Paging Dr. Pavlov

drooling dog

Behind the scenes, big business marketers view their “targets” precisely as Ivan Pavlov viewed his laboratory dogs.

Jeremy Helfand, VP & Head of Advertising Platforms at Hulu, labors to figure how to get modern TV users to pay attention to sponsors’ ads. This requires, Helfand says, a trope that “rewards the viewer for this natural experience, this natural behavior that’s now happening in streaming television.”

It’s cute, of course, that watching television now counts as a “natural behavior,” but you get the point. Rewarded behaviors.

The “Up To” Claim

In a book presciently titled Business Civilization in Decline, the late Robert L. Heilbroner made this rather crucial point:

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?

Under corporate capitalist normalcy, the lies multiply at a rate that would make a rabbit blush.

One noteworthy lie is the now-rampant use of the phrase “up to” in advertising claims. Once you stop to notice it, you’ll see and hear this howler everywhere.

One particularly egregious case of the “up to” claim is here:

MICHELIN “Saddest Road” from Psyop on Vimeo.

Not only has Michelin extended from humans to animals its long-running reliance on using death threats as a sales tactic (this extension to critters probably being done after a focus group suggested Michelin could get kids to ask their parents to buy Michelins to save the bunnies), but the “up to” claim in this ad is a double-whammy. Not only is it an “up to” claim, but it also doesn’t tell you the context for the “up to” claim!

As Ad Freak explains:

The Psyop-animated [dig that name!] spot says Michelin tires stop up to 14 feet shorter than those of the competition. (“At what speed?” you might ask, but get no answer.)

So, Michelin takes two scoops at once from the barrel of statistical deceptions.

Michelin’s products are definitely worth up to a certain price