Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio

Snakeoil2In terms of advertising, TV and radio seem to be getting unequal FCC scrutiny. On TV, automakers warn us that only professional drivers on closed courses should drive upside down; the pharma trade lists every anal-leakage-type side effect; and politicians tell us that they endorse their own campaign commercials. Meanwhile, radio pitchmen seem to be getting away with outrageous unchecked claims. I’ve heard infomercials promise single-pill panaceas for everything from cancer to toenail fungus, because they work, you know, at the sub-cellular level—so, to quote Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, “I’ve got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” A bunch of dubious treatments claim to regrow hair (inspiring a watchdog blog), and one shamelessly claims to grow people (yes, actual “grow-taller” pills, the sort of junk that used to be hawked in the back of Kefauver Commission-era comic books). The most annoyingly old-school and childishly deceptive technique comes in ads for real estate. It starts off with an electronic squawk, suggesting an Emergency Broadcast System test. The announcer says, “This is a public announcement!” — as if radio commercials are ever private announcements — then proceeds to tell you how you can find out about property-foreclosure bargains. The suggestion is obviously meant to conflate public with government (as if the government would use the EBS for that, along with a slick announcer!). These scams should remind adults of the old Johnson-Smith novelty catalog headlines proclaiming “Authentic replicas!”

—Posted by Gregory Solman