Truth In Advertising?

If there is one thing that all climbing magazines have in common, it is that they are all filled with advertisements.  Most ads are some variation on the idea of depicting a company’s sponsored athlete showing off the latest company gear on the latest testpieces.  Usually, the ad has a small caption noting the location and grade of the route or problem so the reader can get a sense of just how badass that company’s gear/climber is.  While the ads are inherently filled with hype designed to sell products and athletes both, I think there is some expectation that the information presented in the ad is accurate.  Here are two recent examples where this has not been the case:

Exhibit A

Timy Fairfield Web Ad

Last year La Sportiva was running this ad showing Timy Fairfield climbing The Web in Eldorado Canyon, CO.  The caption on the photo refers to the route as being rated 5.13c.  I didn’t really think anything of it as I am not familiar with routes in Eldo, but longtime Boulder local Peter Beal had this to say about the ad:

By the way, in a recent Sportiva ad, the route is rated 13c. Is Sportiva trying to say that the new Solution makes 13a/b routes 13c? As an aging climber myself I would prefer shoes that make routes easier not harder. Sportiva posing another aging climber on the Web seems only to reinforce my description of this venerable classic.

When I saw Peter’s thoughts it got me to wondering, so I figured I would keep an eye out for future ads that take creative liberties with grades.

Exhibit B

Daniel Woods Solutions Ad

La Sportiva has a new Solutions ad out featuring Daniel Woods climbing on Fifty Words For Pump at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.  I say “climbing on” because he hasn’t actually sent the route.  This fact isn’t really that important except when you consider it in conjunction with the caption which I have enlarged for you here:

Say what?

See a problem?  I do.  Fifty Words For Pump is rated 5.14c not 5.14d.  If anything it is on the low end of .14c’s by all accounts.  To steal a line from Peter, do the Solutions make 5.14c feel like 5.14d?  In the grand scheme of things a small discrepancy in letter grades is not that important, but when it is used for the purposes of advertising a product I think it is important to be accurate.  Or at least try to be accurate.  Especially when you are clearly running this particular picture because of the route’s difficulty.

Do these two examples, when taken together, indicate some sort of intentional dishonesty on the part of La Sportiva?  I doubt it, but I’m not really sure.  I understand that they are doing their best to promote their products and athletes, but I would encourage them to correct these oversights if they are going to run the Daniel Woods ad in the future.

I’m sure that La Sportiva isn’t the only company that has done this sort of thing, but these are the two recent examples that jumped out at me.  I would be interested in hearing about or seeing any other examples people might have, as well as whether or not you really care what companies put in their ads.

[poll id=”8″]

Posted In: Climbing Magazines, From The Narc
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21 Responses to Truth In Advertising?

  1. Booouuuulllldddeerrrr March 18, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    dont forget Abby Smith climbing Hallow’s Way, calling it v10 – originally rated v7. you would think sportiva would get the grades of their hometown problems correct. nice post.  i love shit talkin’

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  2. Kevlar March 18, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    I guess I really never noticed that! thats actually kind of funny!

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  3. sonic March 18, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    entre-prise’s former website used to list their sponsored climbers. they had a blurb about chris sharma, and a list of his hardest sends.  all the climbs were bumped up at least one grade. ie witness the fitness – V16, esperanza V15, etc. 

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  4. Luke March 18, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Grades will always be bickered about and so I think the number featured on the ad is not important.

    I think it is more troubling to see ads featuring climbers on routes they have not sent and suggesting otherwise. I suppose the ad is trying to show that the shoes can be used to project top end climbs. It just seems a bit misleading.

    In a similar vein Bluewater ropes had ads featuring Ethan Pringle on Dreamcatcher and Three Degrees of Separation. These are climbs Pringle is projecting but has not sent. It may have been a different rope company but i think it was Bluewater.

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  5. new rule:  only i may be pictured on climbs that i have not sent in advertisements and since my opinion reigns supreme as to grades, pretty much whatever i say should go. 
    all in favor?
     
    [resounding ‘aye’]
     
    all opposed?
    [crickets only]
     
     
    woot, bishes

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  6. byron March 18, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    You have a second on that Chosscrush!

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  7. Climbing Narcissist March 18, 2008 at 12:13 pm #

    Luke – I would agree that grades will always be a discrepancy that can be argued about.  However, in the case of Fifty… in the 10 years it was an open project along with after it was FA’ed in October ’07 there was never any talk of it being 5.14d.  That was why I found that example to be especially odd.  If it had originally been graded .14d and then subsequently downgraded it would be a bit different.

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  8. tbwilsonky March 18, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    good post.  maybe I can get sportiva to sponsor me so all my projects get bumped up a grade?   because everyone knows the difference between v9 and v10 is a full page shoe ad in Rock and Ice. 

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  9. tbwilsonky March 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    just an aside on the poll.  i’m not sure it’s ‘wrong’ to inflate grades on ads, but it certainly doesn’t make much sense.  the average rock consumer won’t really know (or notice) the difference, and the people attuned to hard-climbing news know the numbers and send representations are incorrect.  it’s a draw-lose situation it seems. 

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  10. Luke March 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    Thats a good point. I know that 50 has always been 14c but perhaps someone at sportiva misread the grade. With the grade of 14d on the sportiva ad I wonder who they are trying to fool?

