Monday, September 03, 2007

Pond Scum

I really don’t know which frightens me most: just how stupid advertisers think we are, or how stupid we actually have to be to believe the fathomless idiocies that we are fed every time we turn on the TV or read a magazine.

I love the car ads that say “0 percent financing for well-qualified buyers.” Do you know what a “well-qualified” buyer is? I certainly don’t, though I strongly suspect a “well-qualified” buyer is one who can afford to pay cash for the car and therefore has no need for a 0 percent financing in the first place. Cash is, after all, 0 percent financing. The rest of us pay full fare, as we find out when we’re suckered in to the showroom.

Advertisers are totally in love with modifiers: “Emerging science suggests that Barfenol may help lower whatever it is that needs lowering.” Five modifiers in that one sentence. “Emerging” means it isn’t proven, “suggests” means the “emerging science” doesn’t actually come out and say anything, “may” leaves them wiggle room in the unspoken implication that it equally well may not, “help” means it won’t do it by itself, and “lower” means it won’t eliminate the problem. And yet we rush to buy it.

Furniture stores going out of business love to say: “No reasonable offer refused!” (Gee, and would you care to make a wild guess as to who determines the definition of “reasonable”?)

Women’s facial products boast they “reduce the appearance of wrinkles.” You will note they do not even imply that the product actually do a damned thing for wrinkles other than to “reduce” the appearance” of wrinkles. It doesn’t matter: it sounds great and thousands of women are stupid enough to go out and spend good money on it.

How many commercials do you see in one evening of television that urge you to “Ask your doctor” or “see your doctor.” I suspect that, at up to $100 per visit to the doctor, the A.M.A. is all for your seeing the doctor to ask about some snake-oil capsule.

I do, however, grudgingly admire the near-to-brilliant wordplay advertisers come up with to con the public. I mentioned some time ago one of my favorites: “No loan application will be refused!” Of course, it cleverly avoids pointing out that just because they will accept your application, there is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll get the loan.

Another of my all-time favorites, which I have also referenced before is: “If unsatisfied with this product for any reason, simply return the unopened bottle for a full refund!” Since one generally has to open a bottle before knowing if the product is any good, that neatly eliminates any necessity to even try for a refund.

Makers of schlock cleverly use that old saw “when you have a lemon, make lemonade” by concentrating their advertising on television and proudly proclaiming “Not Sold in Stores!” Uh...if the stuff was any good, do you really think they’d refuse to let stores handle it?

Offering a “Certificate of Authenticity” for some overpriced replica brings in customers by the ton. And a “Certificate of Authenticity” does exactly what? But, oh, boy, it sounds impressive.

There’s an old saying in the ad game: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” and they are experts at just that. Ah, but I once again find myself sliding into my curmudgeon mode, when I should be embracing all these wondrous opportunities with which I am inundated every day. I apologize. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to watch the Home Shopping Network.

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