0870: "Advertising"

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hailthefish
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0870: "Advertising"

Postby hailthefish » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:05 am UTC

Image

Alt text: "I remember the exact moment in my childhood when I realized, while reading a flyer, that nobody would ever spend money solely to tell me they wanted to give me something for nothing. It's a much more vivid memory than the (related) parental Santa talk."


It's worth noting that this comic set off my ad blocker....

Edit: I did in fact include an image that links to the comic in this post, if you can't see it, your adblocker caught it too!
Last edited by hailthefish on Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:14 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

masher
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby masher » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:07 am UTC

hailthefish wrote:It's worth noting that this comic set off my ad blocker....


Me too! If you hadn't mentioned this, I would have gone a little crazy wondering why the comic wasn't working...

IIAOPSW
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby IIAOPSW » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:07 am UTC

dammit randall the dependent variable goes on the Y axis. You messed me up for a moment.

you also missed an opportunity to get out of my head as I just realized it was midnight after spending a long time looking at US demographic statistics on wikipedia.

that is all.
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby chaoztheory1 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:10 am UTC

It set off mine as well. I assume that it was done on purpose, but if it wasn't then it's one incredible coincidence. Or is that irony?
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hailthefish
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby hailthefish » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:13 am UTC

It might be because he named it "Advertising.png", I'm not sure.

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Nyerguds
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Nyerguds » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:14 am UTC

Psh. I don't use ad blockers. Too many webcomics I read use it as source of income to stay online.

IIAOPSW wrote:dammit randall the dependent variable goes on the Y axis. You messed me up for a moment.

Not in economy-related charts. It always annoyed me to no end in school.
Last edited by Nyerguds on Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:16 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby rwald » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:16 am UTC

hailthefish wrote:It might be because he named it "Advertising.png", I'm not sure.

Mine got caught as well; I manually downloaded the image, but I still wasn't sure why it wasn't appearing on the site itself until I read the thread.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby phlip » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:19 am UTC

Re adblockers: it's because the filename for the comic is "advertising.png", which trips up the default rules for Adblock Plus at least:
advert.png


Re the comic: this sort of thing really should be taught in school... the title text applies to me too, it was quite an educational moment.

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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*Kat*
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby *Kat* » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:25 am UTC

All this comic needs is a little gecko...

osmigos
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby osmigos » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:29 am UTC

Well, it finally happened to me... Get out of my head Randal!

This is the exact reason I stopped paying any attention at all to advertising. They spend a lot of effort learning to say things that sound completely different from what is actually true.
One of my personal pet peeves is some car lots around here that advertise 'You pay less than WE pay'. Well, yes that is technically true... because they aren't actually in the car business, they're in the LOAN business. Makes me want to get rich solely so I can go down to one of these lots when they have that sale and buy 15 cars in cash up front.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:33 am UTC

Ditto for the adblocker... Damn these metajokes.

phlip wrote:Re the comic: this sort of thing really should be taught in school... the title text applies to me too, it was quite an educational moment.
I remember this moment pretty well. My friends and I summed it up as: "If a company does a thing, that thing has a reason. Very rarely is that reason 'We love you'."

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby rpgamer » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:33 am UTC

Also adblocked. But I found it funny anyway. Comic labeled "Advertising," and it comes up blank. Irony.

And as I go back to check it without filters, it's already been remedied. Quick response.
Last edited by rpgamer on Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:36 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:35 am UTC

Nyerguds wrote:Psh. I don't use ad blockers. Too many webcomics I read use it as source of income to stay online.


I white-list sites I regularly visit which rely on advertising (and don't display annoying ads), XKCD does not from what I can tell so I never white-listed it in ABP.
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby solobutterfly » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:38 am UTC

I've worked in retail, and have some experience with the commercial/advertising world so I know how true this comic is, however, I've also had a co-worker and a high school friend who are so skilled with using coupons they have made the grocery stores owe them. I've yet to figure out how they have hacked the real world.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Moose Hole » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:40 am UTC

And what's up with all these insurance companies that have more discounts than other insurance companies? They don't say how much each discount is worth, and if they have more, you're less likely to fit into many of them.

Then there was the Wendy's commercial where they had two things for one price. The two things were half a salad and either a drink or a hamburger or fries or something, and the one price was five bucks. That's worse than almost every value meal or dollar menu out there.

