What Do 5G, Drugs, E-Commerce and Charities Have in Common?

Published on December 15, 2020

Like many of us, I watch TV at night. I’ve never paid close attention to commercials (except during the Super Bowl) until I saw my cable service provider, RCN’s commercial about donating $100K to food banks through Feeding America®. I was completely taken aback.

Why? Wave Broadbend, a provider of fiber and broadband services, with its companies, RCN Telecom Service and Grande Communications is the sixth largest high-speed internet company in the U.S. Is $100K the best it can do to give back during the pandemic? As a resident in one of the buildings the company serves, when I add up the apartments, I presume it receives $100K from our building alone.

Another issue I have is with TV ads about medical conditions like bi-polar disorder, Crohn’s and Colitis, thyroid eye diseases, and many others. If you mention one of these medications to your doctor, do you think they’d be unaware of this advertised drug? Then, besides searching Dr. Google, how would you learn about side effects or problems with drug interactions?

For example, I researched Vyrala, a drug for bipolar disorder. The drug ratings are 5.8 out of 10, with comments like, the irritability outweighs the positive, can’t sleep, nauseated all

the time, depressed like never before, horrible thoughts which ruined my life and questions about it being a scam. Clearly, these comments are from people who were prescribed this medication. Yes, it’s FDA-approved but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you if you can make out the fine print.

For me, trust is something that’s earned, and TV ads are paid for by companies whose aim is to target people by location, gender, race, age and more. Which gets me to another important point, GoMedicare. If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, like everyone else who has health insurance, you want to receive more money.

But, if you look hard, particularly if you’re over 65, you may be able to decipher the small white print that says, “Not affiliated with or endorsed by a government agency. Plans vary by region and state.”

All you need to do is speak with a “licensed insurance agent.” Just what we need, another company like GoHealth with a bait and switch promotion. Here’s one review (among many) on the Better Business Bureau, “I contacted GoHealth in response to a TV ad stating Medicare recipients may be entitled to Part B refund. The rep required my name, address and birthdate BEFORE transferring me to Oscar, who repeatedly boasted of being a “licensed insurance agent.” Unfortunately, Oscar kept stammering and failed to provide any information whatsoever and hung up on me! Based on other complaints, I am very concerned that GoHealth scams Medicare recipients….” In fact, GoHealth does not provide Medicare or Medicaid.

Now, let’s review some over-the-counter health products that promote natural healing. One is elderberries. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states unripe elderberries and other parts of the elder tree, such as the leaves and stem, contain toxic substances that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; large quantities of the toxin may cause serious illness.

While there have been a few studies on elderberry for the flu and other respiratory infections (not COVID-19), there is almost no research on any other use cases. As for vitamins and supplements, they are not FDA-approved but Nature Made claims that a “survey of pharmacists” recommends them.

After doing my research on Nature Made, they don’t list any evidence that the products are unsafe. But shouldn’t a survey list the total number of respondents, and the year? To me, this is suspect. COVID-19, Coronavirus tips and COVID-19 are among the fastest growing search queries on Google.

While it’s understandable that people want to feel in control during these uncertain times, there is no evidence to support that preventative vitamins or supplements help to ward off coronavirus. Without getting into the overall pros and cons of vitamins, if you’re deficient, like medical experts suggest, it’s important to speak to a doctor to determine if taking a particular vitamin is right for you and in what amount.

Having had experience visiting and spending time living in France, pharmacists were well-informed, patient, helpful and provided a quality experience from speaking with me one-on-one. They will even open by appointment when they’re closed.

It appears from Rite Aid’s new ad that the stores are trying to incorporate this message of merging traditional and alternative remedies to deliver a full-health capability when people shop at the stores. In particular, it suggests exercise to lower blood pressure (as if this is a new finding), the “right” (a relative term) products, and essential oils to reduce stress. If that was all it took, these promises would be national news.

As a 30-year New York City resident, I’ve shopped at CVS and Rite Aid. I don’t know about you, but my experience has been long lines of people waiting to speak to a pharmacist behind the counter, many of whom are working feverishly to fill prescriptions. Overworked personnel try to help but don’t have time to chat about “remedies.”

Instead, I tried calling Rite Aid. First, the message said there’s a huge demand for COVID testing, to check on a daily basis, to go online, schedule a flu shot or get updates on a prescription or refills. When I clicked the number to speak to a representative about other pharmaceutical products, I was left on-hold. Finally, after waiting, I hung up. Since Rite Aid’s new ad is about its stores for the future, perhaps we will see what Rite Aid does then, just not at this time of writing.

Moving on to E-commerce, there are recurring ads for cars like Jaguar, Infiniti, Volvo, Acura and more. But, if you’re already in position to buy a car, is an ad really going to convince you? Perhaps offers of deals on special financing, deferral programs, reduced costs for leasing and cash bonuses convinced you before ending in late-September and early-November. Otherwise, there are still deals available until January 2021 with the caveat of, “You’ll need excellent credit to take advantage of most financing deals and many cash back offers.”

If you’re shopping for the holidays, Love Sac, Big Lots, Walmart, Kohls, Burlington, Zales, Jared, Ashley Home Store and many others have deals. Ashley Home Store offers 0% interest for seven years. But, do you want to have debt or be even more in the red?

As for charities like St. Jude Children’s Hospital, ASPCA, Wounded Warrior Project, and many others, many people donate, which is important if you have the money to give back. But, with the 10.74 M unemployed as of November, concerns about when Congress will pass another stimulus bill, parents with children at-home, worries about getting sick, the availability of the vaccine and most importantly, families struggling with loss or caring for family-members who are ill, how realistic is it for most people to participate.

While I don’t work in advertising and don’t claim to know the advantages and disadvantages, I am a consumer and a TV ad is not going to convince me to do anything. My aim is to help educate people and to get them thinking about a topic. Finally, one TV commercial really got my attention. It starts, “Hard to Wrap. Easy to Give.”

When I asked people who live in New York City to think of and provide an answer to what’s hard to wrap but easy to give? The first thing that came to mind for me was love, other answers included, an umbrella, a plant, a bike, a car, a pillow and flowers. The answer is steel; “from legendary chain saws to steel blowers,” STIHL.

I understand that throughout the U.S, there are woods, forests and homes with a lot of trees. However, for those of us who live in the city, a chainsaw is probably one of the things we least need or want to give.

All of these examples are certainly not anything I’ve ever paid attention to until I saw the ad for RCN. But, since I’ve been focused on commercials within the last several weeks, I have a clearer understanding about the truth behind ads.

Brands use proven techniques to consciously and subliminally influence behavior. They use trust badges with USP-certified, and others with independent surveys, logos and symbols, (like made in the USA) to gain trust. Without listing all the strategies, the bottom line is: you are being sold to even if you think you’re not.

Wendy Glavin is a contributor to Grit Daily News and the founder/CEO of Wendy Glavin, a full-service New York City agency. Wendy is a 30-year veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and small business ownership. She specializes in B2B marketing, executive writing, PR, social and digital media advisory. Contact her at: wendy@wendyglavin.com.

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