Standing behind a box of S.O.S. soap pads and a box of Brillo pads, the announcer looks out from the television screen and soberly, sincerely, begins his pitch: "There's been a lot of confusion lately over which of these steel-wool soap pads actually has the longest lasting soap. S.O.S. says 'longest lasting,' and Brillo says 'now lasts longest.' Obviously somebody has to be wrong, and somebody is." The announcer removes the Brillo box from sight and concludes: "The facts reveal that only S.O.S. can make this claim."

Not long ago, such head-to-head comparisons in TV commercials would have contravened advertising's...

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