The short version
In 2005, television adverts appeared in the UK for a yoghurt called Activia which contained “Bifidus Digestivum”. A Google search for “Bifidus Digestivum” only turned up lots of blog posts asking “what is Bifidus Digestivum?”
After some research, it became clear that Bifidus Digestivum was simply a name for a proprietary strain of bacteria that was included in Activia, which is simply a live yoghurt like the ones people have been making for thousands of years.
It seemed worth publishing the results of that research because, if the blogs posts were anything to go by, people were interested.
The long version
The function of language used in advertising is to sell things. This may seem an obvious statement, but unpacking it leads to some debates about ethics and the role of companies.
For example, the vast majority of people would agree that there are limits to what people can claim for their product. To take an extreme example, an advertisement for a soft drink that claimed it would definitely cure cancer would not be allowed.
However, language has different structures of meaning other than simply taking words at face value. The different associations between calling Activia a “live yoghurt” and saying that it has “Bifidus Regularis” in it are obvious – the second sounds scientific and / or medical, implying some kind of clinical background, even if the difference between Activia and other live yoghurts hasn’t been investigated at all (even the benefits of live yoghurts for people who are generally healthy are widely disputed).
Advertising regulators do take this kind of implication into account – Dannon was recently forced to reword its advertising because of a lawsuit in the USA – but these kinds of cases are very difficult to prove because of the nuanced nature of implying things rather than taking language at face value.
So this site is partially an investigation into the potential of the internet for giving people clear information about the contents of those implications by unpacking the implications of the phrases “Bifidus Regularis”, “Bifidus Actiregularis” and so on.
It is also simply the result of good will – giving out information that people may find useful in making choices about what to eat.