Popular Culture 20110128: Left and Right TeeVee Adverts

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This piece was partially inspired by a conversation that I had with Kossack smileycreek in the comments after my most recent Pique the Geek installment.  That commentor’s sig line included words to the effect that all that the Republicans have is fear.

To a point I agree with that, but I would also add greed to it.  Greed has a component of fear in it, since greedy people always have the fear that they will not get enough of whatever their particular greed includes, but is enough of a distinct desire as to be included separately.

On Wednesday past, I logged all of the adverts on two TeeVee shows, Glenn Beck from the FOX “News” Channel, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC.  I believe that most would agree that one is pretty right wing, and the other pretty left wing.

This is not what I would refer to as a scientific study, since it involved only two programs on one evening from two competing networks.  However, I think that it speaks volumes about the perception that the advertisers have about the programs on which they spend money.

Before we go into the the somewhat Geeky list, let me tell you for what I was looking.  Adverts that either are directed by the nature of the product, or those in which the content suggests fear are the prime target.  The ones that do the same for greed do as well, and often they overlap.  As the piece develops, you will see what I mean.

It should be noted that many of the adverts are plugs for other pieces of its product line.  Sometimes it is hard to tell a plug from a paid advert, but I shall try to sort them out for everyone.  A plug usually is a paid advertisement, but paid by either a parent company or a subsidiary of the same parent company.  Plugs cost almost nothing for a network to carry, since the revenue goes right back to the bottom line of the parent.  They are often used to fill in otherwise unsold advert space.

Here is the rating system that I shall use.  I am rating each advert for its fear factor, its greed factor, and its deceptiveness factor using a scale of zero to three, zero being none, one being slight, two moderate, and three being high.  These are purely my own subjective observations.  The ratings will appear in bold after my discussion of each advert as FF=x, GF=x, and DF=x.  We shall tabulate each of those after the discussion of all of the adverts.  Plugs will not be rated.

We might as well start with the Beck program, since it was first.  His show is sort of unique in that he has a full 20 minutes before the first advert.  This is quite unusual on TeeVee, especially on these kinds of programs.

At the first advert block, starting at 5:20 PM Eastern, the following were run:

A plug for The Weekly Standard, and conservative magazine that is owned by News Corporation (a misnomer itself), the parent of the FOX “News” Channel.  No Rating.

Next was an advert for Goldline, a gold marketing outfit.  This strongly falls into the fear category, since the entire marketing strategy for gold is based on fear that the United States economy is collapsing.  There is also a good portion of greed there as well, since the company emphasizes that gold is going up whilst the dollar is going down.  This particular firm also has been accused of unethical marketing tactics.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

After that was an advert for My Solar Backup, an outfit that I debunked a couple of months ago on Pique the Geek.  Just hit my profile to find it.  The bottom line is that for thousands of dollars you can buy a system that will run a 1500 watt heater at half power for about an hour until you have to recharge the batteries, IF the sun is shining.  That one goes straight to fear, fear of not having power.  However, the advert implies that you get essentially unlimited power whilst the reality is that you get very limited power for a very high price.  FF=4, GF=2, DF=3

Then there was another plug for The Weekly Standard, and then one for Hannity, both News Corporation products.  No Rating

Then there was a legitimate advert for the internet telephone service Vonage.  This in nonpolitical, and does not have anything to do with fear, but there is a small greed factor involved, since their prices for “unlimited” calls are so cheap.  However, there is some fine print in the advert that indicates that folks actually do not have unlimited calling, but rather have to use discretion in how many minutes that they use.  They also do not bring out the fact that to use the service it is necessary to have a high speed internet connexion.  By the way, most high speed internet plans through telephone companies explicitly indicate that your agreement is voided if you cancel your telephone service with them and replace it with voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services like Vonage.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=1

The next one was for Bookit.com, a privately held reservations firm that offers discounts for travel and accommodations.  It has no fear component, but like many adverts, offers money savings, so there is a little greed factor there.  I am not aware of any issues with this firm, so I am giving them a deception factor of zero.  If you have any data to support a different rating, please comment.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=0

After the next program segment, the wave of adverts began at 5:30 PM Eastern.  The first was a plug for the very show that was on, Glenn Beck, begging for people to watch the rest of it.  No Rating

