Left Justified: TV ads are killing us

How many TV ads are paid for by our tax dollars? Advertising executives are getting a shot in the arm from the United States government (not that they need it). The most obnoxious commercial (and the ad that should be investigated) features our Congressman, U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo. He is extolling the Social Security drug prescription confusion. The Representative is speaking with a government bureaucrat that’s offering help (almost apologetically) for the maze of the Medicare/Medicaid prescription plan.

This ad is trying to make up for the confusing drug company payback that has ensnared our elderly folks. The ad is trying to commiserate with the elderly victims: “It’s not as confusing as it looks, and we’re here to help you.” Sure, they are.

By featuring our congressman, who just happens to be facing the first viable Democratic challenger in a long time, the Donald could be accused of using government money (and Social Security funds at that) to enhance his re-election bid. Mr. Manzullo has a war chest of a few gazillion dollars and why he has to use taxpayer funds to promote his failed policies is a question that should be looked into.

The second government-sponsored commercial looks like a new TV series called Border Patrol. Sex ladies and uniformed studs (some with noticeable beer guts) drive around the desert chasing somebody bad. After the third or fourth time, I realized it’s soliciting jobs as United States Government Border Patrol agents.

That ad sure makes it look exciting! I’d love to drive around in giant Hummers going after immigrant scofflaws in the wild West. Why, even we chubby guys could sit in air-conditioned vehicles and radio younger (prettier) women to catch the illegal immigrants.

These commercials are, of course, a glorified way of attracting recruits, but did they really have to pay so much for the slick production (not that I know how much)? Just who made the ads (Halliburton?)? And how much do they cost to run on every station in every time slot?

Of course, these advertisements are not as bad as the military recruitment spots that try to entice our children into the Army, Navy, Marines or (recently) the Coast Guard. I have a cheap way to get more youngsters into serving their country: draft ’em! Men and women! Let’s just see how popular this war really is!

I had signed up to join the Army in February of 1969. It may have been a commercial that cajoled me into signing on the dotted line. But I gave three years of my life in service to this country so that I could get a college scholarship. Along the way, I got quite a bit of education about the military. That’s why I’m a peace activist now.

So I would list military recruitment ads, especially the ones that glorify war, as the most lethal that appear on television.

But we all know the advertisements that strike the health of our heart—both physically and spiritually. I’m talking about all those commercials that feature giant, juicy, cheese-covered hamburgers, pizzas and mouth-watering foods that will clog our arteries and make us the most overweight country in the world. It took a long time for the government to ban cigarette ads. How long before Burger World or Cheesy Meat is banned from the airwaves?

Even as a striving wanna-be vegetarian, I find it difficult not to jump out of my bed and drive to the nearest fast-food hamburger grease pit after seeing some of those enticing come-ons.

And the ads are so prevalent! But why shouldn’t they be? Advertisers have the best researchers, artists and technicians that craft a product, which in 30 seconds will catch your attention. The greatest cravings are called addictions, and America is addicted to stuff. It must be hard for an alcoholic barraged by liquor commercials. Almost as difficult for gambling addicts to see lottery or casino spots on television.

It’s bad enough that businesses use commercials to exploit people’s weaknesses. I think it’s even worse when the government exploits people using their own tax dollars.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2006, issue

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