Guilt Sells


October 22, 1991|By LINDA L.S. SCHULTE

LAUREL. — Laurel -- You know the commercials.

A small child is sitting in a corner. His mother is packing up the household belongings. When the child asks why, the mother explains that the single reason for the family move is that people aren't buying daddy's products anymore.

''Why?'' asks the child choking back the tears.

''I don't know'' says Mommy, mystified.

Perhaps it's because Daddy's products are as poorly made as the commercial. Daddy needs to get a life. The scary part is to think about where this kind of guilt-by-advertising could lead.

''Mandatory air bags could have saved thousands of lives if you voters had only forced the issue years ago!'' Brought to you by your friends at the National Safety Council.

''The XYZ Oil Company lost millions of dollars last quarter and its because of your nit-picking environmental requirements. Lighten up and give us a [tax] break!''

Perhaps ad agencies have run through their panoply of emotional stimuli. Heart-warming is out. Guilt is in. Patriotism is out. Ragging on the public is in.

As consumers, we've suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune hunters for years. There are only so many creative ways to sell a product. If the quality or the character of the product doesn't change, then change the commercial.

After all, think how in recent years, we've endured changing camera techniques alone. We've suffered through Chariots-of-Fire-slow-motion and countless freeze frames to today's send-out-for-the Dramamine-instant-vertigo moving camera techniques. Like those ads for that line of mens' pants. You know where you never see the mens' faces but you spend the entire commercial looking at their pants pockets, zippers and the like? Haven't these guys heard of tripods?

Guilt-oriented ads should be deja vu for those of us in the Boomer Bunch. After all, it wasn't that long ago that a national magazine ran an ad which said: ''Buy this product or we'll shoot this dog.''

Linda L.S. Schulte has sales resistance.

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