39 Words matter. Ethics matter.

In a world besieged with messages on what to wear, what to eat, what to drive, or what to do, there is a trend that needs more than a little attention.

In the early days of television, companies were hesitant to use competitors’ names. Some of you are old enough to remember Bufferin versus Brand X in a familiar pain reliever ad. Oh, were those days ones of innocence!

Ideally, an effective ad presents prospective customers with facts in order to persuade them to purchase a particular product. Over time, the simplicity of those early television ads has morphed into an industry that funnels untold sums of money into the coffers of both mainstream and cable television channels. It’s big business, and it doesn’t reside solely on Madison Avenue anymore. Small concerns with high tech tools can produce ads that rival the older, established advertising agencies.

Lately, I grow more and more wary of some of the current ads. I focus on one aspect of them — an aspect that should worry all of us.

Let’s examine just two of these ads. The first is actually a multiple of glitzy ads touting a major city with a reputation for glitz. Various characters appear on these ads, but — in the end — the message is that it doesn’t matter what you do there, there will be no consequences. In essence, what goes there stays there. Oh, gee, is that an invitation to bad behavior? You think? The message is unsettling — particularly because young people find them humorous. Bad behavior funny? Evidently. How sad.

The second ad features a mother and a daughter. In one scene, the mother is having a good time. In her exuberance, she spills something on her clothing. Later, the daughter complains that she cannot find her favorite top. Clearly disappointed, the daughter then leaves the house. The next scene shows the mother using a brand name laundry detergent to wash the top. Then the ad cuts to the daughter wearing the top, now with no sign of any stain. Instead of stepping up to the plate and admitting that she borrowed her daughter’s clothing, the mother quietly allows the girl to think that somehow she missed it when she was rummaging through her closet earlier.

The message? It’s perfectly acceptable to lie so long as you don’t have to admit your bad behavior. How nice — parents deceiving children. Some message. If anything, it makes me vow to never buy any of the sponsor’s products, and it makes a lot of them!

Is this how far we have come? Do we now watch these commercials and ignore lying and misbehaving as updated norms for society. If we do, I fear for those among us lacking a moral compass with which to judge these ads. Minus guidance, youngsters are the most vulnerable among us.

How do you react to ads of this type? Do you find them unsettling and troublesome? Clumped together with the clothing ads laced with sexual messages, ads pummeling our kids should demand more of our attention than they do. I’m not a fan of boycotts, but a barrage of letters might get the attention of the proper people.

I realize that I’m preaching to the choir, but there are times when I’ve had it up to my ears with advertisements. If you disagree with current practices, use your voices. Most companies have a toll-free number. Call it. You can find corporate addresses in many places. Drop the company a note.

Ironically, if sponsors paying huge dollars for these ads knew how many of us hit the MUTE button the moment a televised program cuts to a commercial break, they might think twice about what they run for ads in the first place.   What ever happened to “truth in advertising”?  Think about it.

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