There was a car commercial I saw today that said, "There's only one car that has the highest blah blah in its class!" Which isn't even true unless there is only one class of car.
Last edited by Moose Hole on Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:43 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Kaelin » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:41 am UTC

If there is anything more annoying in advertising than mathematically misleading statements, it is when advertising makes up cutesy fake math-ish/science-ish sounding terms to describe their product/service, or applying math/science terms to something they cannot be applied to. Not only is it awful, but there is absolutely no legal accountability for any claims made, no matter how outrageous they are.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby maxh » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:42 am UTC

The last panel seems to be a misunderstanding. Although spending more on a given item with a set "normal" price clearly means one saves less money, the slogan clearly applies to the total purchase. For example, if one saves 15% via discount, the person who spends 10$ saves 1$50, whereas the person who spends 100$ saves 15$. By spending more, they save more. Whether the additional spending is a good idea is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby LSN » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:43 am UTC

What's the title text mean "(related) parental Santa talk"? He means that Santa is just going to be a little late this year because it takes a while to make all the hardware I asked him for, right?

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby hujackus » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:47 am UTC

I'm thinking about how the third panel would look if the value of the purchased goods were somehow included in how much is saved. This interests me because I think advertisers using the "more you spend" slogan are confusing savings with wealth. I either case the phrase is wrong because of diminishing returns.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby phlip » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:51 am UTC

maxh wrote:The last panel seems to be a misunderstanding. Although spending more on a given item with a set "normal" price clearly means one saves less money, the slogan clearly applies to the total purchase. For example, if one saves 15% via discount, the person who spends 10$ saves 1$50, whereas the person who spends 100$ saves 15$. By spending more, they save more. Whether the additional spending is a good idea is left as an exercise for the reader.

But this only holds if you were going to spend that much anyway. If you were planning on buying $80 worth of stuff, and then get told it's 15% off and "the more you spend, the more you save!" and you end up getting $100 worth of stuff (and pay $85 for it), then you've spent $5 more than you were planning to. You have, essentially, saved less than nothing. Now, while you've paid $5 more, you've gotten $20-worth more of the product... and if it's, say, a consumable that doesn't perish quickly, you may still save money overall by not having to buy replacements as soon... but still, you're saving because you're buying something you were going to buy anyway at the cheaper price.

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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irishnut
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby irishnut » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:08 am UTC

As soon as i read this i was sure to find people commenting about things i wasn't going to understand... which made me sure randal had hit the mark once more!

Sidenote: having spent FAR too much time studying anatomy lately read "parental" as "parentaral" at least twice

bridgeyman
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby bridgeyman » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:14 am UTC

Is that middle panel correct? Shouldn't the expected value be x/(N-1) instead of x/(N+1)? Then, when you multiply it by N you get a number that is bigger than x. Maybe my brain just isn't working though. It is late.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Eutychus » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:15 am UTC

I would think mobile phone subscription packages (at least the way they are marketed in this country) would qualify as a topic for a PhD thesis in this field. They are so obscure as to be incomparable; I found a good one despite the store's advertising, not because of it.
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Turing Machine
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Turing Machine » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:16 am UTC

Kaelin wrote:If there is anything more annoying in advertising than mathematically misleading statements, it is when advertising makes up cutesy fake math-ish/science-ish sounding terms to describe their product/service, or applying math/science terms to something they cannot be applied to. Not only is it awful, but there is absolutely no legal accountability for any claims made, no matter how outrageous they are.


Yes, well, why would there be legal accountability? Not every wrong is the province of the law.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby phlip » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:20 am UTC

bridgeyman wrote:Is that middle panel correct? Shouldn't the expected value be x/(N-1) instead of x/(N+1)? Then, when you multiply it by N you get a number that is bigger than x. Maybe my brain just isn't working though. It is late.

The "+1" is because the text says "you and N other people", ie N+1 people total. So they've paid $x/(N+1) per person on average, so they're expecting to get at least that much back per person on average.
Turing Machine wrote:Yes, well, why would there be legal accountability? Not every wrong is the province of the law.

Because society typically believes that fraud is a bad thing, and even supreme minarchy-hardon libertarians acknowledge that free markets depend on consumers having free and accurate information about the products they're considering buying.
Last edited by phlip on Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:24 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby scienceguy8 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:22 am UTC

phlip wrote:
maxh wrote:The last panel seems to be a misunderstanding. Although spending more on a given item with a set "normal" price clearly means one saves less money, the slogan clearly applies to the total purchase. For example, if one saves 15% via discount, the person who spends 10$ saves 1$50, whereas the person who spends 100$ saves 15$. By spending more, they save more. Whether the additional spending is a good idea is left as an exercise for the reader.

But this only holds if you were going to spend that much anyway. If you were planning on buying $80 worth of stuff, and then get told it's 15% off and "the more you spend, the more you save!" and you end up getting $100 worth of stuff (and pay $85 for it), then you've spent $5 more than you were planning to. You have, essentially, saved less than nothing. Now, while you've paid $5 more, you've gotten $20-worth more of the product... and if it's, say, a consumable that doesn't perish quickly, you may still save money overall by not having to buy replacements as soon... but still, you're saving because you're buying something you were going to buy anyway at the cheaper price.

