I was driving down the road the other day and on the radio comes this commercial for this super-duper miracle diet plan. This woman is recounting her life story, about how as a kid she was picked on and kidded because she was fat. Now as an adult she has lost 80 pounds in a matter of months and her whole life has been turned around.
At the end of this saga and touting of the product, the commercial ends with the announcer saying, these results are not typical.
Hmm, I think. This whole house of cards about how good this product is was built on the assumption that the story you are hearing about could be you. It turns out to be bogus.
Advertising is funny that way.
They push a new product or some service and then at the very end of this slow talking commercial they drop in a million disclaimers by the fastest talking man in the world. But they say them so fast they figure you will discount them as not important.
But slow it down and it says something like this: This product makes every third person vomit repeatedly. And in rare cases your head falls off. It is not recommended for anyone who writes left-handed or right handed. Miscarriages occur in rare instances. The product has not been approved by the FDA or anyone else reputable.
I guess we have been the victims of these advertising tricks so long that we have become accustomed to them. A person hearing it for the first time would laugh out loud.
I guess I am paying attention to commercials because I know we are about to be bombarded with 11 months of political ads.
Don't get me wrong. I am a big believer in advertising. You own a store and you have 200 pair of blue jeans that haven't been selling well. You decide to sell them for a third of the retail price. If you don't have a way of getting this message out through advertising you might as well eat the pants. If you are looking for a bargain but don't have a way of knowing about them you don't know where to go.
So I think advertising legitimately is a valid part of our lives. All of the papers I have worked for, including this one, are concerned about getting it right and honest in the advertisements. If a car dealer said to one of our advertising representatives, "We are advertising these cars for $5,000 but they are really $15,000 and so this is just a bogus way of getting them to the car lot," we would laugh in his face.
Why then can't radio and television advertising just accept the fact that honesty is part of the process.
I assume they don't believe it is lying as much as "embellishing." It's like the people who put baby oil on apples to make them look more appealing in the ad. They think they are just pumping it up rather than outright lying. The problem with this is that the longest trip to hell begins with the smallest step towards it.
So they buy your apples instead of mine because yours look a little shinier. So I am hurt a little but no one is really harmed too bad because your apples really aren't too bad.
But back to our presidential year, advertising has already and will continue to play a large part in how we vote.
This bogus advertising will diminish one candidate's views and record and accomplishments. It will pump up the opponent's. Then the first candidate will counter with some critical ads and pump up his record more.
Thirty-second commercials will be fired at us for months saying the candidate's sister is a "thespian" or that the candidate's brother is a "homo sapien." If the candidate ever forgot to balance his checkbook we will be seeing fuzzy hidden camera shots of him cashing a check without first balancing his account.
The sad part of this is that it works. We say we hate negative or fake advertising and then we still buy the product, in this case the leader of the most powerful country in the world.
Some said that Senator Edwards came on strong in Iowa because he refused to attack his opponents and ran more positive ads. I would hope this was the case, but the truth is you really can't draw any national implications from Iowa.
Let's see as the year goes along if the voters turn on those who run bogus, negative advertising. My suspicion sadly is that they will keep buying the diet plan that promises one person somehow lost 80 pounds in two months, they will keep buying the medicine that might make your head fall off and they will keep electing presidents based on negative advertising and bogus claims.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay at news-daily.com.