Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless.
— Sinclair Lewis (American Writer)
We have all seen commercials: on television, on websites, on phone lines, and even on highway billboards. But when do we think about them? More specifically, where can we complain about their drawbacks?
Wait, where do I apply it again?
This commercial is the worst case of repetition I have ever seen. A basic summary would be saying “Head On, apply directly to the forehead” three times and end with “Head On is available at retailers nationwide.”
When I say “repetition,” I mean two things: commercials being shown more than needed and things being said more than needed in the commercials themselves. That’s one strategy for advertisers: keep showing the customers the same infomercial until they decide from annoyance to purchase whatever product was being sold.
Saying “Head On, apply directly to the forehead” three times doesn’t bring me any closer to buying anything than one time. I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the product after buying it. Is it a headache reliever? Does it cure acne? Those questions are unanswered, and above all, the repetition is irritating. Well, at least I know where to apply it.
Worst of all, infomercials just like this appear on television ever thirty minutes. I hope you enjoy!
2. Failed Gimmicks
Are times really tough enough to start drinking beverages off the dirty floor?
When commercial producers are desperate or out of ideas, they come up with the most ridiculous stunts. Anthony Sullivan himself was a great salesman; his writers just had some issues, but you could smell the fraud after that line.
I remember a Wii Music commercial claiming the game was “educational”. Obviously false facts like these add absolutely no persuasive content whatsoever into a commercial.
3. The Annoying Salesperson
Sorry Vince, I can’t hear you over the cheers for Zorbeez, a much more absorbent towel pitched by Billy Mays.
“Unless you’ve been living under a rock or a nonabsorbent towel, you’ve seen the ShamWow commercial.” This statement couldn’t be more true. Nothing can be more persuasive than a guy with a foreign accent talking into a headset microphone behind a counter top. You following this camera guy?
Vince indeed has another commercial advertising the Slap Chop, a kitchen cutting tool. Who knew eating boring tuna complied with having a boring life? I didn’t know regular kitchen cutters were worthless enough to throw into the sink. Now, you love Slap Chop… you hate the commercial. You know you hate the commercial: that’s why you don’t buy the product.
“Now here’s the deal: when you buy the Slap Chop, we’re going to give you the Graty” because everyone knows that by throwing in a free cheese grater, all products immediately become something worth buying.
4. Tricks and Catches
Billy Mays was a great pitchman, but this commercial unfortunately falls into the processing pitfall scheme.
Companies only want to show the good things about their products to the public. Everything negative, like “just pay separate shipping and handling” and “taxes and other charges apply” are hidden in fast talking and small, barely readable fonts.
The commercial above falls into something I’d like to call the “processing pitfall” scheme. Saying “this is a twenty-dollar value, but we’ll give it absolutely free: just pay separate processing and handling” is the equivalent of saying “this is a twenty-dollar value, but we’ll give it absolutely free: just pay twenty dollars.” In other words, paying processing and handling is the equivalent of paying for the product.
A common strategy for companies is exaggeration. For example, home improvement product commercials, like wood-floor cleaning and polishers, have beautiful furniture is shown in the background to make the product look more potent.
5. Just Plain Fraud
“My shoulder strap used to pull so hard on my shoulder that I could hardly breathe.” Oh really? Then why doesn’t it have a choking hazard sticker on it?
The Tiddy Bear is one of those products that “solve” the “annoying problems” that never existed. You’ll get used to using a seatbelt until you can’t feel it anymore. I don’t remember anyone complaining that their seat belt was tight to the extent that they were unable to breathe.
“The first hand sanitizer that kills 99.9% of germs without alcohol” doesn’t work. For any hand sanitizer, “killing 99.9% of germs” doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t contain at least 60% alcohol, it cannot function properly as a hand sanitizer, so I don’t believe it can “love your hands.”