We all know we can’t count on advertisements to give us the truth about anything. If the biggest, most widespread example of this is the coverup by Big Tobacco to hide the reality that smoking causes cancer, then we need only look at Big Pharma to see how this plays out in the 21st Century. Anyone remember Yaz, the contraceptive pill that also mellowed out Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder? That was reintroduced in a slightly new formulation by Bayer as Beyaz, with a new series of commercials to make the difference between PMS and PMDD more clear.
And then, no more Beyaz commercials at all until the latest data suggesting Beyaz’s side effects are even worse than stated. What’s worse than heart attack, I wonder? Greater risk of heart attack, it seems.
I remember television advertising shifting in the 1970s; suddenly it was Tide vs. “Leading Brands,” instead of a rival competitor being named in the commercial. Claims that had been made for years quietly morphed into less obvious statements about durability, quality, origin of manufacture, and content. We got affirmations like “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum,” without any information on how they surveyed those dentists.
The other day, during some police procedure marathon, I saw this:
Seriously? She feels good about serving her kids sugar and chocolate for breakfast? What am I missing here? Sure, it’s “part of” a balanced breakfast when you add whole wheat toast, a banana, and a glass of milk, but the Nutella doesn’t make it balanced!
In recent years I’ve noticed a new kind of disingenuous advertisement: the apologist’s defense of a behemoth international firm. BP poisoning the Mississippi Delta? Hey, that was just one little bad spell in the midst of all the great work BP does; thousands of people from the company were working around the clock to minimize the damage, because they care about wildlife. Sure, that’s why they’re in the business of sucking oil out of the earth in dangerous places.
Or GE, letting white people see their unborn children, all in a romanticized sepia tone:
Of course there’s no commercial about how GE is dragging its feet in cleaning up the mess it has made of the Hudson River. That’s not an event that sells a good image or product.
I appreciate the rise of the DVR and OnDemand services, because now, for the most part, I can speed through the commercials along with the rest of the US populace. I don’t appreciate being lied to. I don’t buy the line that high fructose corn syrup is good for me, and I’m grateful advertisers have given up on olestra. I refuse to buy a Snuggie, a tap light, a Magic Bullet chopping device, or some barnacled doubloons off the SS Central America.
H.G. Wells said that advertising was a legal form of lying. If that’s the case, then political advertising seems worth far less than the seconds anyone spends observing a given ad. But as we ramp up for 2012, I for one am glad I’ll have a new baby to think about than all of the truth-impaired television I could watch.