Friday, August 25, 2006

JUST SAY NO TO THE CANDY MAN: How Candy Advertisements Tempt Us To Eat Too Much

I think candy advertisements are the worst. Why? Because they are selling a high calorie food that has virtually no nutritional value -- known as empty calories -- and selling it to us with the belief that we can be kids again.

A slew of ads present the idea that those wonderful feelings of childhood can be recaptured by savoring the candy you liked when you were young. At best those feelings will be fleeting, but the long term effect will be to add tons of calories to your diet -- a diet that probably has too many already. Think I am exaggerating? Consider this: Nestle's Crunch has trade marked "For the kid in you (TM)" and you can go to their web site:

Some ads even flat out call their candy 'comfort food' or say that it will bring you happiness. So when you need a hug or a lift or you think no one loves you, eat a chocolate bar instead of having a real relationship with a living breathing person. And gain a pound or two.

In this culture as adults, we are rarely allowed to be silly or whimsical or playful. Candy ads often show grownups doing funny or dumb things to demonstrate that candy can help find expression for an adult's 'inner child.' Now all adults have an inner child and in this society they probably have trouble finding a means of expression. Candy is marketed to us as a 'safe' way to feel childish because in eating it, there is no risk, no chance of someone criticising a person's childlike feelings.

Another pitch of ads is to appeal to the vulnerabilities of women. One, for example, shows an incredibly thin young woman eating a chocolate cake as though it were a bit of heaven. Another appeals to busy women and says that by eating their product she will regain some personal time for herself. Neither ad, of course, mentions the health or weight consequences.

And try to get away from candy. We are tempted at the check-out counters of virtually any store such as supermarkets, dollar stores, discount department stores and convenience stores. I have even seen displays at hardware and auto parts stores. Candy consumption has increased by about twenty percent in the last twenty years according to the

It's no accident that we are vulnerable to candy ads. We all have a sweet tooth and candy is often associated with happy times as a kid. Candy might have been used as a reward or been part of a special time like the county fair, a birthday, a holiday or especially Christmas. Once these feelings are associated with candy, it does not take much to get us to eat more as adults.

And it's no accident that candy and sugary cereals are today heavily marketed to children. This is a way of both selling a highly profitable food to kids and then to build future consumers who will be vulnerable as adults to the pitch of the 'candy man.'

Now don't get me wrong. I love candy just like everyone else, but that is the problem. We like it so much, we are ready targets.

While I cannot get rid of your sweet tooth -- that is hardwired into your brain from millions of years ago -- I can alert you to the siren song of candy ads that, like many ads, promise you a feeling or a means of expression that is at best temporary and not deeply satisfying.

If you want to really deal with these emotions, you can do it in a much better, cheaper and healthier way by learning to be a child again at times that are appropriate.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Raise Your Hand If You're Sure!

What is the number one feeling that ads sell?

I was walking with my wife the other day through one of those fake small-town Main-Street type shopping-center-malls. We looked at large posters of beautiful women smiling in the window of a cosmetic shop. Now my wife makes and sells her own jewelry designs, so she is tuned into what women will buy and why.

"What are they selling most of all?" I asked her. "Beauty," she said. "No," I replied, "not just that." "Glamor," she said. Again I said, "Yes, but in addition to that." "What then?" she asked.

"Confidence," was my reply.

When you look behind almost any advertisement, it is selling a kind of certainty, a security. When you buy this product you can feel good about yourself and know that you did the right thing and you can depend on it; you can have self-confidence. Or something like that.

It does not matter if it's cat food, or lipstick, or beer, or cell phones, or cars or insurance. When you buy our product, congratulations. You've made the right choice, you can relax since you've made this wise decision.

And this is why everyone is smiling in ads; it's because they feel confident, as I have pointed out in a previous blog, Why Is Everyone Smiling?

Now, what is the number one feeling that advertisements use to get us to buy?

Lack of confidence.

If you don't buy the right antiperspirant, will you be sure? If you buy the wrong makeup, the man in your life might not love you.

