Friday, January 4, 2008

Life Alert commercial, by Glenn

Here is an item that I deleted from my As Seen on TV: 10 Most Laughably Misleading Ads article early in on during the self-editing process because it didn't quite fit my premise. That is, old people are generally useless, so it is hard to exagerate that aspect of their lives. Yet, some people left comments implying that I had 'forgotten' about this classic commercial. Not so!

X. Life Alert

What they are selling: The ‘classic’ Life Alert, which is a remote control for an autodialer that allows you to ask for help via speaker-phone. It is especially handy when you have fallen and cannot regain verticality without assistance, yet remain well enough to yell across a room (hamming it up for any cameras that happen to be on you). It purports to replace having adequate healthcare, and friends and family that love you.

The hyperbole: A sequence showing old people in distress, and then 'it' happens.

“I have fallen, and I can’t get up!”

At some point, some old person, somewhere, has fallen down without being able to get up. We aren’t going to dispute that.

Yet, the old broad in the ad seems pretty energetic. We suspect that she could have dragged herself to a telephone if she had to. You have to put an honest effort into trying to get up before saying you can't. Man up Grandma!

Further, old people probably find it offensive that they are often depicted in commercials as forgetting basic infantile motor skills like getting on all fours and crawling; yet also as suddenly (and embarassingly) remembering less useful infantile skills like pooping their diaper.

The Reality:
In the ad, the call centre is apparently being manned by a large staff of medical professionals in official looking uniforms. Unless the Life Alert costs a million dollars a unit, we fail to see how this could be cost effective. Consumer complaints suggest that the company gets around this issue by not manning the phones at all.

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