Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Truth in Advertising and Other Lies

Our two local weekly publications are aimed at a 25-to-35-year-old audience, and occasionally offer readable and usable writing. They are primarily published to siphon local advertising dollars away from the town’s only daily newspaper. Both of the weeklies’ use a standard gimmick of publishing a “Best Of” issue where employees, relatives and friends vote as many times as possible for their favorites, and the top three in each category are officially listed. Occasionally, customers also vote if egged on enough by the establishment. In turn, all of the first, second and third-place “winners” are convinced to run full-color advertisements bragging about their pseudo status.

Categorically Denied

The cornucopia of categories cover every entity from dog parks to dentists, and in the latter category, two dentists proudly placed a headline in their ads thanking voters for making them “The Best Dentist.” One did earn that dubious honor however the other finished in second place. When I called the second-place “winner,” the receptionist said, “People just cast their vote. It’s not democratic. We just get called by the newspaper’s advertising people who asked us to run an ad. We never usually advertise at all.” She was reluctant to discuss why the second-place winner was advertised as “Best.”

Not Really My Type

There are two main types of advertising in print media. There’s classified where the advertisements are placed according to classifications such as “Help Wanted,” Used Cars” and the like, and display where larger advertisements are run throughout the publication. This is something any neophyte should be taught their first day on the job.

When I called the weekly, a sophomoric intern answered the phone and I asked if she could connect me to display advertising.  In a squeaky voice she incredulously asked, “Display?” After I explained what the term meant, she transferred me to a more mature twenty-something saleswoman. I innocently asked how two dentists could be “The Best,” especially in light of the fact that her publication listed one of them as being in second place.

The Last Shall be First

She answered firmly, “He is a winner in second place, so he is ‘The Best Dentist.” I tried to convince her that he was “The Second Best Dentist,” probably because he didn’t have as many employees, relatives and friends voting for him as the first-place winner. She adamantly defended her point by saying, “There are thousands of dentists in the area. (Only190 are listed in the Yellow Pages). The voters voted for the top three and that makes him a winner in ‘The Best Dentist’ category.” I tried once again to convince her otherwise, but she was probably too busy planning for the next “Best Of” issue and figuring out how to hustle advertisements from all of the future first, second and third place winners, as well as those who finished last.

Some of those latter establishments probably didn’t have enough employees, relatives and friends voting to finish in the top three, so they created their own advertising headlines declaring, “Thanks for making us winners.”

I wonder which of my neighbors’ noisy dogs had the inclination to vote for the “Best Dog Park?”




No comments: