Advertising Cliches

OJ Simpson Ford Bronco AdSometimes advertisements have a language of their own. Some gimmicks are obvious: phrases like “sale”, “call now” and “free”. Others are more subtle. Here are some of the marketing and advertising cliches that annoy me the most.

“On the go”

This phrase really irks me, mostly because it’s only used in ads and marketing materials. Nobody says “When I’m in the go” outside of an advertisement. Then there’s “on the run”. I remember once at the supermarket, I heard an ad that asked “What do you eat when you’re on the run?” Unless they’re targeting escaped fugitives, this kind of language just sounds silly.


In this case, it’s not so much the word that’s obnoxious as the concept. Whenever advertisers say that their products are “irresistible”, or something I can’t resist, I want to change the channel and boycott their product. I hate the insinuation that their product will break my willpower and make me a slave to the flavor.

“Free gift”

Whenever an ad promises you a “free gift” you can be certain that it’s neither free nor a gift. It’s a bonus, or maybe an amenity, but if it’s included in your purchase, it’s just not a gift. Furthermore, since you’re spending money with the company, you know that you’re going to pay for that free gift, directly or indirectly. I’d rather skip the gift and pay less to begin with.

“The next 10 callers”

You hear this one a lot in infomercials. “The next x-number of callers will receive a free gift.” I remember seeing that as a kid and wondering how they kept track of the exact time that each ad ran, so they could track the first 10 callers for each ad. Of course, they don’t do this. Everyone gets the “free gift”, and everyone pays for it.

There are a million other bad advertising cliches out there. Which ones bug you the most?

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs regularly at

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4 Responses

  1. February 13, 2014

    […] shops fit into a few simple categories. For example, some coffee shops are geared more to people “on the go”, whereas others cater to lingering hipsters and artists. Here are the five types of coffee shops […]

  2. July 20, 2015

    […] This one is the most obvious: McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are everywhere in this country. Regionally, you might also find Whataburger, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Checker’s, Rally’s or a myriad of other chains. These kinds of burgers are so ubiquitous that they’re not even much of a treat. They’re just something to eat when you’re “on the go”. […]

  3. February 16, 2017

    […] In parts of New England, they say “tonic”, and I know plenty of Midwesterners who say “sodie pop”. I’ve also met a few Southerners who say “cold drink”. Then there are people in Britain who say “fizzy drinks”. The phrase “soft drink” is fairly neutral. This term is pretty common on restaurant menus, since a national chain can use the term nationwide. But while it’s understood across America, soft drink just has an odd feel to it. It’s one of those phrases that no one uses outside of marketers, kind of like “on the go”. […]

  4. August 5, 2019

    […] the sign was from a fugitive running for office. Or perhaps an already elected politician who was “on the run”. Neither sounded plausible though. I was old enough to know better. Unfortunately, I didn’t […]

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