    I think it is fine to have climbers on hard problems that they have not sent. It is necessary to represent these photos as a climber attempting X or projecting Y, not climbing Z I think that climbing ad’s often suggest a climber has completed the climb they are on in the photo. Misrepresentation in these ad’s is a style faux pas and a sign of bad ethics.

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  11. Tony March 18, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    the c and d keys are right next to each other on the keyboard…

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  12. Luke March 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    Brilliant!!
    We need a new rating system that is typo proof!
    Suggestions?!?!?!

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  13. fancyketchup March 18, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    It is interesting to note that Hollows Way is just off the section of Flagstaff Road that is maintained by Sportiva.  Dab.  Though for someone as short as Abby I’m sure it feels V10.

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  14. Tony March 18, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    To typo proof it we just need to move all climbing related letters to opposite corners of the key board.

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  15. “under v7”  “v7”  &  “over v7”  would be difficult to mess up.
    interestingly, legend has it that lisa rands got bouted on hollow’s way after decimating higher graded climbs shortly before… supposedly, she had mentioned that it felt “like v10”.  this story bounced around for a short while and may have taken root in some minds.
    also, pringle’s recent comment that it felt harder than a consensus v11 in poudre canyon gave credence to this idea, though such comment was clearly after the sportiva add. 
    i did notice the grade inflation on the above described ads and i’ve noticed the same in climbing news both in print and on the web.  all in all, however, it just doesn’t really matter.  most folks couldn’t care less what climbs someone has sent and has not sent, let alone what grades were sprayed for em.  if you’re in the know on the grade of something, you can sit quiet and smug knowing that you are more bad ass than the person claiming a higher grade.  or, you can just say “huh, interesting” and carry on with your day indifferent to the whole non-issue.
    i do think that advertisements should say “super climba fool ON _________” when a send has not yet been manifested by the labors of such fool.
    but to what extent does everything need to be policed?  should the black diamond add be revised to read:  x dood on “the static version of free willy that is not quite the same and is not quite as difficult as the original dyno-required version”  v-something [most feel hard v9 or still 10, but definitely a bit easier than the dyno version]
    ??
    what level of ‘disclosure’ is required?
    at least for the hollow’s way add we got a really cool photo out of it… prolly the best hollow’s way shot i’ve seen, though i’ve got my fingaz crossed for andy mann to bust out some of his recent shots on it.
    just some thoughts.   not saying this topic should not have been raised…. it’s interesting that it has been so raised… just some counterpoint nuggets for you to mull over.

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  16. Climbing Narcissist March 19, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    FancyKetchup – That is really funny.

    Sock Hands – Thanks for the added insight.  I agree that in the grand scheme of things that quibbling over a letter or number here and there is not really worth getting worked up about.  I just thought I would raise the issue to see what everyone else thinks.  It gives us something to do on the long days chained to our desks.  I do think that it is in the best interest of the sport as a whole though to try and maintain a level of integrity with how information is presented.

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  17. agreed.  just fun to push around in the greyness.
    on the issue of grades, consider this:  8a commented multiple times over the last few years about the downgrading that’s gone on in RMNP and other US climbing areas… as if our grades and us climbers were all soft…
    now, a bunch of colorado climbers are carving through switzerland… the crown jewel of ‘hard’ bouldering…. like a hot knife through… soft… butter.
    no mention of how ‘soft’ these problems are perceived to be on 8a?  ignoring when the shoe is on the other foot?
    i’m not suggesting that it is right to be petty with regionalism…you know: ” OUR place is so CORE and your areas are so SOFT, MAN!!! BWAHAHAHAHA ”

    but it really burns my ass when i see or hear instances of this… how burly one area is versus another. when this discussion is done in a cool, calculated way and presented as a level headed opinion, i am very interested in hearing about regional differences in grading… but, when it becomes a pissing match, i get highly irritated….

    “ALL YOUR SHIT’S SOFT CHOSS”, etc.

    if 8a is keen on cutting through the hype of areas like RMNP, shouldn’t it follow suit w/ european hot spots?

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  18. Climbing Narcissist March 19, 2008 at 9:01 am #

    I had observed the same thing and perhaps it deserves further discussion in a more in depth post.  I think that at this point it is obvious the editorial opinions of 8a.nu hold very little weight with anyone.

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  19. peter beal March 19, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    More disturbing  than simple grading “controversy” are Fairfield’s comments about the future of climbing.

    http://mountainsandwater.blogspot.com/2007/11/fake-climbing-for-future.html

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  20. zonk March 19, 2008 at 11:22 am #

    to be fair to 8a.nu (and yes, quite often they annoy me to no end), i think they have pointed out that a lot of hard problems at other areas, european hotspots, have been downgraded too.  magic wood, for example, is known to be soft i believe.

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  21. good thing castlewood’s lines are super solid and burly hard so that i can claim that castlewood is way more sikk than magicwood. 
    hell, every other day an important hold breaks off a well-traveled ‘classic’… the grades at castlewood are JUST GONNA GET HARDER as time goes on!!
    can’t wait to start a scene when i finally visit LCC… “dang man, you think these grades are solid, you shoudl visit castlewood… if you can climb v5 there, you can climb v9 ANYWHERE [else]”
    heh.
     
     

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