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Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Claim:   The label on a 1995 can of Renuzit air freshener included a deliberately planted phallic image.

FALSE

Origins:   In March 1995, Dial Corp. introduced a new can for the Fresh Cut Flowers scent of their Renuzit air freshener product, featuring a label Renuzit can festooned with pictures of tulips. Within two months, both Dial and retailers started receiving complaints about a phallic image that allegedly appeared on the side of the can. Immediately the rumors began to fly: Was it a form of subliminal advertising? A publicity stunt? The product of a disgruntled art director? Answer: none of the above.

Although remarkably phallic in shape, the image was indeed part of a picture of a flower that was awkwardly cropped to fit the label. According to Dial, when the can had been redesigned about nine months earlier, the tulip on the aerosol can was cropped by the seam of the can, leaving one petal detached from the rest of the flower. The same picture — with a different trim — was used on Renuzit's LongLast Roomate air freshener cans and showed that
the "phallus" was unquestionably a tulip. (A widespread rumor had it that a disgruntled art director at The Dial Corp had superimposed his penis into a shot of cut flowers. All incidentally phallic images appearing on product packaging are apparently actually the product of disgruntled artists, as evidenced by similar rumors involving The Little Mermaid video cover and a Topps Star Wars trading card.)

Dial did not recall and destroy the questionable cans, although they did hide the petal behind a green leaf on cans already in stock and created a new photo and label for use on subsequent cans.

Last updated:   4 May 2011

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Sources:

    Cummins, Cathy.   "Freshener Cans Raise Eyebrows."
    The Tampa Tribune.   18 May 1995   (p. 6).

    Gilgoff, Henry.   "Clearing the Air About a Label."
    Newsday.   9 June 1995   (p. A42).

    Leavenworth, Jesse.   "Petal's Peculiarity Has Renuzit Aflutter."
    The Hartford Courant.   10 June 1995   (p. A3).