After that was one for Rosland Capital, the gold merchant that uses for its pitchman the convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy.  The comments about gold sellers above all apply here, and the use of Liddy is outrageous.  This man is a convicted criminal, a moral reprobate, and an opportunist of the highest degree.  Whilst purporting to be a conservative, he has gone on “lecture” (more like concert) tours with Timothy Leary (Liddy actually was instrumental in his arrest when Liddy was with FBI) and with Al Franken, all for money.  The worst parts of these adverts is that they advocate that our economic system is collapsing and that gold is the only thing that you can have to protect yourself.  Please see my pieces from a couple of weeks ago both in this series and on Pique the Geek for the debunking of gold.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

Next, there was the one from Americans against Food Taxes, where the worried mum in the store is loading her cart with mostly healthy foods (she even is shown loading reusable grocery bags into her vehicle) and complaining that there is a plan to tax those sugar laden, artificially flavored and colored beverages.  What they do not tell you is that this is a front group for the American Beverage Association, the premier lobbying organization for the soft drink and bottled water industry.  By the way, under Michael Huckabee, with whom I am not very fond, Arkansas passed a tax on soft drinks that has kept the Medicaid program solvent even now.  This advert is mostly about fear, the way it is written (“… the government is getting into our personal lives…”), and also a bit about greed.  FF=2, GF=2, DF=3

Then there is the one from Seniorpeoplemeet.com.  It is owned by People Media, a niche personal dating corporation.  I have not been able to find any ties to News Corporation, so it seems to be legitimate, but does prey on the fear that older people might be alone, and for many folks being alone is even more frightening than being broke.  FF=1, GF=0, DF=0

The next advert was the one for Lifestyle Lift.  That is a cosmetic surgery technique that is supposed to make people look younger.  There is no doubt that such cosmetic surgery works, but as with any surgery there are risks.  Their adverts say nothing about that, and are also misleading in that the actual patients had a second procedure applied to make their necks tighter, only indicated in the very fine print at the bottom of the advert for a few seconds.  This advert is directly tapping fear, the fear of growing old, probably the worst fear  that there is.  I find them morally objectionable.  By the way, this firm has settled accusations that it had its employees or consultants to set up sockpuppet internet sites, and to comment on other sites, about how satisfied they were with the procedures.  FF=2, GF=0, DF=2

The next advert was for Matrixdirect.com, a life insurance company.  I do not see much fear or greed in that one, since life insurance is a commonly purchased product.  They emphasize good prices, but I see nothing wrong with that if you can deliver. FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

Finally, before the next part of the show was a plug for Special Report with Bret Baier, another News Corporation issue.  I find him to be offensive, and his interview with the President a couple of months ago should puke everyone off of him.  No Rating

There was a little more show, and then at 5:38 PM, the adverts started again.

The first was a plug for Hannity, not unexpected.  No Rating

Second was an advert for Merit Financial, another gold outfit. This one is different that the Rosland one in that one of its VPs actually does the advert.  What they do NOT tell you is that they are owned by Seacoast Coin, Inc.  My comments about gold above and at the ones mentioned there still apply.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

The oddball there was the Comfy Control Harness, a dog walking product.  It is purported to be a product that dogs like better than a collar for walking, and is more humane.  Well, my research indicates that veterinarians think the opposite, and that a collar is better.  By the way, the URL that they advertise on the show was offline when I tried to access it!  This has nothing to do with fear or greed, but it is interesting that the product, which is bogus, advertises on the FOX “News” Network.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=2

Next was another Special Report plug.  No Rating

At 5:48 Eastern, after another small slice of program, came the next advert, this one from Lear Capital, another gold seller.  I really like this advert, because it shows a stormy sea, and a man who is on one of those stupid TeeVee cop shows as spokesman who says words to the effect “… and how can your guarantee your security?  GOLD!”  This is the same actor that had the sex organ transplant from a gorilla on the cult classic TeeVee show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman! years ago now.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

The next one was for Thejewerlyexchange.com, where you can buy diamonds for half price!  That sort of goes to greed, and some folks think that diamonds are like gold in preserving value.  Here is who they are.  Goldenwest Diamond Corporation owns them, and Jewelry Factory® and Jewelry Source® as well.  If you can find a site with any useful information, please let me know.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=0

Next was one about a nutritional supplement, Qunol, a Coenzyme Q supplement.  The advert indicates that this will help keep ones heart healthy.  Research reports are spotty, but there is not any consensus that supplements of Coenzyme Q will improve your health.  FF=1, GF=0, DF=1

Next was an plug for that fingers on blackboard voiced von Sustren’s On the Record with Gretta von Sustren show.  No Rating

After that there was ANOTHER gold one, this time ITMTrading.com.  The same arguments apply here as to the ones before.  More gold nonsense.  Want a bite of gold?  It is delicious!  Sorry, sarcasm is often the best tool to deal with fear and greed.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

Next there is Plentyoffish.com, a dating site.  The name is actually sort of offensive, because I do not, and have ever not, considered a possible companion as one of a school of fish, just one for the taking.  I think that it is insulting.  This site, and the advert to which it is associated, is in keeping with the fear of being alone.  If fear or greed is not there, FOX loses. By the way, as far as I can tell, nearly five people work there.  FF=2, GF=0, DF=0

The next one was for Timeshareexitsolution.com, an outfit that promises to get people out of legal contracts that they have with timeshare companies that they (probably foolishly) bought vacation time in strange places.  Timeshares were really big at one time, and were NEVER a good deal.  I object to this advert because it implies that you really do not have to SELL your timeshare, just transfer title to get it out of your name.  I suspect that you have to pay them to do that.  It sounds shady to me.  FF=0, GF=2, DF=2

Just before signing off, at 5:55 ran these adverts:

One from the American Petroleum Institute, and propaganda piece about how wonderful the petroleum industry is.  This one is not really greed or fear based, at least directed towards the audience, so is what I consider to be just a promotion for a lobby, paid for by the lobby.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

Then there was another Goldline advert, and I have discussed that outfit for the 5:20 set of adverts.  FF=3, GF=3, DF=2

Next came a plug for The Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corporation, so that is truly a plug.  No Rating

The Hutton Law Firm had the next spot, this one about recalled hip replacement hardware.  This one has a large greed factor and somewhat of a fear one, because it indicates that if you have a certain hip replacement, you MIGHT be eligible for monetary settlements for the greed part, and also that you might not even know if you have a bum hip, with free research offered to supply the fear factor.  What really is interesting to me is that this advert is for trial lawyers who are squeezing medical device manufacturers for money!  The FOX “News” Network constantly rails against trial lawyers and advocates tort reform that would make it much more difficult for mistreated patients to sue for these very kinds of things.  Hypocrisy is not a problem for FOX, nor for Beck.  FF=1, GF=2, DF=0

Then there was another spot for Lifeline Lift, discussed earlier.  FF=2, GF=0, DF=2

Finally, there was another American Petroleum Institute advert.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

Then Beck kissed everyone good-night.  I just made that up.  I would rather dance barefoot on hot steel than kiss Glenn Beck.

Altogether, there were a total of 31 adverts, 9 of them plugs for other FOX “News” Channel shows or other Newscorp products, for a total of 22 actual adverts.  I shall break them down regarding their ratings after we examine the MSNBC entry.

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell aired at 8:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday.  Obviously, this is in the old timeslot that Countdown with Keith Olbermann used to have.  I do not know the circumstances of MSNBC and him parting ways, but it certainly caused us to lose the most eloquent and passionate of their lineup.  In any event, the first advert block started at 8:14 PM Eastern.

The first advert was for Cisco Systems, a telecommunications company.  No fear nor greed in it, and no false claims.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

After that aired the advert for JoS. A. Bank Clothiers, a men’s clothing outfit.  I have talked about them before because they always are using sales to get folks in the door, but they seem otherwise OK, just selling at higher prices than they should, but having a sale EVERY day!  FF=0, GF=1, DF=1

Next was an advert for ADT, the home security company.  I have personal experience with this firm, it is legitimate.  However, fear is its major selling point.  FF=1, GF=0, DF=0

The show went on from then, then the next block of adverts started at 8:17 Eastern.