However, this all depends on who you are buying from: a retailer or a wholesaler. For most retailers, yes, when you buy more you don't actually save anything unless what you are buying is on sale for a limited time and it has a sufficiently long shelf life that you will be able to use it all. Wholesalers, however, are another story altogether. I can go to Mouser Electronics and buy a single red LED for $0.88, or I can buy one hundred of those same LEDs for $0.71 each, or five hundred for $0.60 each, and the more I buy the more money I save. Depending on how many LEDs I originally wanted, it could be cheaper to round up to the next price bracket. For instance, 85 LEDs would cost $74.80, while rounding up to 100 would cost me $71.00, saving me $3.80 and a whole lot of time so long as my next project needs 15 LEDs or less.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby ebyrne » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:26 am UTC

Shouldn't "amount you spend" be on the x-axis in the third panel since it's the independent variable? I'm a long time reader and this is what finally prompts me to create a forum account... sad.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby phlip » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:31 am UTC

Well sure, but that still comes to the same thing: if you only have a use for one LED, then buying 1 LED at 88 cents is still cheaper than buying 10 for $7.10 and letting the other 9 gather dust. If you do eventually have a use for those extra LEDs, then you've saved money by buying them in advance in bulk but, again, that's only because you were going to buy them anyway, at a more expensive price.

And that's even before the aspect of: if you didn't have those 9 LEDs sitting on a shelf gathering dust, would you have found a use for them? If not, the two options are "spend more, have more stuff, be happy using stuff" and "spend less, have less stuff, be happy not wanting stuff"... which are less directly comparable. But advertising's main purpose is to get you to do the former instead of the latter... getting you to buy things you didn't even know you wanted (which is just advertiser-spin for "things you didn't want").

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void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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bridgeyman
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby bridgeyman » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:31 am UTC

phlip wrote:
bridgeyman wrote:Is that middle panel correct? Shouldn't the expected value be x/(N-1) instead of x/(N+1)? Then, when you multiply it by N you get a number that is bigger than x. Maybe my brain just isn't working though. It is late.

The "+1" is because the text says "you and N other people", ie N+1 people total. So they've paid $x/(N+1) per person on average, so they're expecting to get at least that much back per person on average.


Ah, that makes perfect sense. Thanks!

PatrThom
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby PatrThom » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:51 am UTC

The ones that always get me are statements like:

"The new version is three times smaller than the old one."

Ergargleblarg that's not possible! It can be "67% smaller" or "1/3 the original size," but saying something is "twice as slow" is about as useful as saying your magical device can amplify sound on the order of one to the fourth power.

Being an intelligent human being, when I hear "contains 5x less sodium than our regular brand," I am left wondering the following:
-Do they mean it only contains 1/5th, or 20% of the sodium of the regular brand? (which is what I tend to assume they were trying to say)
-Or does this mean that only 1/6th, or 17% remains? (5/6ths removed)
Containing 1x less sodium than the regular brand means that 100% of the sodium has been removed, so something that advertises "5x less sodium" is technically proclaiming that it contains -400% of the sodium of the original, which is not physically possible.

Likewise, there are those products that say something like, "110% improved" when what they really mean is "10% improvement" since "110% improved" actually means "210% of the original." Using the word "improvement" in your sentence already implies that first 100%.

Stupid, stupid marketers.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Persona » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:00 am UTC

I've read the three posts about panel 2, but I still don't get it. How exactly are they planning to get their money back?

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby phlip » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:03 am UTC

Persona wrote:I've read the three posts about panel 2, but I still don't get it. How exactly are they planning to get their money back?

It doesn't matter how they're planning to do it... it could be any of a number of strategies. But the point is they expect to get more profit as a result of running the ad as it cost to run the ad, otherwise they wouldn't run the ad.

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby huenthar » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:10 am UTC

The last panel seems to be a misunderstanding. Although spending more on a given item with a set "normal" price clearly means one saves less money, the slogan clearly applies to the total purchase. For example, if one saves 15% via discount, the person who spends 10$ saves 1$50, whereas the person who spends 100$ saves 15$. By spending more, they save more. Whether the additional spending is a good idea is left as an exercise for the reader.


No, no, no. What he means is that you only earn a fixed amount of money per year. You either spend it or save it. Thus, if you spend more, you save less. ie. Total income = amount spent + amount saved.

(Of course, spent money isn't really "gone", it's invested in the product, so it depends on what you buy. If you're buying bonds, then I guess you really do save more if you spend more)

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby ijuin » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:13 am UTC

Persona wrote:I've read the three posts about panel 2, but I still don't get it. How exactly are they planning to get their money back?