Just about every ad is designed to make us feel discontented, unsatisfied, and uncertain about who we are and what we are doing. The combined effect of all advertising is to make us feel inadequate. We should have more, be further along, be admired more, look different, be something else.

I have talked to women of quite different ages and they have universally volunteered on their own (that is without my prompting) that they feel tremendous pressure from the media to alter their looks. Just about every woman feels vulnerable. Her hair is too curly or too straight, her lips are too thin or too thick, her skin is too pale, her eyelashes are all wrong, her nose is too big, her ears standout, and on and on and on.

But if she buys the right lipstick, she can feel confident that she looks good, or the right hair color or the right bra or the right shoes...

Now I've written about this before and I will do it again. The very ads that make us uncertain about ourselves, sell us certainty. The ads that undermine our sense of ourselves sell us an identity. The advertisements that make us feel inadequate sell us confidence.

Is that really that way you want to live your life? Is it an agenda you want to follow? Isn't there something better than this?

Keep reading the Rebel Consumer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Less Is More

You've heard all the slogans: Get Yours. Go For It. You Only Go Around Once. Live The Dream. You Can Have It All.

Together these convey one message: The more you have the better, the more fulfilled, the more admired you will be. Yet, in fact, owning less might make you much happier.

Lets apply cold logic. First: the more you have, the more you must store, keep track of, worry about, insure, pay taxes on, keep from getting stolen, buy accessories for and repair. So unless you really need something, just having more can be a royal pain. I knew a man who owned several boats. The first thing he did when he retired was to get rid of them. "Why?" I asked. "If I want one, I will rent one. I don't need all that worry anymore."

Studies have been done at all levels of income and just about everybody wants more money. Most believe that they will be happier when they reach the next level. It does not matter if they are making $20,000 or $500,000 a year. Samuel Brittan has written that there are numerous "opinion survey studies which suggest that increasing real income does not itself make people happier." In fact some studies have shown that marriages and families suffer when incomes go up because spouses are more likely to be unfaithful.

However, by less I am not talking about basic necessities. In the United States families need one or more cars, a home, health insurance, food, money for retirement and even cable TV. Yet you do not need a new car, for example, because late model used cars are actually a much better value (more about this in another blog article). And you do not need to pay for or worry about a huge house. Consider that the size of the average home in the USA has more than doubled in the last fifty years while the number of people living in these dwellings has gone down.

And when you have a lot of stuff you are often busy, busy, busy because there is so much to tend to.

Also the more you possess the more worry you have. In the movie The Comedians, a lowly paid official say something to the effect "The rich have a lot to worry about. They have a lot to lose."

And once you have acquired stuff it is almost impossible to go back. You get locked into a lifestyle. The best solution is to add possessions slowly as you really need them. This is because losing stuff you once owned is psychologically very difficult. Going down a notch feels humiliating and degrading, especially in a consumer society where we were all taught to climb the ladder of success and where we believe that we will be 'better off' as we get older.

And what do you gain by having less? You will have more time to begin with, time you could spend with your family, for example. Many reports state that Americans are over scheduled and over committed while their marriages and children suffer.

Or you could just go out on a clear afternoon and watch the sun slowly sink below the horizon and think of absolutely nothing. Now there's a novel idea!

For another article about this read Less can mean more at The New American Dream web site.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Quotations About Advertising And Marketing

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me rant about the lies, the deceptions, the damage to our culture caused by advertising and marketing. Well, don't take my word for it. What follows are a slew of quotations that tell the same story I have been telling. Here are 15 quotes from thinkers like H.G. Wells, comedians like Bill Cosby, and advertising gurus such as Morris Hite.


