A few years ago, I made the mistake of going to the Mall of America while visiting friends during the holiday season. In all fairness, going there was my trade-off for forcing my family to spend two hours in a brewing supply store as I drooled over the shiny metal tools and cool doodads and fantasized about converting my basement into a microbrewery. Considering I also act this way when I spend time in hardware stores or garden centers, it is generally best for my family’s patience if I stay at home.
All things considered, I could not complain about being forced to window shop and people watch in the mega mall. This trip is especially noteworthy because of the hawkers that were actively trying to get us to try and hopefully purchase their wares. The one in particular was pitching an electrical stimulation system that they claimed could be used (in conjunction with a rigorous diet and exercise regime) to give me six-pack abs.
I can assure you that the closest I have ever gotten to having six-pack abs is when I used the pocket of my hoodie sweatshirt to carry a round of beer from the curling club bar. Even when I was in high school and running miles every day in the misguided hope to impress a distance runner on our track team I was more the boxed 12-pack than the rippled pin-up look.
Yet, the salesman focused on me, the dumpy, overweight guy in the crowd, to try to get me to invest in several thousand dollars worth of electrical equipment promising that I too, could be buff and beautiful.
Beyond the fact that I had already overspent my meager budget on marginally useful brewing gear and supplies, the idea of applying electrical shocks to get my muscles to twitch seemed less than appealing. Despite his pleading I respectfully declined.
I got to think of this the other day when I was watching a show on an online streaming channel with my family. The show was enjoyable enough, but was secondary to the ads that were really pushing a new drug to treat tardive dyskinesia also known as TD. For those unfamiliar with TD, it is a condition that is caused by taking antipsychotic drugs such as treatment for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia for a long period of time.
After the seventh commercial for the product in the hour-long show, I began to wonder if there was something about my family that the people on our TV knew that we didn’t.
Was this like the hawker picking me out as the fat guy in the crowd to try and sell me a questionable fitness product? What do the TV people know that I don’t know?
While there are times, such as when I spend hours standing up to my knees in snowbanks, when I question my own sanity at choosing a community newspaper career path, I have managed, so far, to avoid prolonged medication.
While I am glad there are medical treatments for those who are suffering from TD, it seems like an oddly specific medical condition to have an ad for during every commercial break.
I suppose it could have been worse.
The following day I got a text message from my college- aged daughter claiming that she was now traumatized from being forced to watch a several-minute-long commercial for “manscaping” personal grooming products. The streaming service had given her the option of watching the one long commercial to avoid other interruptions.
Since it would be wildly hypocritical of me to oppose any form of advertising, I can only say that target marketing can be an effective way to sell a product or service to a particular niche of the marketplace — provided, of course, that you are on target.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.