The vanilla ice cream sundae, smothered with chocolate syrup, was the first thing to grab my attention during the break between the 6:05 a.m. show opening and the first newscast. I was scanning the television flat screens hanging on the walls of the studios for any late-breaking stories, weather changes or traffic updates that might impact my upcoming first read of the latest news.
The tasty ice cream treat was among a group of desserts that could put a diabetic into shock, or a sweets addict into orgasmic nirvana. Next, an assortment of prepared dinner entrées filled the screen. Dishes like baked manicotti, roast beef and gravy, along with Oriental combos like chicken and broccoli and sweet and sour pork with fried rice, redirected my attention from news to noodles. I was hungry and amused.
Then came the kicker. With the sound off I was, at first, not aware that I was watching a commercial for a diet program that sold you prepackaged, pre-prepared food. They were using the triggers and images of the very addiction they proposed to cure to get you to buy their product. If I had been listening to the sound, the truth of the con would have been diluted and obscured by magical images painted by adjectives and adverbs promising you a great body and rapid weight loss.
Another revelation with the sound off was commercials for gym memberships and exercise contraptions. When was the last time you saw a woman soaked in sweat, straining every muscle in her body, smiling while she worked the Stairmaster? Do people realy grin like lottery winners when they eat the latest fiber-filled cereal or fruit-filled yogurt?
Cars are presented to look like spaceships so you will think you are Neil Armstrong. Beer will make women want you. And, so you will like yourself by living vicariously through the true diversity of others, everybody on TV watches the football game with an interracial and ethnic mix of friends that would make the U.N. proud.
It’s not that audio is innocent; it’s the other half of the con. I dare say, like a “player” on the prowl, it is the smooth poetry that closes the deal. Try this on: “Would you like those unsightly wrinkles to go away? Do you want to lose 10 or more pounds without working out or starving yourself? Would you like your monthly menstrual cramps to feel like someone was tickling your belly? Did you know you can look 15 years younger? All this is possible with Bobalou’s Mystery Cream Ointment.”
Then the adverbs and adjectives come: “This fast-acting, good-tasting, tissue-regenerating, mood-enhancing, fat-reducing, magnificent product can be rubbed on your bottom or taken orally.” Then, the killer: “Order now and we will send you a free bottle of Colon Explosion. Feel younger and weigh less, after one tablespoon mixed with prune juice. Remember, John Wayne was found to have 19 pounds of undigested matter in his intestines after he died. Don’t let this be you.”
As my gifted colleague Lionel likes to say, “No wonder John Wayne walked funny.
The whole world is trying to pry our money away from us. They put enough sugar in soda to fuel a bus from New Rochelle to Somers. Blood pressures are soaring because of the salt in most foods. Both additives make you buy the product. And there was enough animal fat in fast food French fries to stop a million hearts, before too much bad press made them stop. There are thousands of mutual funds in the hopes that you will be lured by some aspect of the investment mix, or a fancy name, to make you take your money out of the bank and give it to them.