"Advertising is legalized lying."
H. G. Wells

"Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half truths."
Edgar A. Shoaff

"The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague."
Bill Cosby

"Life is pain, princess. . . anyone who says differently is selling something. "
Wesley The Princess Bride


"Advertising makes people discontented. It makes them want things they don't have. Without discontent, there is no progress, no achievement."
Morris Hite

"Yes, I sell people things they don't need."
John O'Toole

"Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need."
Will Rogers

"Advertising gets people to buy things they don't want, with money they haven't got, to impress people they don't care about."
Credit Counselor friend of Rick Doble

"People are unhappy (and neurotic) in America today because advertising has caused them to have unrealistic expectations of life, themselves, their jobs and the Fantasyland products and services that are constantly pushed on them."
Curtis Smale

"You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements."
Norman Douglas


"We find that advertising works the way the grass grows. You can never see it, but every week you have to mow the lawn."
Andy Tarshis

"Advertising moves people toward goods; merchandising moves goods toward people."
Morris Hite

"Kodak sells film, but they don't advertise film. They advertise memories."
Theodore Parker

"It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."
Rod Serling


Note from blog author Rick Doble: Yes, Virginia there really is good advertising. This kind does not lie, does not manipulate, does not go beyond a simple direct statement of what the product or service can actually do. Here is a quote from an ad executive that says this very well.

"Advertising says to people, 'Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it.'"
Leo Burnett (Pioneer American advertising Executive, 1891-1971)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rebates Are Legal Scams and Legal Fraud

The deal looks really good. For a limited time you can buy a laptop computer for only $800. Then you see an asterisk. You read the fine print -- it says 'After Rebate'.

A rebate is just another kind of discount, right? Just another method that marketers use to get buyers to buy, right? So why not? You go ahead and purchase your new computer.

Then you look at the rebate form. There are tons of rules, conditions, documentation, deadlines, etc. Hum, seems a bit more complicated than just a discount.

So you put all the material together, forget about the deadline for a while and then with just a week left you send in what you think is needed because some of the language is not very clear.

And you wait and you wait and you even forget until after a couple of months you realize that you have not gotten your check. So you dive through a stack of papers looking for the address where you sent your rebate documentation. You mail a letter asking for your rebate. Again you wait a month and finally you get a reply. Sorry, you forget the UPC code on the side of the box, therefore you do not qualify for a refund. Now you still have the box and the UPC but it all had to be sent together -- so guess what: They Gotcha!

Rebates are a marketing trick, plain and simple. They entice buyers with the lure of a discount, but only about half of the buyers actually get around to filing for the rebate according to the latest statistics. Next about half of the people who buy, send in the rebate forms, but only about half of those are acceptable to the company, again according to the latest estimates. Bottom line: one quarter of the people who buy a product with the promise of a rebate actually get a check in the mail.

Think that this happens because people are lazy or just can't do the paper work? Guess again. It is a well planned strategy by marketers to give the appearance of a good deal, while not really offering very much. It's the old advertising adage, "Sell 'em the sizzle and not the steak."

For openers marketers know that half of the people will never send in the forms. It is called slippage in the business. And the longer the deadline, the less likely you will remember. Next if they make the paper work complicated and the language vague, you are bound to make a mistake, so they can deny you the refund. In addition a rebate is not really a discount. As a result, unlike a true discount, you pay tax on the full amount of the purchase before the rebate kicks in.

When only a quarter of the people actually see any money from a legitimate offer something is very wrong. I call this 'rebate scam', 'rebate fraud', even if it is legal.

And as consumers you should avoid rebates like the plague UNLESS you read all the find print before you buy and make sure that you will actually file long before the due date. In addition you should make copies of everything you send in and mark on your calendar when you mailed in the rebate, the date of the deadline and when you should expect your check. WHEW? Sounds like a lot of work. And it is, deliberately.

I suggest you only go for rebates of fifty dollars or one hundred dollars or more. And if you have trouble collecting, be a big nuisance. Contact the Better Business Bureau in the city where the company is located, the fraud section of the US Federal Trade Commission and post details of your problems on related Internet newsgroups.

Don't let marketers push you around because they are counting on you to give up and not really make a fuss.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Overview Of The Rebel Consumer

I have been writing this blog now since early February 2006. During this time I realized my articles fell into three different categories. This week's blog is an overview of my approach.

#1. One group of articles reveals how advertising and media operates and manipulates us to buy things and identify with products. This set of articles aims to provide an understanding of how we are being persuaded so that we will become less vulnerable to the siren song of the consumer culture.

