Most ads run with a list of claims about the product being advertised, and don't really think twice about necessarily having to prove those claims within that 30 seconds. This one from Panasonic goes about it a bit differently.
Here's the issue I have: if Panasonic can legally say those things - and I'm not well-versed in commercial law, but I'm not sure I know a good reason why they can't - then they should just say them, rather than using this odd framing device. If they can't legally say those things, then how on earth are they getting away with running an ad like this?
Scene: A California courtroom, 1995
Johnnie Cochran: Mr. Fuhrman, is it true that you once used the N-word to describe black people?
Mark Fuhrman: I can't legally answer that question by saying that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin.
Johnnie Cochran: Um, move to strike.
I mean, really? There are laws against making mildly hyperbolic but basically accurate claims about your product that are so weak they can be circumvented simply by running an ad that says "This thing I'm telling you? Technically I can't tell you that. But here I am, doing it anyway"?
Voice-over: "Legally, we cannot say Toughbook laptops will withstand fire, take a bullet, or secure classified material."
If Toughbook laptops can actually withstand fire and/or take bullets, I'm pretty sure you're okay to tell us that. Hell, run an ad that shows a Toughbook laptop taking a bullet and being fine; that'd be pretty memorable, a lot more so than this one is. Now, if they can't do those things, you probably shouldn't be implying that they can, don't you think? That might present a legal problem no matter how you're couching it. But at least these are fairly specific things. Now it's time to move into the "broad, unverifiable" range of things they can't say Toughbooks do.
Voice-over: "We can't say they save lives, build cities, or tune cars that finish first."
"We can't legally tell you that Toughbook laptops can pick winning lottery numbers, balance your checkbook, or get you a date with Jessica Biel. We can't say they won the last six Super Bowls, developed a viable plan to end our reliance on foreign oil within a decade, or are the only things besides cockroaches that will survive a nuclear strike. And we definitely can't say they have a robot arm that will come out and give you a handjob."
You know why they can't say Toughbooks save lives or build cities? Because they don't. Humans who use Toughbooks - maybe - do those things. It's not quite on the same level as a yes-or-no question about whether or not the Toughbook's casing can withstand a bullet. Still, would it have been that much of a legal problem simply to run a normal ad showing a doctor using a Toughbook and saying that Toughbooks help save lives? I mean, the other Toughbook ad I've seen is far less equivocal than this one, even going so far as to state that you can work anywhere and risk nothing by using a Toughbook. So what the fuck is Panasonic doing in this ad?
Voice-over: "Legally, we can't say we are the king of all laptops."
Actually, last year a Toughbook became the first laptop to ascend to the Danish throne. So I'm pretty sure they're in the clear here. (Nice shift from third person plural to first person plural, by the way. Did this copy get proofread before production?)
Voice-over: "Our lawyers are just doing their jobs."
Too bad you can't say the same for the people at your ad agency.