Saturday, September 15, 2007

Predatory commercials

"Sometimes I disrupt class...but someday, I'm going to disrupt conventional thinking!" - Commercial that airs daily on ABC between 3:30 and 4:00 in the morning

I'm becoming increasingly disgusted with commercials that seem to be specifically targeted at vulnerable groups. Maybe this is the essence of advertising: any target demographic is really just a collection of vulnerable individuals who can be reasonably expected to respond to a given advertisement. The above-quoted one from a company called Shire, makers of the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication Adderal, is particularly pernicious. I know parents of children with ADHD, and I know that their hopes and dreams for their children are a little more down-to-earth than the glorious promises offered by the "ADHD Roadmap" being advertised in this commercial. But why settle for a child who can actually sit through an entire class, pay attention, and take notes, or on who can do basic homework in less than four or five grueling hours, when you can have one who might someday own a baseball team, or sit on the board of directors? All it takes is just one visit to our website...then talk over treatment options with your child's doctor...

(Note: I'm not the only one disgusted and horrified by this commercial - see here and here.)

These aren't the only commercials that make my skin crawl. "Are you receiving payments from a structured settlement? We can get you CASH now!...It's your money. Shouldn't you be able to use it for what you need right now?" Yes, of course. I will certainly trust any company that would make such an offer. Of course, I'm sure they wouldn't take an usurious chunk of that money - your money - in return for that service.

Oh, then there are ads for reverse mortgages, targeted at the elderly who may be house-rich but cash-poor. As I understand them, reverse mortgages are a way of signing over your house to a lender in exchange for an allowance based on the equity in your property. In essence, you no longer own your house - you just live there at the pleasure of your lender, under the terms of your reverse mortgage. And of course, when ownership of that reverse mortgage changes hands, things can change. Things always change.

The creepiest ads were the ones that ran through late August, which were directed at students heading to college. In them we see happy, fresh-faced students talking about how they got the cash they needed for all those extra college expenses just by getting their parents to co-sign for loans from some private student loan company I've never heard of before. And you can ask about a special repayment plan that means you don't have to start paying the loan back until after you graduate! Which is really nice, since I didn't know too many college seniors who were in a position to start repaying any of their loans.

Personally, I've been responding to most of these ads like a Roman Emperor at a gladiatorial contest - "with pressed thumb". More specifically, with a thumb pressed to the MUTE button on my remote. I feel sorry for anyone who falls victim to these predatory ads.


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Unfortunately too many people do just that.

betz said...

Harold, as you know Ricky takes Adderall, but, I have never seen the commercial. I suspect it would make me mad. :(
And yes, the homework torture has begun. I miss your guidance, and your help thru our yearly dreaded back to school crap!