#2. The second group of articles concentrates on the effect of advertising on our values and culture plus the cumulative effect of advertising over time -- how advertising in general is changing the society. With most American youngsters having seen about 1 million ads on TV by the age of twenty, the combined effect of all these ads is important.

#3. The third group of articles focuses on steps people can take to control the effect of advertising in their lives and in the society. We are not helpless. We can fight back and keep the consumer forces at bay.


Why Is Everyone Smiling?
In most ads people smile all the time - why?
Hostage to the Visual OR How Modern Culture Misses A Lot
Since we are in a visual culture of movies, TV, billboards and magazines, the society often overlooks non-visual aspects and concentrates on things and products.
PART 2: Hostage To The Dramatic OR How Modern Culture Misses the Boat
A visual culture is often overly dramatic which is unrealistic.
Marketers use sex to sell even to very young people which is troubling.


Honey, We're Killing The Kids OR How Advertising To Children Has Led To Obesity Problems
The marketing of food to kids is a major part of the reason young people are overweight.
ADVERTISING AND VALUES: The Impact Of The Consumer Mentality On Marriage And Family
The concepts of marketing are even effecting how we think about marriage and children.
Does Your Identity Come From Advertising?
Many people feel that they can buy their identity off a shelf. Why is this wrong?
Are You Worth It? OR How Advertising Impacts Our Values
The culture has become money and number obsessed due to its consumer bias.


My Identity Does Not Come From Advertising
Author Rick Doble gives examples from his own life about avoiding the effects of the consumer culture.
How To Unplug The Effects Of Advertising OR Turn Off The Sound
How turning off the sound when ads come on the TV can have a major impact.
AMAZING SECRET MAGIC MIRACLE! Or: How To Unplug The Effects Of Advertising
Ads often use the same words over and over to sell us. Which words do they use and why are they so powerful?
Super Size And Save!
By understanding how food is being marketed to us, we may be able to avoid the temptation of overeating.
By understanding how marketers try to sell us more than we intended to purchase, we may be able to avoid the traps they have set.
Dress To Impress!
If you get the latest and greatest brand name clothing, car etc. will everyone notice and be impressed? It turns out that most people won't even know the difference.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

PART 2: Hostage To The Dramatic OR How Modern Culture Misses the Boat

"The camera lies all the time; lies 24 times/second," according to film director Brian De Palma. Yet we spend so many hours with this distorted reality, it cannot help but shape our beliefs and expectations.

In Part 1 of this article I discussed the effect of a visual medium such as film on the culture. But visual media also requires excitement and this constant drama in movies and advertisements has a major impact on our culture as well.

Nothing is more dramatic than death and dying. So by the age of eighteen, children have seen about 16,000 murders on TV. Much has been written about the effect of violent TV on children. At the very least it helps desensitize young people and prevents them from understanding the true tragedy of death.

And then there is the everyday unreality that is common in the movies: heroes plunge effortlessly through glass windows, villains get killed in increasingly bizarre and sadistic ways, and at the end of the movie we get swept up in the obligatory chase which must be a bit different each time.

Things occur so effortlessly on film, we may think that our slow step-by-step and day-by-day lives could somehow move more quickly or be more exciting.

Take for example, the first time a couple connects. The initial kiss is often followed by a passionate throwing of clothes which leads to extended love making in which the partners move together in perfect harmony.

What nonsense. In reality the first time a couple makes love, things are often not right. They are usually nervous and a bit unsure, which is natural since they are just getting to know each other. Yet if you were to compare your life to movie stars in bed, you might feel disappointed.

Time also operates differently on film than it does in the real world. Process is almost completely left out. The audience is often presented with culminating dramatic events but not shown a hint of the long tedious work that was required to bring the drama to this point.

Yet time not only moves rapidly it also moves slowly: scoundrels swan dive leisurely off high rise buildings, bullets take their time penetrating a victim's skull before blood splatters on the wall behind the head, and houses explode with choreographed billows of flames as the hero leaps onto the ground.

If we spend four hours a day watching TV with such reality, how do we know what is real and what is not? What now is our point of reference?

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