The title is off by one word. This isn’t about truth in advertising. It concerns truth about advertising. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon and not wanting to be too harsh, I would like to address just how dumb advertising is. Aren’t you glad I held back from being too harsh?
Although I have no experience in the field of advertising or business, I once dated for six months a man who had a degree in marketing. Close enough. It’s very difficult to pinpoint where to start, seeing as there are so many questions to ask, but I would like to begin by posing this to all advertisers … do you think the buying public is that stupid? Now admittedly, many people are stupid. That’s what makes it so hard for the rest of us. Advertisers seem to be dealing to the lowest common denominator and that is low indeed. And maybe that’s the explanation right there. Question asked and answered? I most assuredly hope not because I’ve got to write another six hundred fifty words until I can submit this column.
Because most of us resent ads, we tend not to pay too close attention to them. I realize there is now some great gadget you can put on your TV and record shows and then zip through the ads without watching them. Whoever invented this deserves, it seems on the surface, a Nobel Prize at a minimum. But it’s sort of cheating. The advertisers’ fees pay to broadcast the shows. I’m torn about the morality of all this but since I rarely watch TV that dilemma is a pretty far down on my priority list of things to ponder. And I’m watching a TV that is attached to the wall with a big wire and that big wire goes to an old-fashioned tower television antenna. Antiquated but it works. And it’s free. But if you people with 2020-era technology don’t hit the skip button or leave the room quickly enough, you will be entertained by ads featuring mind-expanding statements such as “farm-grown potatoes.” Doesn’t that sound nice and organic and wholesome? A potato grown right on an actual farm. But where else would you grow a potato? Your living room? True, at times my house has been dirty enough to support a small crop of Russet potatoes under the couch but I certainly could not go into commercial agricultural production from there. There are probably hydroponic greenhouses that grow potatoes without the benefit of dirt but these are technically farms, too. It’s possible what they’re trying to point out is that the potatoes were grown in dirt. Mentioning dirt in the same breath as one’s food is not a sure-fire way to sell potatoes, though. The end expectation is that we’re supposed to be thrilled crops are grown on farms.
It’s a very crowded field, no pun intended, but another ad in the running for least intelligent message is for the cereal that has “real almonds.” As opposed, one assumes, to fake almonds? Where would you get fake almonds, anyway? A fake almond tree?
The problem with this sort of verbal overabundance is that it sounds utterly desirable. The goal of advertisers is, naturally, to make their products sound utterly desirable. Who wouldn’t want a farm-grown potato? And isn’t everyone (except those with nut allergies, of course) yearning for some real almonds?
The bug spray that promises to last “up to eight hours” cracks me up. That means, with no linguistic untangling or falsehoods, that it could last about thirty seconds and then wear off. Eight hours is the maximum it works. I’d be interested in knowing the minimum amount of time it works. If it’s going to hang in there only fifteen minutes, I’ll leave the chemicals off my skin and take my chances with a fly swatter. This same spray says it repels the mosquitoes that may carry WEST NILE VIRUS. Just like that, in capital letters. Eye-catching. Again, I have to plead ignorance about the different species of mosquitoes and I don’t even have the benefit of having ever dated an entomologist. But aren’t those mosquitoes the same kind as the other kind except they are worse?
One of my favorites is the glass cleaner with “Magic Power.” Seriously. Magic. If someone somewhere has come up with some magic power why in the world are we wasting it on glass cleaner? Let’s have a magic power that gets rid of that last ten pounds. Let’s have a magic power that firms up my arms. Let’s have a magic power that makes politicians speak only the truth. Put a little white vinegar in water and wash your windows with that if you insist on washing your windows. I myself wash windows regularly. It lets the sun in on my under-couch potato crop.