The influence of television on the viewer is immeasurable. Many viewers of every description rely upon television programming as an important, if not their sole, source of information.  In the arena of marketing, there would seem to be an especial need for a limitation on the unbridled claims of advertising companies, on behalf of client vendors.

Added to the repetitive plethora of pizza, automobile and beauty products advertisements, there are certain notable areas that call for scrutiny and perhaps, regulation. Among  these areas are, weight loss, personal injury attorney and retirement home mortgage advertisements.

Regarding the subjects of  pizza, automobile and beauty products, all viewers, even people of low information, are sufficiently aware that claims of ultimate superiority are merely sales puffing.  Moreover, it seems that most pizza consumers are motivated by the convenience of location,  rather than the promotional hype of professional athletes.In auto sales, it would appear that it is past experience with brands, rather than the hypnotic influence of dynamic commercials,  featuring beautiful models,that is ultimately determinative of choice.As  to beauty products, most intelligent women effectively realize that aging ultimately trumps high priced  creams and perfumed oils

However, the are three notable areas of television advertisement, that deserve scrutiny and possibly, regulation, (a) weight loss ads, (b) personal injury lawyers and (c)home retirement ads

(a) Weight loss advertisements

The selectively wise and disciplined consumption of food is universally conceded to have a  salutary effect on health and physical appearance. Unfortunately, most of us who overeat find it extremely difficult, seemingly impossible, to amend our eating behavior.It almost appears that we are  hard-wired to persist in this lack of self discipline. Television advertisers are keenly aware of our frustration and strategically pander to it

Strikingly beautiful pictures of tempting but fattening foods and desserts are presented, along with  permission to consume them while, easily and quickly,  losing desired weight, solely  contingent upon subscription to a weight plan or club.”Real people” are presented, usually women, who purportedly , easily and quickly, transformed from blob to babe by subscribing to the advertised  plan.

In what is conceded to be the “real world,” weight is not lost by eating fattening foods while paying for subscriptions to advertised diet clubs; weight is lost by eating sensibly.

Perhaps this false pandering to the vulnerable should be looked into.

(b) Retirement home mortgages.

In the usual case, advertisers use mature professional actors, who usually portray wise and savvy film characters in film, to convince seniors to enter into retirement home mortgage transactions, if they wish to continue to reside in their homes, by financing the equity in their homes (equity is the difference between the market value of their real estate minus the outstanding principal on the mortgage) with the mortgage lender.

It is unquestionably desirable to be able to continue to reside in the home, most especially for the elderly (the assumption is conveyed of vulnerability in this area which may not exist, in the individual case); it would, in fact be appropriate, if absolutely employ the home’s equity.There may not be any concern, for example, if the home mortgage was previously paid off (“satisfied”) or if the owners are able to meet the mortgage payments.The advertiser, by way of its dignified and eloquent spokesman seems to indicate the need in all cases; this is wrong and misleading.

Even where the home retirement mortgage (reverse mortgage, payments by bank based on equity) is useful, it may not be suitable for everyone, contrary to advertised presentation.

If ever, the admonition, “the devil is in the details” had application, it certainly has significant resonance here.For example, how much of the full amount of the equity will be received by the owner, what are the costs and commissions in obtaining the retirement mortgage, what carrying expenses viz., real estate taxes, State and local, insurance, water and the like, still remain the owner’s obligation?

Particularly disturbing and downright irksome, is the sage and beneficent presenter’s  incentive to the effect that the money received is “not taxable.” If anything demonstrated the intent to misrepresent, this is no less than classic. The money is, and has been your money by its accumulation in your home’s equity. It does not represent income since the money was not earned it was always  yours! Additionally, if still necessary, who pays income taxes on money they borrow?

This fraudulent presentation to the elderly should by scrutinized by the authorities.

(c) Advertisements by personal injury attorneys.

Personal injury attorneys handle accident cases (to be contrasted with attorneys who represent clients in their personal or business lives) have somewhat less fiduciary responsibilities than those contrasted, but nevertheless, should not be selected based on the quality of their advertisements. Even in this limited area, attorneys should be selected from references made by past clients and a bit of research. Attorney’s services are personal and should not be advertised like umbrellas or mayonnaise

More unprofessional than the advertising itself is the misleading promise of no fee without recovery. This should not be an inducement to hire any personal lawyer because it is provided in the New York law (and elsewhere) that no fee is in fact payable, except upon certain legislated percentages of recovery of money by the client. i.e., n o fee is legal if no recovery of money by the client. Stating this as a  benefit for the hiring of a particular attorney should put the prospective client on notice.


Banks, t.v. sellers of products and others advertise with the inane phrase. “Free Gifts.”Is this to be contrasted with a class of “gifts” requiring money? A gift MEANS free or it is not a gift, I wish they would find another inducement.

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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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