Usually businesses plan to get their money back by inducing you to purchase items in addition to the "free" item, including but not limited to a requirement for you to make a purchase in the first place in order to get the bonus "free" item (as in a "buy Y get 1 free" offer, or a "free with purchase of $W or more").

In regard to the "more you buy the more you save" line, the quantity being compared to is the amount you would pay by buying the items at the non-sale price, not the amount you would pay by abstaining from purchasing. This can be valid if said item is something that you would probably buy at a later date anyway (e.g. grocery items, clothes, or any other goods that are replaced regularly), but not if it was something that you would only consider buying at all due to the discounted price.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Khorbin » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:15 am UTC

ebyrne wrote:Shouldn't "amount you spend" be on the x-axis in the third panel since it's the independent variable? I'm a long time reader and this is what finally prompts me to create a forum account... sad.


Someone already answered this, but it's because economists are dumb and reverse them. It annoyed the crap out of me when I took microeconomics in college.

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Ghona » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:43 am UTC

It certainly is possible to be more vague than "save up to 15% or more".

You could say "there exist points that fit into the set of allowable savings", for instance.

Or saying "the set of possible savings includes 15%" would give you slightly less information (you would not know whether or not 15% was a member of the set of points that could serve as the upper or lower bound for savings)

Also, "savings" is restricted to positive numbers, so the graph needs to be clipped at zero.
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby arbivark » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:48 am UTC

if a candidate for prosecutor or attorney general wanted my vote, what would probably work is to promise to prosecute the ones that say "free!" in the ads where it really isn't free.
chances are your state has some kind of consumer truth in advertising regulation. if enough of us starting filing complaints,
for false ads that say 'free" for things that aren't free, it could make a difference, maybe.
(there is the rare case where the thing is actually free, like "free donut on your birthday" where they are just trying to get you in the door, and i'm fine with that.)
some tv or radio stations might allow you to make "opposing opinion" commercials which mock the advertisers who falsely promise free stuff or use bad math in the ads.

those car ads that say "below invoice"? that invoice isn't the actual bill, it's a marketing document. car dealerships work on a series of kickbacks and rebates that vary by volume. so they are still making money, in addition to the financing.

sometimes i want something on the internet, and i want it free. but if i put "free" in the search term, i get a bunch of ads, so i don't put in "free", but just sort though the results to see which are free.

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Nooseybear
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby Nooseybear » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:50 am UTC

I never thought the day would come when I would find a budget constraint on an xkcd comic... Maybe I'll eventually see a utility curve as well!

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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby snowyowl » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:51 am UTC

Ghona wrote:It certainly is possible to be more vague than "save up to 15% or more".

You could say "there exist points that fit into the set of allowable savings", for instance.

Or saying "the set of possible savings includes 15%" would give you slightly less information (you would not know whether or not 15% was a member of the set of points that could serve as the upper or lower bound for savings)

Also, "savings" is restricted to positive numbers, so the graph needs to be clipped at zero.

There is only one value you will actually save, so there isn't exactly a "set of allowable savings" unless I'm missing something. And you can extend savings to the negative reals by taking "Save -50%" to mean that the price is increased by 50%. That's probably legal too, if very misleading, especially since shops near my home often use just "-50%" to mean "price reduced by 50%".
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bonzomadrid
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Re: 0870: "Advertising"

Postby bonzomadrid » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:52 am UTC

Hi, I'm a newbie. Love everything about xkcd, I actually prefer mondays, wednesdays and fridays to the rest of the working week. (thats because the hot girl on reception works those days, but I do love the comic too)

Wanted to chip in with my 2 pence worth. My pet hates are:

1. Most foods have artificial colours, artificial flavours and artificial preservatives. When, in big letters, a product is declared to be free of one or two of these, it automatically means it has the other two (or one).

2. "only 5% fat" is honest advertising. "95% fat free" is not. For some reason that really bugs me.

3. In the UK the slogan for our national lottery is (was?) "It could be you". This irks me because the word "could" has 2 uses - one is the strict, mathematical sense where it means "anything that has >0 probability of occuring" and the other is the way the layman uses it "it could rain tomorrow". Most people use "could" in the latter sense, to mean "something with a reasonable probability of occuring". Not "something with a probability so low that it might as well be zero as far as you're concerned". It seems a dishonest use of language to me - if they can get away with this, I should be able to sue Gillette because they claim their razor leaves my face "smooth", but it still has a coefficient of friction >0.
Cigarette packs have warnings on them in the UK. One used to be "Warning : Most doctors don't smoke". I think lottery tickets should carry the legend "Warning : Most mathematicians don't do the lottery"

Anyhoo, nice yakking. Must get back to work

B x


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