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?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hostage to the Visual OR How Modern Culture Misses A Lot

Lets cut to the chase: We live in a visual age of television, movies, billboards, posters, magazines and colorful packaging. If the visual did not dominate so heavily, there would be nothing wrong with this. But by focusing primarily on what can be shown, we miss a lot such as the almost invisible play of emotions, the complexity of thought and the quiet communication that happens between people.

When I was getting my Masters Degree in Media we were taught over and over, "Don't tell me, show me." While this is good advice for people writing movie scripts or ad copy, it reveals what is wrong with an exclusively visual age: some things are actually better told than shown.

Visual media often requires the use of 'things' rather than subtle exchanges between people. For example, a man who wants to show a woman that he is interested, will send her flowers. Flowers photograph well and they serve as great props for the story line. They can be carefully cradled by the woman who received them and then lovingly placed in a vase or they can be angrily thrown in the trash. So in movies the delicate interplay of love is often replaced with boxes of candy and gifts of jewelry.

To take an opposite example, the powerful and deep felt emotions of James Joyce's book The Dubliners, a collection of short stories, is not suited to the big screen. At the end of each story the characters experience an epiphany, a sudden profound understanding. Considered to be some of the finest short stories ever written in the English language, they do not translate well to the visual media. And as many readers know, novels and stories often do not do well on film because they are not visual.

Joyce's character Stephen Hero defined epiphany as, "a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments."

I have an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Media, so I can see both sides of the coin. Visual art can be marvelous yet the culture should allow more of a range so different art forms that deal with other ideas and emotions can be brought into play.

The problem with an emphasis on the visual, is that we are focused on 'things' which means we will become increasingly hardened consumers. For example, guns, cars, fancy houses, elegant clothes and upscale restaurants are all part and parcel to telling a story on film.

But more than this, the camera lies. "The camera lies all the time; lies 24 times/second," said director Brian De Palma. And we are exposed and influenced by this false reality for much of our waking life.

According to A.C. Nielson (the authority on TV viewing) the average American spends about 4 hours a day watching television and the TV is on about 7 hours a day in the average American household. In addition Americans rent tons of videos and go to movies on the weekends. The unreality of movies and TV has become a major part of the reality of most people's lives. And it is inevitable that the bias of the visual media will rub off and also shape our values. Which means consumer goods, and things and more things.

I'll have a lot more to say about this in future articles, so stay tuned.

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