Posted by: nickgerlich | September 22, 2007

Vortex

A couple of nights ago, I found myself stumbling around at 4am. Once again, I couldn’t sleep, so I figured a bowl of cereal and reading emails would certainly make me drowsy. It might have been an Ambien moment, but I prefer all-natural solutions.

I was scrolling through a few messages from my nocturnal students, when our oldest daughter entered the room and turned on the TV. She turned on The Food Network, one of her favorite channels. I continued to type, when I was interrupted by a very serious voice.

“Dad…this looks like something Momma could use.”

“Huh?”

“Look…you can seal up your food, put it in the freezer, and save lots of money.”

She got my attention with that. She had stumbled into an informercial for The Food Saver,a handy kitchen gadget that…well, you know the drill.

InfomercialI left my keyboard and laid down on the couch, watching this captivating drama unfold. Our daughter was really using her noodle here, thinking of Mom and all those nasty kitchen chores. She honestly thought that this was without doubt the best thing to come along since the bread slicer. And I, ever a student of people, was enjoying the ride, watching her process information and try to make application.

The problem is, like so many other people watching TV at 4am, she was getting sucked into the vortex of the infomercial. We all like to think that these clever marketing arrows cannot penetrate our air space, but they do so with alarming regularity. And being only 9 years old, she had no idea that she was watching a commercial rather than a kitchen documentary.

Informercials have been around since 1984, but TV pitchmen have been peddling their wares in short-form commercials much longer. Legendary Ron Popeil, who invented the Veg-o-Matic in 1965, is perhaps the best known in a genre that also includes Ginsu knives, Bowflex, and the George Foreman grill.

The world has never been the same since.

The two of us eventually drifted off to sleep, but later that morning, she told Mom about The Food Saver. But Mom wasn’t buying.

I then used the opportunity to demonstrate how insidious marketing can be sometimes. Our daughter left the kitchen a little disappointed…disappointed that Mom really didn’t think she would save all that much money (especially after “three easy payments of $46.66…plus shipping and handling”), and disappointed that she had been had. Duped. Sucked in by a program-length advertisement when she could have been watching her favorite, Rachael Rae.

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to stay awake.

Dr “As Seen On TV” Gerlich

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