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Yelling and Obfuscation

| June 28, 2016

Al Herskovitz
H&H Communications


herskovitzwriterBRADENTON, Fla — There are those who blame the explosion in the use of social media as the cause for the increase in yelling and obfuscation one hears in commercials today.  Yes, it seems to be somewhat true but, in my memory, auto dealers always have screamed their spots, although I’ve never understood why. I suppose the idea is,  if you holler loud enough, the listener is more likely to pay attention to your message.

And there does seem to be an increase in obfuscation with the use of words such as “nearly, virtually, almost, up to.” There was one I recently heard for a liquid detergent that will “virtually remove the dirtiest spot” in your clothes. What does this mean?  If you still can see the stain, would you walk around wearing that shirt?  I guess if you were a gambling person, you’d  buy the product and hope for the best.

Obviously, the point of these words is to get the product producer off the hook if the claims made are not met.  And there’s always that final line about “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.”  But who does that?  Usually you just throw the jug into the trash and forget about the $2.98.

Then there are these scientific phrases that are supposed to give the product — particularly medical ones — credibility.  Here’s a dandy I heard  for some pill that treats “Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency.”  Try saying that fast three times!  When making further reference the voice in the spot reduced it to the letters E-P-I.

Of course there is that long-standing bugaboo: the telephone number.  I don’t care how many times it is repeated, if you’re hurtling down I-95 at 65 mph you are not going to remember the number unless it is an extraordinarily simple one, nor will you be able to write it down.  And how many people have leaped out of bed to get pen and paper when the alarm goes off to their favorite morning show?

In these new, hi-tech times just about all radio stations, syndicators and independently produced shows have websites of their own and they all present advertising.  Box and banner ads are quite common.  Most are well-designed, attention-getting and give you sufficient information to draw you to the product or service.  But a fairly recent development could be considered “visible yelling.”

The home page appears, but before you can begin reading what you originally went there for, it starts to fade and a full screen ad is super-imposed over the site accompanied by an audio pitch.  Then your search begins for that little “x” that will take you back to the home page.  Not necessarily easy to find. Oh, it is there but a bit obscured.

Well, what works? A sincere “live” read by a favorite program host.  A catchy jingle.  A testimonial from a product or service user.  An endorsement by a high-profile celebrity. (Athletes are particularly effective.) An easy-to-remember web address rather than an 800 number. (And you don’t even have to say “www”anymore!)

As to “Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency” — I had to look it up.  Whoops! I’m sorry I did.


Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications and a TALKERS marketing consultant.  He can be emailed at:

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Category: Sales