1096: Clinically Studied Ingredient

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Clinically Studied Ingredient
Blatantly banking on customers not understanding that it's like a Hollywood studio advertising that their new movie was 'watched by Roger Ebert'.
Title text: Blatantly banking on customers not understanding that it's like a Hollywood studio advertising that their new movie was 'watched by Roger Ebert'.


This comic is poking fun at a phrase which some ads use to boost sales of their product. They state that their product contains a "clinically studied ingredient", which consumers assume means that the ingredient has been clinically tested and proven effective, or at the very least, not harmful, although neither is, strictly speaking, implied by that statement. An example of this appears on many body wash products, bearing the phrase "Tested by dermatologists for sensitive skin" or something similar. The phrase just states that an ingredient was clinically studied and doesn't mention the findings of that study (which, for all we know, could have found the ingredient to be ineffective or harmful). In other words, the phrase is used in deceptive marketing techniques, leading consumers to believe something which encourages them to buy the product, without committing to saying it explicitly.

In the middle of the conversation, a woman tells Cueball that she has been tested, presumably for Sexually transmitted diseases. However she does not reveal the results of the tests, which is the primary information Cueball could be worried about, and when Cueball inquires, she acts like he is being unreasonable to also want that information. In this way, Randall is making an analogy to how a marketer might think consumers would be unreasonable to want to know the results of the clinical studies on the ingredient.

The title text mentions the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. At the time this comic was published (a year before Ebert's death), one could expect him to have watched most big-name movies that were coming out. Simply stating that he saw a movie, therefore, does not necessarily mean that he liked it.

Impressive-sounding but meaningless advertisement claims are also the subject of 624: Branding, 641: Free, 870: Advertising and 993: Brand Identity.


I can't help but admire the audacity of the marketer who came up with the phrase "contains a clinically studied ingredient"
[Cueball is sat on a bed, talking to a curly-haired woman standing close by.]
Woman: Don't worry - I've been tested.
Cueball: ...and you're clean?
Woman: So many questions!

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  • "Clinical", coming from the greek word κλίνη for bed, also suggests research on patients. Maybe this is (another reason) why Cueball is in a bed. 09:23, 30 August 2012 (UTC)tetartos
  • The 1997 parody film Plump Fiction (an atrocious film from the looks of it) jokingly used the tagline «From the producers who saw "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs" and "Braveheart"» to the same effect. --Buggz (talk) 11:53, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    It's a similar effect, although in that case, the joke isn't that the tagline doesn't indicate whether the producers liked the other films, the joke there is that normally the tagline would tell you other works the producers had themselves produced. There is no ambiguity in the tagline, as it's pretty clear the producers of that film didn't produce the other films. TheHYPO (talk) 14:30, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    I meant to compare the tagline to the title text, not the comic itself. --Buggz (talk) 13:27, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I think the joke isn't just that what Megan was tested for isn't clear, but like the clinically studied compound, she doesn't say if she was found to be healthy or not.
    I don't think the fact that she doesn't say what she was tested for is part of the joke at all. I think we just come in in the middle of a conversation where the previous line was something like "How do I know you don't have any STDs?". Also, please sign your comments by putting four tildes after it ( ~~~~ ) TheHYPO (talk) 14:30, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Longer hair than normal, but maybe it's just too early this morning for me. Tebow Time, Twice a Day. 12:03, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    Hmmm... I'm inclined to think it's not Megan, unless she has a perm. (Megan's is consistently spaghetti-straight.) (qv xkcd 1089) -- IronyChef (talk) 13:53, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    I'll go on record that this is *not* Megan. We have a few variants of female characters based only on the hair and this is not consistent with her other appearances. --Jeff (talk) 14:29, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    Approve completely; I removed all references to her. - Cos (talk) 23:35, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
    (Weird bullet-pointing, from Talk nearly ten years old, was that the style back then? I seem to have forgotten it, if I ever consciously noticed it at the time...) The Transcript currently says it is her. Assuming it's not been officially put back in since 2012 (not going to check, I should have spotted it at the time if I was inclined to pay such attention to it), I think I'll change that. 18:24, 28 March 2022 (UTC)
  • No matter how I squint at this one, that extra line just doesn't seem to make sense... unless there is a penis in this cartoon.
    Nope, nothing so bawdy. The left knee is just a little higher than the right. -- IronyChef (talk) 13:30, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    I don't even see an extra line. I took the pointed corner Cueball's right arm is on to be the corner of the bed (a stylized slanted bed) with the round line being the covers that don't come to the end. Alternatively, as IronyChef suggests, the round is the end of the bed, and cueball has his right hand on his right leg while his left leg is raised (with his knee around the area of his right wrist) TheHYPO (talk) 14:30, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Interestingly, a Google search of the subject phrase of this comic brings up this comic as the first (few) results. There are, however, actual product examples that come up. I had never heard the phrase used; but apparently it is, for example, by Progesic or Myobuild (note: explainxkcd does not endorse the use of these misleading products) TheHYPO (talk) 14:30, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    • Other examples include Super CitriMax®, which contains "a clinically studied ingredient for weight management", and UC-II®, which contains an ingredient that has been "clinically studied to support joint comfort, mobility and flexibility". [1] ~ Quackslikeaduck (talk) 18:59, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "the phrase is used in shrewd marketing techniques": Not sure that shrewd is correct - deceitful?
    I've put "elusive" - Cos (talk) 23:35, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
    Elusive means it is hard to find/capture. I think deceptive is the right word. 01:38, 17 September 2012 (UTC)Brion
  • I first interpreted "So many questions" in the comic in that the tests themselves raised 'so many questions'. It's probably not the correct interpretation, but I figured I would leave a comment about it. --Yuriy206 (talk) 20:51, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
    Not being a native english speaker, I interpreted that phrase as Megan(?) being upset about being asked "so many questions!". 20:44, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
Not quite upset, but certainly a bit startled or surprised.
Hold on, these comments are 10 years apart. You'll probably never see this lol. Psychoticpotato (talk) 13:53, 4 April 2024 (UTC)