Dupuis says:

    Know what else has a CH in it? Club de Hockey Canadien!

    (Er, sorry. Playoff fever around here, you know.)

  3. walt says:

    Thanks both. In this case, it was interesting to see how Chevy managed to negotiate facts vs. truth. At least the footnotes were in type large enough to read, not the four-point stuff you sometimes see buried at the bottom of ads. (Or the person giving you warnings at 300 wpm under the music on a TV drug ad…)

  4. Angel says:

    That is information literacy skills right there. The kind of thing we should be teaching our students to think about and do. When people ask, “what do we need information literacy for?,” it’s not just to be able to use a computer or use the Internet; it’s so you can do stuff like decipher the truth in a car ad, or the TV drug ad, so on.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  5. walt says:

    That’s an excellent point, Angel, and lifts the post from a belated Friday Funny to something with potential value… thanks!