Reading Between the Lines
In days gone by, I worked as a real estate broker in Westfield, New Jersey. I did this for so many decades that I learned how to read. I mean, really read. I also learned how to write. I mean really write.
What this means is that there were key words that meant different things to different people in the ads I read and wrote. It was the nature of the business. It still is but to a lesser extent since the ability to look for a house online has provided buyers with lots more information than previously available.
We all knew that a handyman’s special was a wreck and that cozy meant tiny; that convenient to transportation was likely on a train track and that charmingly decorated meant lots of wallpaper you’d have to painstakingly remove. Owners looking for a quick sale meant they were desperate and unable to find a buyer. Stately meant old fashioned and welcoming the cool summer breezes on your screened-in porch meant no central air. And so it went.
These days the hyperbole still exists but, just maybe, the customers are more sophisticated since they can see photos, albeit artfully done, of the property before they step away from their computers.
But this doesn’t mean that advertising has become more honest. It hasn’t.
Don’t think I don’t fall for this stuff myself. A few years ago I bought something that was advertised to convert a plane’s Economy seat to a First-Class seat. I paid good money for it and it was so torturous that I left it on the plane when we deboarded. I am as gullible as the next sucker. Believe me!
But the ads that really get my goat are apparently an American invention. I know I don’t see them in Israel. These are ads for hospitals and medicines and doctors. When you think about them they’re really shocking.
So you’re dozing off on an e-z chair, comfy and safe and suddenly you’ll hear, Do you have A-fib? (atrial fibrilliation). Or Are you having bladder control issues? Nothing is sacred on my television. Or radio. Or newspaper. Every disease known to man seems to have an ad touting a snake-oil cure. And people must be biting if they’re still advertising.
Then there are doctor ads. One guy in particular does stereotactic (sorry, I can’t define it!) surgery on bladder cancer. He’s been advertising his wonder treatment for years. I just wonder if people disregard their doctors’ advice and listen to the radio ads. Really?
Medicine ads are the funniest since, by law I guess, they’re required to tell you the side effects. So they pick a deadly disease and show a romantic couple stolling happily on a beach, holding hands thanks to a wonder drug. The music in the background is a nice calming touch and then, at the end, they’ve got someone who can talk faster than humanly possible listing the side effects of this amazing drug, side effects that usually include death! So you can get rid of your toenail fungus but it may kill you. Just sayin’.
Also big-time advertisers are hospitals. Some of the most persuasive ads are from Mt. Sinai in Manhattan. They’ll show you the lucky patient who came to them for treatment, compared to any other hospital . No need to explain that the Mt. Sinai patient is out there tossing a ball to his grandson, in robust good health, whereas with treatment in another hospital he’d be long since underground.
Lots of hospitals are a bit more subtle. They have websites loaded with medical information. You can go to the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic sites, for example, and toss in your symptoms and discover the cures, usually at Mayo or Cleveland
Hospitals also love to throw statistics around. One is the best in cardio-vascular care and this one is the best in transplants. This one specializes in cancer and this one is great for a hangnail. Ad infinitum.
What it all means is that medicine, in the broad sense, is very good business. In America at least. The cost of all of these medications, doctors visits and hospitals is staggering. And someone is paying for all these prohibitively expensive ads as well. I don’t see these ads in Israel where the medical care is dramatically cheaper.
Yes, we have a crisis in America and affordable medical care is really urgent care! Just wondering why Israel, a tiny country, can provide medical care for everyone and America cannot.
Better to stay healthy!