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But wait, there’s more!

Feb 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Opinion

HAS anyone else noticed the offensive number of infomercials increasingly creeping in to free-to-air television?

Each time I see a pro-active ad featuring previous pizza-face-come-infomercial-sell-out Jessica Simpson with gal pals Jennifer Love Hewitt and Alyssa Milano, I want to stab myself in the eyes with a pen.

It makes sense to capitalise on teenage insecurity. Most parents can recall the taunts of their siblings through high school years and would fork out anything in the hope offspring don’t suffer the same humiliation and insecurities a good job and neat friends never fixed.

There are many products sold during least-favoured television slots that prey on the self-conscious consumer looking for a miracle.

AdMan boasts the largest range of “as seen on TV” products. Among a multitude of home helpers, the New Zealand Company sells the AbRocket, Comfort-pedic Slippers, Energym Power Charger, Fashion Magnets, Leg Magic, Radiessence, Slim n Lift and the Spin Spa.

With a single credit card, you can be sold the dream.

Abdominal muscles will appear from the depths of your belly, unsightly bunions will disappear, wobbly bits will wobble away, you will look ridiculously stylish and expensive, have perfect pins, glowingly youthful skin, and slink around in a suction suit which holds in any remaining wobbly bits. Hail damage/orange peel/cottage cheese thighs no longer.

Before and after shots prove astounding results, endorsing statements from token experts confirm scientific crap, and hidden disclaimers allow money back guarantees to drive home the sale: “But wait, there’s more!”

This undeniably tacky method of advertising has been going for years. For every homemaker, night-shift worker, invalid beneficiary or slob it is easy to be persuaded by the powers of gentle subconscious hypnotism in its most profitable form: the infomercial.

My earliest memories of infomercials began with the fabulously versatile Suzanne Clip. Suzanne Paul became a household name, probably most famous for bringing us “thousands of luminous spheres,” in the form of Natural Glow.

Hell, even my mum bought it. How could you not? It surely began the trend of merging as many products together as possible, in this case “a foundation, a blusher, a lipstick, an eye shadow, and an all-over body tan.” Don’t forget nail polish (though I don’t think anyone was sold on this).

Ugh, how that annoying voice still resonates in my head. Unfortunately, the English-born Paul, after catapulting herself to great riches, fell on her face when a business venture went wrong.

More unfortunately, producers still allowed her back on New Zealand television… “But wait! There’s more!”

There’s nothing like torture to get through to people.

I can’t STAND the guy who tries to sell me ladders in the morning. I find his booming Kiwi-bloke accent antagonising and intrusive, his ladder skills are clunky, and the background music is just creepy. Listen to it. Besides, whatever happened to “sex sells”?

At least the grating Ms Paul appeals to her own demographic.

Speaking of sex selling, the first infomercial that ever sucked me in was the AbFlex(pro). I hadn’t developed my universal cynicism at this stage and was mesmerised by the sudden transformation of these pale and fat Americans to buff, bronzed gods and goddesses.

With just a few pumps on a patented piece of giant plastic, inches melted away from the entire body. Never mind these people were turning a strange shade of orange like oompa-loompas, and displayed painful looking smiles. If one could emerge from a swimming pool looking like this, it was worth the four-easy-payments.

Now, acutely aware of my own incapacity when challenged with strategic marketing ploys, and in full awareness of my greedy consuming nature, I just stay away.

Though recently I came across a new product, a DIY laser treatment system. Having already forked out over $1000 for professional treatments, I was sold. No more awkward, half-naked small talk on Juanita’s table. I am sure she was smiling while inflicting all that pain on me.

Anyway, apparently it is no longer required to advertise the price of the product. Watch carefully – many ads will loop several times and, once again, subconsciously hypnotise the victim waiting for the price.

So I called the 0800 number once and was deferred to several different lines, advising me that my “call is important”, “could I stay on the line” and an operator will be with me shortly? Well, since you asked so nicely.

I was informed that I was now fourth in line, which expectedly turned to third, then sixth, eighth, second. I was disconnected  twice, but was so stubbornly determined to get through I left the phone on hands free for about 10 minutes before giving up.

With my phone on silent for the day, I missed the eight calls from the company obviously so dedicated to customer service. My call was important to them (and someone wanted their commission).

So I called back and spoke to an old bag who told me there were two versions of the laser thingy. She began to wax on about the merits of each product with the enthusiasm of a bank teller.

“I am really just calling to get a price from you, thanks,” I say politely.

“Well, which one do you want?” she hissed.

“Um, well, I’m not sure. How much do they cost?”

Come on love, you know which one you want.”

“…Well…actually, no, but I’m not going to buy one today anyway because I don’t have a credit card on me.”

This is when she got angry and told me that “today’s special is for today only” and that this price wouldn’t be available again. Then she hung up on me.

But back to my original point: I really am concerned about this infomercial epidemic taking over our television screens.

It’s time we did something about it.

The children of today (who are still up at 1am or wagging school) are missing out on brilliant re-runs of McGyver and Magnum P.I. The broadcasters have conspired to have infomercials running at corresponding times, meaning there is no escape unless you can fork out the extra money for Sky.

But maybe you’ve already spent that money on the new abdominal trainer.

Okay, or Windsor Pilates. But it really does work. I used to be a size 26…

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is a Whitireia Journalism student. Her interests include travel, food and entertainment, music, and fashion. Sophie hopes to work in magazines. She is not into serious stuff like finance and politics.
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