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If a commercial requires a disclaimer, usually for legal reasons, the people creating the ad will put it at the bottom of the screen in tiny, low-contrast text using a hard-to-read font, and then leave it up for only a split second.

In theory this is so that the viewers won't be distracted from their desire to buy the product by any nagging doubts the content of the disclaimer might raise.

Unless you have a Tivo or other digital TV recorder that can pause the commercial you can usually only read two or three words from the disclaimer at a time. The pause function on a VCR tends to have too much jitter for the text to be readable from an analog tape.

For the radio equivalent, where disclaimers are read inhumanly fast, see Rattling Off Legal.

See also Read the Fine Print.

Examples of Unreadable Disclaimer include:

  • There are many commercials where the disclaimer text will be 1 point font, low contrast, up for all of three seconds (as the narrator says 'terms and conditions may apply'), but covering literally almost 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire television screen as colorful and distracting images zoom by on top of it.
    • There was a car commercial which had so much 1 point font, low contrast text that it had to scroll to prevent it from taking up more than 1/3 of the screen. Between the scrolling speed and low contrast, it would be difficult to read even with the ability to pause the ad.
  • Parodied in an And Now for Something Completely Different Episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: The Disclaimer said, "If you can read this, you're too close."
  • Current commercials for the arthritis medication "Celebrex" feature a narrator trying to persuade viewers that even with all of the complications (including heart failure) that can arise from using the drug they should still ask for a prescription for it. What really takes the cake, however, are the visuals which consist entirely of rotoscoped scenes with the lines being made of fine print of the drug's consequences!
  • This is parodied in a Father of the Pride episode. When the family "gets" an HDTV, they find they can actually read the disclaimers. Larry then wonders what "anal leakage" means.
  • Related: Under Dutch law of the time, car commercials had to show a table when mentioning financing. The law didn't say anything about the table containing, say, interest rates and such. One commercial had the tiny table contain nothing but dots and lines.
    • Maybe they intended to make it even more difficult to read by putting it in Morse Code.
  • There is a commercial with disclaimer text advising whoever reads it to go send their mother flowers or ride a bike instead of staying inside all day playing with the VCR. Fake or added bonuses in the disclaimer is probably not too uncommon.
  • The legal text of EGM magazine, near the end of said magazine, always contains some sort of joke.
    • Hiding jokes and so on in the flannel panel or legal disclaimers of a magazine is reasonably common. The legal bits for just about any magazine usually ends up being an unreadable disclaimer, they're needed but no-one reads them (except for people looking for the hidden messages), so they're printed as small as possible.
  • You know those late night commercials for personal injury lawyers? Many US states require that lawyers' ads post a disclaimer saying something like, "The choice of an attorney is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertising." Of course, they flash the warning in itty-bitty blur-font for a half second.
    • Most state bar associations require these commercials to disclaim whether or not they use real lawyers or actors in their commercials.
    • One humorous billboard says in fine print that the lawyer is not licensed to practice law in the state.
  • In the small print of a debt contract in the first Red Dwarf book, the clause stating the daily interest rate of eight hundred percent is hidden in a tittle over the "i" in the name of the All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks.
  • There used to be an ad that pushed "no fine print." While they said that there was fine print on the screen that basically said "This is fine print, this is what we don't have" stretched out to fill half the screen at 1 point font.
    • What a sly way to sneak that disclaimer in.
  • Spoofed in one of Apple's "Hi, I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" advertisements. PC appears and starts praising himself, only to start being covered by barely readable legal copy. When he states that he's now "100% trouble free," the fine print covers the screen.
  • Parodied in The Fairly Oddparents. In the Norm movie, a disclaimer for an impromptu commercial races across the screen as a souped-up voice reads it.
  • At least in Germany, ring tone subscription providers and their ilk actually embiggened their fine print to be legible after taking heavy flak for exploiting gullible minors.
    • Ringtone providers advertise on something other than the Internet?
      • Oh yes. 99% of MTV's ad revenue comes from ringtones and the like. Repeated ad nauseam.
      • Exploiting gullible minors? Might explain what the heck all those ringtone & mobile screensaver ads are doing on Animax here in Hungary. In the latter case, only the fine print says it's a screensaver and not what it's advertised as.
    • Here in New Zealand, a court case ruled that the fine print on their TV ads was unreadable on a normal TV, and thus not legally binding.
  • Lampshaded: when the DVD of Fight Club is started, the Unreadable Disclaimer contains a Tyler Durden rant.
  • This joking disclaimer takes fine print to micron levels.
  • This is the MO of Soho clip joints, which display their prices (several hundred pounds for a drink) on low-contrast menus printed in a gothic font in dimly-lit rooms, relying on threats of legal action and/or physical violence to persuade customers victims to cough up the money.
  • Due to an ad agency screw-up, one mid-2000s Ford commercial had a disclaimer that began "DISCLAIMER COPY GOES HERE" followed by descriptions of the various fonts to be used in the commercial. Apparently even the people who write the disclaimers don't read them. Made funnier by the fact that Ford's slogan at the time was "Look Again!"
  • Brilliantly (or fiendishly) exploited by a Norwegian ad for a cell phone service that advertised itself as being able to find info on anything by simply typing in a word into a text message, no key terms required. The disclaimer at the bottom of the ad specificaly stated that their service did nothing more than do a search of That Other Wiki on whatever was typed in to it and fetch back the info. In other words, the application made you pay an unrelated party money every time you wanted to search Wikipedia.
  • The entire spoken contract to become a Being's Master But I'm a Cat Person consists of "I, [your name here]." The written version has never even been seen (and wouldn't be in English if it were).
  • Parodied in the short Not Without My Handbag from Aardman Animations. The fine print in a washing machine payment contract states that "On non-payment of any installments, the contractee shall go to hell without further notice."
  • Chargesdotcomdotbr parodied this in a parody of a Ford ad. The "Disclaimer" was just a message stating that, like every ad, that one had something written in such small letters it was almost unreadable but worked as a defense if somebody sued the announcer stating, "Hey, that I didn't know!"
  • Parodied on Laser Feet with a disclaimer on the about page.


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