Who's Fooling Who?
As I sat here this morning, deleting 90 of my
first 93 emails of the day, I couldn't help but
wonder why they bother. I mean, who in their right
mind would respond to an email whose subject line
reads: How would YOU like to make $75,000 each month?
or: Wanted-anyone willing to lose 30 pounds fast!
Day after day, pretty much the same four or five
"offers" seem to repeat themselves in one form or
another; there's the "get rich quick" schemes; the
guaranteed approval notices (as in: You've already
been approved! for everything from loans to credit
cards to health insurance); the drug pushers (recently
focused on increasing the size and/or performance
of the male organ) and the amazing weight loss products.
Of course, they call it spam, which sounds a lot
like scam, which is what 98% of it is. But then
again, aside from the annoyance factor of having
to delete them, how different really are they from
the ads we see in print or the thirty-six commercials
that assault our senses during any hour-long TV
show. Production values aside, the majority of advertising
is based on lies.
I'm not including commercials that promote cars,
stores, fast food chains, soft drinks, or even beer.
With those, the intention doesn't seem to be to
mislead; you pay your money and you take your choice.
Sure, most advertisers use whatever means they can-big
name athletes, sex, rock stars, scantily clad women-to
persuade you to choose their particular product,
but that seems fair enough to me. There's a lot
of competition out there, so they have to
do something! (And just because some idiot may make
the assumption that if he drinks the right beer
he'll be surrounded by a bevy of beauties, that's
not the advertiser's fault. They didn't create
idiots; they're just glad they watch television).
Actually, the biggest offenders for me fall into
two major categories: over-the-counter medications
and health and beauty products. But before I get
to my big two, I'd like to take a moment to ask
a couple of random questions. The first is this:
has anyone ever noticed a discernible difference
in the brightness of their laundry due to using
a particular brand of detergent? I mean, has any
real person ever done the comparison test? I don't
know about you, but I tend to buy whichever detergent
is on special that week, and I've never once noticed
the slightest degree of difference. If anyone has,
I'd really like to know.
My second question is this: how do you know when
you're old? And my answer: when you're absolutely
positive that you will never be taking a picture
with your cell phone and text messaging it to your
friend. Personally, I'm grateful that I can occasionally
see the numbers well enough to call someone. My
daughter had to tell me I had caller ID on my phone,
because when I look at that tiny little screen all
I can make out is a blur. And, no one has to warn
me about driving while using my cell phone; I need
my distance glasses to drive, and my reading glasses
to see the phone and if I tried to do both at the
same time I'd wind up killing someone. So, I always
get a kick out of those commercials showing a guy
setting up the perfect shot and sending it to his
girlfriend with a text message that says he loves
her while he's simultaneously hurrying to catch
a plane. Does anyone actually do that?
But back to my big two. I'll start with over-the-counter
drugs. You know, like Excedrin or Advil. First of
all, for those of you who don't remember a column
I wrote about three years ago (and I imagine there
might be a few who qualify) there are only four
main pain relievers that you can buy without a prescription.
Not fifty-seven, as the shelves in the pharmacy
and their advertisers would have you believe. Just
four. Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxyn.
That's it. Now, everyone knows what aspirin is,
because that's what they call it. Except when they
call it Bufferin or Anacin. But, it's still only
aspirin. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol.
And Motrin, Advil, Nuprin and whatever else they
decide to call them are all ibuprofen. And finally,
the "wonder drug" called Aleve is naproxyn, an anti-inflammatory
like ibupofen. So, whichever one you want, buy the
generic brand, because it's exactly the same
thing and it costs about half as much. Don't
let the commercials fool you.
Excedrin actually deserves its own paragraph, because
it's the only one that combines two of the above-mentioned
ingredients: 250 mgs of acetaminophen and 250 of
aspirin (unless you prefer the aspirin-free Excedrin,
of course, and then you get 500 mgs of acetaminophen:
ie; Tylenol) plus a third ingredient. The third
ingredient is caffeine, which is really why Excedrin
works best on headaches. However, if you've been
told to stay away from caffeine, then don't take
Excedrin. Not that anyone has ever seen a commercial
that tells you, the consumer, that there's caffeine
in Excedrin. It's not something they brag about.
But trust me, or get out your magnifying glass and
read the label. Now the thing that really
bugs me about Excedrin is the way they market it.
