Monday, June 3, 2013

It Doesn't Always "Ad" Up

Trey Smith

Since I've been unable to sleep, I've spent the past two nights watching late night/early morning TV. While ads are played all throughout the day, cable operators have a tendency to run a limited number of them over and over and over again in the wee hours. Many of these are downright annoying for a variety of reasons.

For example, there is a certain "wonder drug" for your seasonal allergies. All the people featured in this ad go prancing around because this wondrous drug has provided them with a new lease on life. No more sneezing. No more watery eyes. No more sinus congestion and headaches!

Sounds great, doesn't it? It is great...until you hear the long list of possible side effects. But there are specific side effects that puzzle me: sneezing and sinus congestion. How are these side effects? If before you take this drug, you are sneezing with sinus congestion and then after you take it, you are still sneezing and have sinus congestion, then those two things are NOT side effects. No, that would indicate the drug is ineffective!

There is another drug that treats clinical depression. One of its side effects is a doozy. In some cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts. Don't suicidal thoughts go hand-in-hand with some forms of depression? Again, I wouldn't consider this a "side effect"; it would more point to the fact that, in some cases, the drug is not working.

One ad that I saw way too many times had to do with one of those for-profit online "universities". The narrator points out that, due to the economic downturn for most Americans, many people are suffering from increased anxiety and depression. All these folks need psychological help and, as it turns out, this school offers just such a program leading to a certificate and degree in a "helping profession." The need is great, the narrator tells us, so why not sign up for this program today?

On its face, there are no deceptive claims made in this ad. Studies DO show that more Americans are suffering from anxiety and depression. So, what's my beef?

There is one salient fact omitted from the ad: Mental Health services across the country are being slashed as the result of the very same economic downturn. So, while the need indeed is great, the number of available jobs to address the need are rapidly dwindling. Competition for those jobs is fierce and my guess is that most are filled by mental health workers who have already lost their jobs. So, signing up for this program (which costs a pretty penny) will more than likely lead students or graduates to become anxious and depressed as they realize they are out tens of thousands of dollars and there are few job prospects in their now chosen field!

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