Monday, March 27, 2006

First sign of the apocalypse

There is a terrifying development in advertising lately. You might call it honesty. Or perhaps not. Either way it has the mark of Evil Genius. This afternoon I had the pleasure of watching a pitch for the pictured product, which is an omega-oil supplement for children. The commercial has a soundtrack of childish conversational babble, such as you might hear in a school hallway. The visuals are some pretty footage of a school of sardine (school! Fish oil! Kid's brains! Geddit?), looking all tornado-ish and zippy and generally photogenic.

The voiceover says:
There are hundreds of omega-oil supplements for children. But only one is called Eye Q.
Huh? Seriously?

A prize for the most pointless advertisement ever! But the Evil Genius of this is that it is true. Pointless -- vacuous, even -- but true.

Now, for anyone born after 1960, commercials, and their particular brand of jingly colour and movement, invoke your default skepticism. Your jaded subconscious is primed to reject anything that smacks of Big Fat Lie. You don't even have to be paying attention.

Everyone understands in principle why a lie is bad, and by extension that you oughtn't to purchase a product about which you just heard one. By contrast, it's not nearly so clear cut how truth ought to influence your buying decisions. What's relevant in that case is how what is said or represented relates to your buying decision -- and that's not at all straightforward. If a tomato is hand-picked, does that mean you ought to buy it? Maybe. Who the hell knows? The point is, that takes some thought. If I give it a minute, I conclude that actually, I'd rather buy a machine-picked tomato, all other things being equal, because the person picking a hand-picked tomato is probably paid one dinar a day. But of course, I'm not giving it a minute. Instead, I insidiously come to believe that I ought to prefer hand-picked tomatoes. And why? Because the advertisement mentioned it. And why would they mention it unless it was relevant to my purchasing decision? And as long as it's not a lie ...

Hundreds of people are going to buy this stuff because it's the only one called Eye Q. God help us all.


Heidi the Hick said...

poke me in the eye-q. Do they think we're stupid, d'ya spose?

Xtin said...

Yes, I think they think we're stupid. But tragically, they probably have good reason to think that. Not to mention one metric assload of cold hard cash to prove it.

Scrivener said...

Didn't they make a movie out of this premise more than a decade ago?

Xtin said...

Nothing new under the sun. Especially in my head.