A few years ago, they came out with a new product:
Excedrin for Migraines. So, I'm standing at the
pharmacy counter in Sav-on, and a woman is telling
the pharmacist why she no longer needs her prescription
migraine medication; she's been cured by Excedrin
for Migraines. I smile. The pharmacist smiles. She
then goes on to say that she could never take Excedrin
before, because the caffeine kept her awake, but
now that she's discovered Excedrin for Migraines,
she's a new woman. She's migraine-free and sleeps
like a baby. I lock eyes with the pharmacist, and
we make a decision. Both of us know that Excedrin
for Migraines and Excedrin are exactly the same
formula. The ONLY difference is their label.
Honest! But we don't want to rain on her parade;
after all, she's been cured by an ad campaign. Who
are we to argue with the genius who came up with
THAT idea? (not surprisingly, I just checked out
Excedrin's brand new, breakthrough product: Excedrin
for Tension Headaches. That's right….Tylenol and
caffeine just like the others.)
On to health and beauty products, because that's
where deception is most decidedly the intention.
And, I'm embarrassed to say it works. I don't know
about you men, but I'd be willing to bet that there
isn't a woman out there who hasn't bought a product
because she hoped it would make her hair as shiny,
or her eyelashes as thick, or her lipstick as long-lasting
as the products shown in the commercial. I've bought
them all. Some combination of vanity and hope springing
eternal I suppose, but I probably have 17 used-once
shampoos and conditioners in the cabinet, even though
I know intellectually that the only women who have
hair that looks so magnificently shiny already had
that hair before using any product; they could wash
their hair with dish-washing liquid and tap water
and it would still be magnificently shiny and that's
why they were hired in the first place. They had
And have you ever tried to wear lipstick that lasts
for eight hours? It might last, but you sure don't
want it to; it feels like cement. I have a couple
of those in my drawer if you're interested. But
my absolute favorites are the anti-wrinkle creams.
In fact, anything to do with slowing down the aging
process both intrigues and infuriates me. Obviously,
I'm occasionally intrigued because I've tested a
few myself. The under eye tightening oil was particularly
disappointing. I put it on as directed and waited
to see the results. Nothing. So I put on some more.
Now I felt like my skin was being stretched tight.
Excellent. Unfortunately, when I looked in the mirror,
a thin film had formed under my eye, a film that
couldn't be ignored. Putting makeup over it just
made it worse; tiny pebbles began to form. Finally,
I had to scrub the stuff off. It's in the drawer
with the cement lipstick.
I do use moisturizer every day, because I know
my skin needs it. But it really doesn't matter which
brand. The fancy ones with Q10 and anti-oxidants
that make the claims about erasing fine lines, removing
age spots, and causing cellulite to disappear all
have two things in common. They're ridiculously
expensive and they don't work. Nothing can make
you look younger or tighten your skin except surgery.
If anyone figures out how to do it with a cream,
they'll be deified. Right before the plastic surgeons
association puts out a contract on their life.
Finally, there's the weight loss products. Among
these are a zillion and one special diets, along
with group programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny
Craig, and an astonishing array of pills and appetite
suppressants guaranteed to make you drop those pounds.
All so that you can look like the AFTER photo instead
of the BEFORE. Now on this one I'm lucky. I don't
have a weight problem, so I can ignore these commercials.
But I can't help noticing that they always say,
in very small print, "results not typical." I'll
bet they're not typical! How typical is it
that a woman who is 80 lbs overweight not only loses
the weight and keeps it off, but also has a finely
toned and perfectly proportioned body afterwards?
Where did all that extra skin go? I think the weight
loss commercials must be among the most misleading
of them all; certainly, they prey on the most vulnerable.
Now, although I don't have a weight problem, I'm
not immune to commercials for long lean muscles,
flat abs and tight butts. C'mon, what woman is perfectly
satisfied with her body? Nevertheless, I've resisted
every attempt made by the advertising industry to
seduce me ever since I threw away my thigh master
many years ago. I know I'm never going to be twenty-seven
again, and fortunately, I have an aversion to anything
that involves using a machine, going to a gym, or
lacing up my jogging shoes. So, you might ask, why
am I waiting for my Winsor Pilates DVD to be delivered?
Well, one day I was channel surfing and came upon
an infomercial. (Don't laugh; infomercials have
gotten much better lately.) Anyway, there were all
these fabulously fit looking women, with long gorgeous
lean muscles, and they owed it ALL to Winsor Pilates.
No machines, no running, just nice yoga-like exercises
that they only had to do three times a week for
twenty minutes. Boy, even I'd do that for those
legs. I knew deep down inside that those women probably
looked like that before they took pilates, just
like the women with the shiny hair. But still, maybe
this time it wasn't a lie. Maybe this product would
deliver on its promise. I can't wait to find out.
And that's the incredible power of advertising;
just like the woman who was "cured" by Excedrin
for Migraines, we want it to be true.
me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com