Does anyone else get sick of television advertising? I loathe it so much that I pay Hulu the extra $3.00/month for ad-free watching. Best money spent ever! Since I am primarily an internet service subscriber, the only time I really watch network television is during the morning newscast and that is only to see the weather. I am often dumbfounded at the target audience of these advertisers. If I have to see Broadway Joe Namath or Good Times’ Jimmy Walker ramble on about Medicare plans one more time, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
What is worse is that people who are highly susceptible to suggestion find themselves in a world of hurt. In a recent episode of “The Resident,” a man diagnosed with cancer sees an ad guaranteeing an improvement (if not a cure) for his ailment. He goes on a destructive tirade to obtain the drug. The professionals know it only has a history for success with a very small group of individuals, but this man’s desperation to eliminate his fear and beat the disease overwhelms him. That, my friends, is a ruthless attempt to earn a buck yet advertisers do it every day.
And then there are the attorneys. I had better keep this short or I am bound to lose part of my audience. Many times, I know there is a real need to seek legal counsel to obtain restitution, and I believe wholeheartedly in the legal process and our justice system. These ambulance-chaser ads, however, dangle the promise of million-dollar settlements to often hopeless people. Their treacherous acts of building mountain out of molehill cases overwhelm the courts and dilute access for those truly suffering injustice.
The power of advertising is undeniable though, and it is not limited to just adults. My knowledge on this subject goes back a few years. Let me explain.
I was visiting home from California and headed to the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in Rockville, Indiana with family. At the time, it was one of Indiana’s largest fall festivals, celebrating the county’s 31 covered bridges. Attendance exceeded more than two million people during the 10-day event. On the courthouse square the local Tri Kappa sorority was known for their ham and beans with cornbread cooked in huge iron kettles over an open fire. Picnic tables were placed end to end to make for long rows of community seating. My little nephew, probably six years old, seated across from me and next to a total stranger from Iowa, decided to start a conversation out of nowhere. He was so cute and immediately had the attention of everyone.
“Aunt Jacque, I know your telephone number.” Where this came from I had no idea, but I had to praise him. “You do? That is amazing! What is my number?” He proceeded to recite my ten-digit California phone number without a hitch. “That is correct, kiddo! I can’t believe it. Do you know what this means? It means that now you can call me anytime you want. Isn’t that cool?” His little head shook up and down with such pride, so I asked, “Do you know how to dial the telephone to call me?” I wondered if he knew he had to dial a “1” before the number. He tilted his head to the right, thought for a minute, and said Yes with a big grin on his face. “How do you dial it, RJ?” Without pause he answered,
Ah, the power of advertising. The crowd roared and applauded while I nearly spit ham and beans all over the table. It was priceless. Never let it be said that allowing children to watch TV all day long does not impact their intellectual prowess. They are pint-sized sponges. It is no wonder why young adults often jump to questionable conclusions without evaluating the situation, all because of a pitch they saw on TV.
And hey, I have been known to fall under the spell as well. I had to have a few “As Seen on TV” products in my day. That Thigh Master was a must have and rested beautifully in the back of my closet. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Share your thoughts! Click the word Comments below and tell me what you think!
12/15/2021 08:18:27 am
Best one yet Jacque. Keep up the good work.
12/15/2021 07:21:15 pm
You are too kind! Either that or you'd like to slap a few advertisers too? LOL Thanks, Jerry!
Michael, the linguist
12/17/2021 10:50:30 am
You hit on one of my communicative sore spots: linguistic pragmatics, particularly in commercials and written advertisements. While preparing for my EdS at Florida State and taking all the linguistics courses I could, I had a class in linguistic pragmatics. The scope is basically literal meaning versus implied meaning. It uses verbal and body language as a means to create a perception of what is meant and intended. During that course of class study, we analyzed many TV commercials promoting products, services (including attorney), and political viewpoints. (One of my professor friends told me that she hated listening to presidential commercials and debates because they are “nothing more than [linguistic] pragmatics to tickle the ears.” My pragmatics course professor was a professional linguistic interpreter who analyzed the speaking between attorney and person-on-the-stand in a courtroom, as well as spousal arguments. She shared snatches of interrogations and brought to our attention the topic of presupposition. An example is, “Do you still beat your spouse?” Or “do you still smoke marijuana?” It requires a yes/no response, one that will purposefully implicate the responder negatively. Same thing for “watching the news,” a near senseless case of unproductivity. After that class, for a few years, while we still had commercial or cable (we now simply use the Amazon stick to guide us), I reacted to commercials and said to my wife, “Did you see (or hear) that?! Do you know what they’re REALLY saying?!” A few hundred TV commercials later, I learned to keep my mouth shut. When I taught applied linguistics, as pragmatics became the eventual topic, I assigned similar projects and enjoyed the conclusions (aka, awakenings) brought forth by my students. One unsuspected assignment came up while testing the idea of presupposition, I asked a student, “Do you still beat your husband?” To which she answered abruptly, “You bet I do! Every Friday night!” The class gasped and I searched for an appropriate response. But, saving the day, she continued immediately by adding, “I beat him at Yahtzee every Friday.”
12/17/2021 01:12:51 pm
Thanks, Mike! You have officially assured me that I am not crazy! (Okay, maybe just a little misguided!) I doubt that most viewers actually dissect ad campaigns like we do, but it is appalling that specific dialogue and presentation deliberately avert viewers from the bad or destructive sides of a product or service. It makes my skin crawl. I am absolutely certain I would have enjoyed your classes!
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Jacque Jarrett Stratman