One result of quarantining in place is that I have been exposed to a good deal more television than usual. Watching the ads on my favorite programs, when combined with my experience doing marketing for a software company, I have become acutely aware of advertisers’ practice of being so overwhelmingly positive as to be prevaricating. I myself have produced numerous ads for the software products of Urban Decision Systems. The pressure was always on for me to omit anything that could give rise to a negative customer response.
Every day I see ads that are so clearly n the bait-and-switch category: They quote prices that are as low as $9.95, or starting at $9.95, or “as little as” $9.95. Or the price contains certain additional features in selected areas. What do you want to bet that those selected areas are ZIP codes with no residential or business population? Call the phone number attached to the ad, and you will see that the come-on is just a starting point to products and services that cost much more.
Because I tend to watch programs geared to older viewers, I am bombarded by health ads of dubious provenance. Everything either has copper woven into some sort of brace, or there are Medicare-supplemental insurance that includes free meals and other services that I doubt would be normally provided. Colonial Penn will offer to pay for my funeral for a cost “starting at” $9.95 a month, even if I have advanced leprosy or ebola. And the price will never go up.
I know that most programming is paid for by advertising, but I wonder how many viewers like me cringe when they see the pitches aimed at them. How many TV ads have I responded to over the last ten years? Zero. Zip. None.