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Ads Too Fearful, Too Real, Get Few Fans
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Consumers like to be entertained. They like to be scared, too, as long as the program they are watching provides an escape for the troubled character. Though consumers will not stray away from sticky situations, almost all of them will readily prefer happy endings.

When an ad does not provide that happy ending, consumers shun the message.

LifeAlert is quickly finding that out. LifeAlert is known for the "help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" infomercials, and though the product is very effective and helpful, its ads have become a subject of parody and mockery. 

Until now.

LifeAlert released an ad that shows an eerily realistic situation where LifeAlert would be essential.


One of the YouTube commenters put it well: "S**t just got serious."

Indeed it did.

LifeAlert went from the lighthearted commercial to the other side of the spectrum: the last-chance spot. Spots like these show consumers what the worst-case scenario would be if the consumer didn't buy their product. Unfortunately for LifeAlert, its worst-case scenario isn't a ruined dinner, but a lost life.

Naturally, people found fault in the ad. Multiple counts of "fearmongering" were hurled at the company, along with claims of "preying on the elderly" and other similar shouts. 

Last time we looked, LifeAlert's target market wasn't the young, healthy, and able.

Is the ad extreme? Sure. Why? Because it's crazy effective. No one wants to picture their elderly family member falling down the steps and dying because of their inability to call for help. Who could dwell well with that on their conscience? Obviously, not many.

LifeAlert quickly responded to the hype, basically saying that the ad is a true depiction of the very situations it is trying to prevent. And they have a point. We're uncomfortable with the ad because it doesn't end well. The ad has no happy ending. So consumers are mad about it.

Advertising's goal is not to entertain; it is to remind, inform, and persuade. LifeAlert's ad reminded people of the scary situation of an elderly person falling and not being able to call for help.

Now you remember.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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