The first advert was for the new TeeVee series, Face Off.  It appears on The Syfy Channel, owned by General Electric, the parent company of MSNBC.  Therefore this is a plug, although sort of a deceptive one.  No Rating

Next was an advert for the new motion picture, 127 Hours.  Since it was made by a studio apart from General Electric, it is a legitimate advert.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

An advert for Hotwire.com, the travel agency, was next.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=0

Just before programming resumed was an advert for Dr. Scholl’s Gel Insoles.  This is a fine product, and helps most folks feel better, although of course the benefit is somewhat inflated, so I give it a slightly inflated DF.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

After the next part of the show came the block of adverts that started at 8:25.

The first advert was for Audi, the automobile company.  This particular one was very strange, but not fear nor greed mongering.  Like all automobile adverts, it is a bit deceptive in that the car that they show is not the one priced.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

Liberty Mutual Automobile Insurance was next.  Nothing unusual here.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

Following was the Hoover Carpet Cleaner, also an upfront product.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

Vonage was next, and happens to be the ONLY advert that also ran on Beck’s awful show.  Please see my analysis (vide infra). FF=0, GF=1, DF=1

The term life insurance outfit Select Quote was next.  They look to be reputable, and are not deceptive.  However, due to the fact that life insurance, unlike automobile insurance, is completely optional, there is a bit of fear that makes one buy it.  There is no greed, since one will be dead when it is paid.  FF=1, GF=0, DF=0

The next one was a plug for the MSNBC weekday lineup.  No rating

After that was a plug for The Dylan Ratigan Show, another MSNBC show.  No Rating

The programming resumed until 8:29 PM Eastern, and started with a plug for The Rachael Maddow Show.  No rating  

Next was still another plug for the MSNBC lineup.  No comment, and No Rating

Then there was an advert for Advil, the brand name ibruprofen pain reliever.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

The one following was a spot for Cisco Systems, discussed already, vide infra.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

There was another advert for 127 Hours, also already discussed.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

Royal Caribbean Cruises was next, and they were offering a discount, so a little greed is there, but not much.  I also personally think that cruise adverts make the images look better than the actual experience, so I added a bit of deception to their score.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=1

The last one in this block was for Temperpedic Beds.  This has turned out to be a pretty reliable firm.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

When the programming was over the next time, the subsequent advert block had these:

The automobile firm Subaru, a fine car as has been told to me by everyone that has owned one, and I ask about this kind of thing.  Suburu does have a tendency to talk up its safety record, and its resale value, so I have bumped this advert up a little.  I have never seen anything deceptive, however, unlike most automobile adverts.  FF=1, GF=1, DF=0

The osteoporosis drug Reclast was next.  As a former bigwig in FDA, I have a problem with prescription drugs being advertised in media other than professional medical ones, but the First Amendment says that they can be so marketed.  This particular drug can be very effective, but it marketing makes it look like it is perfect, and the potential negative effects are very much glossed over in the copy for the advert.  FF=2, GF=0, DF=2

TDAmeritrade was next, a discount broker outfit.  All of them inflate their merits, but are not really bad entities.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=1

MSNBC has the annoying habit of interrupting its commercial blocks with a bit of commentary, and this is not any exception.  After a 15 second piece by O’Donnell, they went back to adverts at 8:43.

Florastor was the next one advertised.  It is supposed to be a remedy for intestinal problems, but studies are not complete.  It is a swallowable form of the fungus Saccharomyces boulardii and actually shows promise for several gut related problems, but as I said, has not been completely investigated.  It is a very old folk remedy.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

The resort firm Atlantic Resorts was next, and there is no issue other than the images always looking better than the reality.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=1

The last advert in this block was for USAA Insurance.  That is a pretty upfront company, and does give some breaks for current and former military service members, but still shop around a bit.  I sort of find it offensive to our military folks that this firm uses images of active duty folks and say that “this is our board of directors”.  I downrate them for deception for that.  Perhaps their board USED to be active folks, but I seriously doubt that they teleconference to Afghanistan for director’s votes on issues.  Also, the particular one that was aired was extremely creepy for reasons that I will not mention unless someone brings it up in the comments.  FF=1, GF=1, DF=2

They went back to regular programming until 8:49, and then the last block of adverts aired.

