If I could identify one “Rule” To Live by, this would be it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the one “hold-back” Robert Fulghum left out of his literary classic, “Everything I Needed To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten”. And it should be known that every accomplished master never reveals all; they usually keep a few secrets–usually the best ones–for themselves. 😉
Like most “rules”, there are a few exceptions: cars and cell phones and toilet paper spring to mind. You can’t really get away from them; you’ve pretty much got to pick one, and their commercials can all be found on TV. I’m sure there are others, but since they’re not springing to mind at present, I’ll move on to explain how/why I came to this conclusion and flesh things out with a few examples.
I can’t recall exactly how or when I first realized this; pathetically enough, I couldn’t even tell you whether it dawned on me over time or struck me one day. Either way, the realization was reached, and it seems to hold true.
And I’ll add another aspect: the more frequently something is advertised, the worse of a product or service it is, and the more vehemently it should be avoided.
In short, the quality/desirability of a product or service is inversely related to its presence on television. (And they said you’d never use these ridiculous comparisons, usually learned in math class, in real life. Heh. Turns out that they’re applicable to real life after all!)
What you see advertised on TV depends largely on which region you live in, which channels you watch, and what time you watch TV, but…the “rule” still holds water.
Whatever you see advertised is either utterly useless, or is otherwise probably not the best solution to the problem (whatever that problem may be). It seems to be a cesspool of the lowest common denominator.
Take, for example, auto insurance. These days (summer of 2017, for those who will haplessly stumble across this post years later), what I see advertised most often falls into two (crappy) categories:
- Overpriced insurance aimed at young, obnoxious, irresponsible drivers who present a high insurance risk, or
- Regular auto insurance companies who are trying hard to peddle useless overpriced options.
An example of the former would be “The General”. Ugh. An example of the latter would be Liberty Mutual’s ridiculous “accident forgiveness” option, where you pay extra forever just in case you have a wreck someday, at which point only the first accident is “forgiven”, but it’s not like they did you a favor, because you prepaid for it through higher premiums to begin with. Ugh again.
How about another example: multivitamins. Centrum Silver is the one that comes to mind first, and let’s just say that as far as multivitamins go, it’s among the worst. Seriously, it contains nickel; who the hell needs nickel?? It’s actually a semi-toxic metal–certainly not a nutrient. And most people are deficient in zinc, but the artificial chemical preservatives and food coloring a actually outrank the zinc on the ingredient list (link opens a PDF).
I mean, seriously–WTF?
Or probiotics. I love to pick on probiotics, especially the store-bought, non-medical-grade ones, because I can always tell when a patient is taking one; their probiotic bacteria won’t grow in the Petri dish when the lab analyzes their stool sample. The probiotics they’re taking are dead. And it’s not their intestinal tract that killed them. And dead bacteria aren’t helpful; they can only bring the benefits promised if they’re alive.
Let’s consider body care products: the best ones are sold at health food stores, online, and/or at salons. The health food store varieties have healthier, higher-quality ingredients; the salon products live up to their name.
Pet food works the same way – the best brands are sold at health food stores, or you find them online when you start searching for stuff like “organic”, “grain-free” and so on. The crap peddled on TV, like Purina? It will kill your cat. When our cat Murphy was 7 months old–yes, months–back in the days when I didn’t know better, he’d been eating Purina and became listless, lethargic, and apathetic. Blood tests revealed elevated liver enzymes, which indicate advanced liver damage and impending liver failure, and he was given a timetable of living until age 2. Yep, 2. I yanked the Purina out of the house, went online to research pet food for real, and found a much better alternative. Two months later, he had bounced back and updated lab work revealed that his liver enzymes had returned to healthy levels. The vet said, “whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” He will be 15 next month. And he’s a happy guy.
It turns out that our case is by far not the only one; the FDA, in an act of god(dess), actually issued a warning to Purina.
How about those $19-dollar-a-month charities? Scams and fraud, all of them. Every group is covered, though! Starving kids in Ethiopia, wounded war veterans, animals (yep, the ASPCA is essentially a scam, and is not the same as your local SPCA shelter!) (and the same goes for the Humane Society of America; the HSUS doesn’t actually do anything, and isn’t the same as your local Humane Society shelter, the latter of which can still be supported freely), American white kids with cancer, and so on. No stone is left unturned when it comes to tele-begging, no heartstring untugged, and no wallet unpicked.
Over the past (few? Fifteen? I don’t know) years, I had found some of my own favorite brands, and had begun to wonder why some of those brands had never seen the light of television day. I had begun to realize that the commercial breaks usually only included the crappiest options. I noticed that the better options were nowhere to be found.
When I can’t find the mute button on the remote control, I can usually be found issuing snarky retorts at the TV screen in response to the ridiculousness I see hawked on it.
“Why shop at Best Buy (heavily advertised) when I can go to Fry’s (which I haven’t even seen advertised)?”
“Why opt for (whatever cell phone here), when I’m (usually) a lot better off with an iPhone (which I haven’t seen advertised nearly as much)?” (Don’t get me wrong–it pisses me off plenty, and I actually had to work pretty hard to make it livable, but it’s not one of the cheap POS that I see advertised on TV.)
“OMG they’re still scamming us with Activia?? Ummm, my medical-grade probiotic works heads and shoulders above that.”
“Ugh, Silk almond milk (the most commonly advertised) tastes like ass (my opinion); the Blue Diamond stuff (less often advertised, and probably only bothers with TV advertising to remain on par with Silk brand recognition) is a lot better.”
“Cancer Treatment Centers of America my ass…if I grow a tumor, I’m hauling my butt to Mexico!” (Don’t scoff–their success rates leave ours in the dust, even with terminal cases, which, alas, I couldn’t convince my aunt soon enough.)
“The Room Store (most often advertised) sucks, in comparison to Star Furniture (San Antonio) or Furniture & Things (north of Minneapolis–and yes, we’ve driven up there and bought furniture and carted it back home to South Texas in my truck before lol; it’s that cool of a store) rocks the free world.”
“Why go to Walmart (heavily advertised) when I can go to Half Price Books (for…books), the Dillard’s clearance rack (for clothing), the restaurant supply store (for cookware), the local ham radio festival (for a good Mac laptop), Fry’s or Altex (for any other computer supplies), local shops for other electronics, the medical-grade supplement companies (for…supplements), Natural Grocers (for food), (none of which I’ve seen advertised at all), my P2P program (for music/movies/etc), or even Amazon (still less frequently advertised than Walmart)?”
The same goes for beer. Or pizza. Or bread. Or household cleaning products. Or attorneys. Or colleges/universities. Or even maxi pads (sorry guys). (The best maxi pads I found were actually made of organic cloth, machine-washable. Way more comfortable and absorbent, and environmentally-friendly!)
And I think it was about two or three years ago when I realized that aside from vehicles (Toyota), cell phone service (AT&T), and computers (usually Apple), I really don’t even buy anything advertised on TV at all.
In fact, I’ve come to almost utilize TV commercials as a red-flag warning of what not to buy.
And I’ve been a lot more satisfied for it. 🙂