Gary Rotstein's The Morning File: Truth in advertising: Can you handle it?


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A local criminal defense attorney, Daniel Muessig, has gotten some attention with refreshingly candid Internet video advertising telling hardened criminals he will do everything possible to beat the judicial system on their behalf.

Not everyone likes such a straightforward approach, including some of his fellow lawyers, but we wish all advertising would be so honest. We'd no longer mute the commercials if we could hear pitches like the following:

 

From politicians:

"An election's coming up, and there's not a fact about my opponent that makes him any less qualified to serve than I am. In fact, it's very unlikely you will be able to tell later which one of us is in office, because there's little either one of us can do to change anything.

"Truth is, my opponent's not a bad guy, and I've got more than my share of faults, including feeling somewhat beholden to the people who have given me the money that enables me to air this ad. I've done drugs and had affairs, not that I'm doing any of those now -- but I might again in the future, because I'm only human.

"Maybe you'll vote for me, maybe you won't, but I hope you'll vote. It may not make a bit of difference in the long run, but it at least gives us the appearance of being a legitimate democracy."

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From beer companies:

"We could show images of pretty people out drinking alcohol and having fun as they imbibe, but that might make you consume more beer than you should. You should keep in mind before your next alcohol purchase that drinking causes huge problems in America, including the 30 or so people a day who die in alcohol-related auto accidents somewhere.

"We hope you'll try our product, but please just have one or two at a time. And it would be better if you consumed at home instead of out at a bar, or a sporting event, or a beach, or anywhere else, because chances are that as you drink, you'll become more annoying to the people around you. Now here's an image of a pretty girl in a bikini for you to enjoy, but don't think it has anything to do with our beer."

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From car manufacturers:

"We've got a zippy new car to sell you with lots of bells and whistles, and even though you might not want all these features, you'll have to pay for them now that it's built. And good luck figuring out what you really should pay for the car, since the sticker price has very little bearing on what it cost us. It'd be nice if you would buy our new model, though we couldn't blame you for buying one that's a few years old, since the new car will depreciate so much the minute you drive it off the lot.

"And be sure you really need a car anyway before you buy it, as mass transit would be more beneficial to the planet considering our limited fossil fuels and the contribution made by automobiles to global warming. You might also want to walk more, for betterment of your health and longevity. But if you insist on driving and need a car, yes, we've got one you might like."

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From investment firms:

"The stock market's very unpredictable. Some investors do well, some don't, as no one has a crystal ball and there's no guarantee of anything. We've helped clients have some success over the years, though we certainly can't say that's true for all of them.

"We're here to offer advice and accept a commission for our services, if you think that's necessary, though we wouldn't blame you for just finding a prudent mutual fund with a proven track record that you can invest in directly. That sort of information's all available on the Internet, if you want it. But if you're too lazy to do that, please call us -- we'd be glad to help."

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From the movie industry:

"We're going to show you some explosions and chase scenes from an upcoming movie. We'd like to show clips of insightful character development and genuine emotions, but most people won't pay to see that on the big screen, and we're not well-equipped to provide it with the type of talent we assembled for this cinematic effort.

"But we did spend a lot of money on special effects, so we're going to give you a glimpse of those and hope they convince you our film justifies getting out of the house and putting up with a lot of expense and aggravation at the theater. Please watch and enjoy, and we promise not to spoil anything about the storyline, because there really isn't one."


Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.

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