The first one was from Staples, the office supply company.  FF=0, GF=1, DF=0

Next, the Black Swan motion picture was offered.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

A repeat of the Cisco advert was next run.  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

Then there was an advert for Aflac, “the put money in your account if you get hurt or sick” insurance company run.  Good idea, but sort of expensive.  FF=1, GF=1, DF=1

Oddly, Pictsweet frozen vegetables were next.  I have used them for years, they are good!  FF=0, GF=0, DF=0

There was another advert for ADT, and discussed already (vide infra).  FF=1, GF=0, DF=0

Finally, there was a plug for The Rachael Maddow show. No Rating

For this program, there were a total of 34 adverts, 5 of which were plugs, leaving 29 legitimate adverts.  Now we shall compare the adverts from the two networks and see the results.

First, FOX had 22 paid adverts, and MSNBC 29 of them.  This is a bit misleading, because some of the FOX ones were longer than the ones on MSNBC.  I did not have a stopwatch, so the times of each are not available.  I would guess that they were most probably just about equal.

Second, the tabulation of the negative factors are extremely telling.  Let us examine them carefully.  Here are the Fear Factor scores for FOX, and then for MSNBC:

32 for FOX, 8 for MSNBC.  By my analysis, FOX ran FOUR times more adverts that preyed on fear than MSNBC did in one hour.

Here are the Greed Factor numbers:

29 for FOX, 9 for MSNBC.   That comes to 3.2 more more adverts that played on greed for FOX than for MSNBC.

Now, for the Deceptive Factor numbers:

29 for FOX, 12 for MSNBC.  That means that FOX ran 2.42 times as many deceptive adverts than did MSNBC that night.

Right off of the top of my head I can come up with at least three conclusions from these analyses.  Let us start from the bottom.

First of all, deceptive advertisement is quite common, and not limited to the conservative outlets, but certainly favored by them.  The FOX “News” Network has no compunction about deceiving people in its programming, and this analysis shows that this also carries over to their advertising.  On the other hand, even MSNBC runs adverts that are deceptive, but only at a rate or intensity less than half that for FOX.  Note that the level of deception was much lower on MSNBS’s adverts compared to the outright, highly misleading gold adverts on FOX.

Second, greed is used as an advert tool more than three times more on FOX than it is used on MSNBC.  The numbers speak for themselves.  The combination of these two observations indicate that the advertisers on FOX are wont to use both deception and greed to sell their products.  Now we get to fear.  Greed is a designed into FOX’s programming as well, to draw their most desired demographic:  wealthy, mostly white, men.

The fear factor was exactly four to one!  Sponsors on FOX are using fear as a selling point 4 times more than the ones that advertise on MSNBC.  This is consistent with the programming on FOX as well.  Their programming is designed to incite fear in their audience, because fear draws the other demographic that FOX desires:  less educated, working class or lower middle class people.

Fear and greed are time proven methods to influence thought.  Interestingly, Glenn Beck himself often brings up the grandfather of marketing, Edward Louis Bernays.  Beck uses him as a whipping boy, but Beck’s entire money making universe is based on Bernays’ groundbreaking work.

I had always noticed that the tone of the advertising on FOX was quite different than that on most other outlets.  Back in the day, when Turner ran his own stations, Turner Broadcasting was the champion for airing cheap telemartketed products, like Ronco stuff and things like The Clapper.  This is no longer the case, but I remember it fondly.  This little exercise does put into numbers what most of us already knew about FOX’s advertising:  just like its content, fear, greed and deception are very welcome there.

Well, this has been much longer than most of my Popular Culture entries usually are, and with no music nor any pictures.  I apologize for that, but I think that this comparison is extremely important.  Please offer comments either to tell me that I am off base, or to solidify what I have said.

Thank everyone very much for reading this extremely long post!  To give you a sort of an after dinner mint for showing so much patience for this piece, enjoy this, from what was intended to be the opus after Tommy, called Lifehouse.  The project was abandoned and much of it was released as Who’s Next.  Pete finally completed it, but without Keith and John, it never got to the masterpiece status that it deserved.  By the way, in my opinion The Who peaked with the release of Who’s Next.  Listen to the superb bass work that Enwistle does here.

Please enjoy this version, with all four original band members.  I had not heard this particular one before.

Warmest regards,


Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette.  Crossposted at Dailykos.com and at Antemedius.com

1 comment

  1. truth in advertising?

    Warmest regards,


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