Monday, December 22, 2008


I was watching a commercial for a new yet-to-be-released movie I had never heard of, and was amazed to learn from the voice-over…done by someone who obviously had far too much coffee before coming to work…that “Everyone is talking about it!” They are? Where have I been, under a rock?

Ah, hyperbole! It is wielded like a sledgehammer by the bottom-liners (who are far too often also bottom-feeders) who have taken over most of our society to exploit the gullible and turns the trusting into cynics. The result is that hyperbole has almost eliminated our ability or willingness to believe anything we’re told.

Hyperbole dictates that no adjective can be used unless it is a superlative. Nothing can be described as pleasant or enjoyable or merely good, it must be SPECTACULAR! All TV and radio sales pitches must be delivered with an enthusiasm with overtones verging on hysteria, and the faster and louder the delivery, the more effective it apparently is in convincing people that they simply cannot live without whatever is being touted.

Have you ever seen an ad, anywhere, suggesting that you to take your time and think it over before you buy? Hardly. Advertising is based on the same basic motivational principle as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Don’ think: ACT!

You must “call within the next twenty five seconds” to qualify to shell out your money for some schlock bit of crap you don’t need or really want. (Does anyone…anyone…think that if you call an hour later they are going to refuse to sell it to you?) This same wonderful item, you are breathlessly assured, retails for 10 times its “One Time Only Special Sale Price.” And the fact that they usually throw in several other (“And Wait! There’s More!”) auxiliary useless gee-gaws clearly shows that they realize that if the product was any good, they wouldn’t have to throw in all the extraneous garbage to get you to buy it.

Hyperbole fuels the seemingly ubiquitous Home Shopping Networks which offer up unneeded items 24 hours a day and, worse, those stupifyingly inane infomercials which hire hordes of obviously mentally challenged people to sit in the “audience” to ooh and aaah and applaud wildly in response to every patently absurd claim.

Have you noticed how many advertisers take great pride in announcing that whatever they’re touting “is not sold in stores!” Logic—sorely lacking in the wonderful world of sales—clearly says that if something is not sold in stores, it is because the store doesn’t want it. I think this is known as “turning lemons into lemonade.”

When I first lived in Chicago there was a cheesy furniture store chain which regularly bought full page ads in all the papers announcing their GIGANTIC PRE-GROUNDHOG DAY SALE! which was followed the day after Groundhog Day with their GIGANTIC POST-GROUNDHOG DAY SALE! They probably did the same with National Pickle Week, but I can’t recall.

There was, when I lived in L.A., a place called “World Appliances,” which I grudgingly appreciated for its sheer chutzpah and creativity, since it gave them the right, in every ad, to boast that they had “World’s Lowest Prices!!”

“Save Big Money!” “Piled High!” “....and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity!” “While Supplies Last!” “Everything must go!”

All of which just goes to prove H.L. Mencken was right in saying “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

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1 comment:

jean said...

Dorien, you amaze me. Once again you've hit the nail square on the head. I really had to laugh at the "This item is not sold in stores" bit. Especially since a well known book store I won't mention by name recently declined to stock my latest. Maybe I should put that in BOLD letters next to its cover on my website, ya think?