Is Make Believe Advertising Real?

Most of us live in what we think is the real world. We must do the best we can with what we have. But wouldn't it be nice if we shared the advantages commercial television and radio advertisers enjoy?

Just think about it. Almost all television and radio advertising is as fake as professional wrestling and most every other kind of fantasy packaged as entertainment.

If we enjoyed the advantages of commercial advertisers, what an edge we'd all have in our day to day sales encounters. What? You aren't in the business of selling? Well of course you are!

We are all selling something almost all the time. We sell ourselves and our point of view. We ask others to buy into our ideas. Asking anyone to agree with even a simple question like, "Isn't it a lovely day today?", is just as much selling as applying for a new job.

Say, now there's a perfect example of the advantages commercial TV advertisers have over the rest of us! Here's how it might happen if I had it as good as they do . . .

I wouldn't even need to show up for the job interview! Instead, I'd hire a PR firm and let them put together an ad package that would be sure to get me hired. The PR firm would retain the services of a production company to produce my ad, including actors and make-up people and set designers, sound and lighting people and so on.

Actors would portray me doing all kinds of things I probably could never really do. No matter what special skills the potential job might require, my pretend actors would be able to perform them with ease.

Unlike the "real" me, my "character" would appear to be just about perfect. I'd be good looking, dress to perfection, have perfect work ethic and the most cheerful and friendly of dispositions. Just like everything else in advertising, I'd be way too good to be true.

Once I got hired and reported for duty, it wouldn't really matter that I'm more like the pizza you actually get at the restaurant rather than the one you see in the TV ads. At best, I'd get to keep my job anyhow and at worst . . . hey my PR firm is always there to supply me with a steady stream of new employment opportunities!

A simple change is scripts and sets and my PR team can just as easily help with all my other sales needs. Such as getting a loan, finding a mate, getting into the university of my choice and so on. I'd never really have to do anything or be anything. The magic of the movies would always be at hand to smooth the road!

Just show the ads enough times and good things are bound to happen.

If you think this sounds harsh, I'm sorry. Perhaps you also love pain. A full 20% of air time is devoted to false advertising that is broadcast several decibels louder than regular programming.

Well paid actors tell lies about using the products in the ad and pretend to be filled with joy and wonder at how well the items work, how easy they are to use and what a difference they have made in their own "personal" lives. This applies equally to services like loans, credit cards and stock brokers as it does to goods like medicine, clothing, tools, house wares and so on.

He who has the best and the most advertising wins! Yet the majority of it is nothing if not lies. TV advertising is by and large as false and fake as the worst of the snake oil charlatans of bygone ages! And it does far more damage. Yet we have no one to blame but ourselves. We tolerate the intolerable and give it credibility by our complacency.

I say let us stand up scream and shout for truth in advertising. Let us make the following demands of the FCC and the commercial networks:

  1. No more falsehoods allowed. What you see is what you get. Real life, untouched graphics of goods used in ads. People have a right to know what they are really going to get for their money.
  2. No more than 10% of broadcast time devoted to advertising. And for goodness sake, make ads the same volume as the rest of the show.
  3. No more contrived situations allowed in ads. No more paid actors. Everyone in an ad must be real people using the product or service in reality situations. When we allow ads to become fictional drama or comedy or sitcoms we guarantee there will be untruth in advertising.
  4. No more "celebrity" endorsements! Most of them wouldn't know the business end of a screwdriver so how can they pretend to advise the rest of us.
  5. Full disclosure of the pros and the cons of each product or service. Why should rich companies get to promote only the good news about their wares? Drug pusher companies are required to report the potential side effects. Why not tell us the same kind of information about every other advertised product?
  6. Finally, a portion of every ad dollar generated ought to go toward the support of a toll free "Truth In Advertising Hot Line" that consumers can call to report both their good and bad experiences. The whole thing can be kept honest via a relational database that works off the phone numbers of callers. Products that get a disproportionately high number of negative reports can be banned from the public airwaves altogether.

These and other ideas can help end the pollution of our airways with false, misleading and often dangerous mass advertising.

Emerson taught us that the world will beat paths to the doors of those who produce the best products and who provide the greatest services, much like sheep forever jumping fences into greener pastures. However, he perhaps never envisioned today's mass availability of unbridled commercial television and radio advertising, which certainly gives an unfair advantage to those who can afford it.

Today we sheep are blindly manipulated by clever ads that may have little, if anything, to do with the best products. Yet we are so engrossed in the feeding frenzy of wanton consumerism, we hardly notice how far from the tried and true path of financial, environmental and social responsibility we have in fact wandered.

Can we not at least demand accountability and a return to truth in advertising? Or do we really prefer to exist in a shadow world of make-believe where quality is only measured by how good they say it is on TV?

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