The US advertising cure-all

A wealth of material from the US promises to cure your ills – for ú99 or just a bit more. If its claims are true, you need never suffer mental or physical anguish again

SBHD: A wealth of material from the US promises to cure your ills Рfor ̼99 or just a bit more. If its claims are true, you need never suffer mental or physical anguish again

I once read that each of us is bombarded by more than a thousand commercial messages a day.

If so, most of them bounce off harmlessly and barely noticed. But one finds its target every now and then, and the effect can last for days.

I seem especially vulnerable to messages that are US in origin and determined to make me a better person. They reach me through the post or fall out of magazines.

Did you know, for example, that for only ú99 I can gain eight significant rewards from powerful communication skills, 17 ways to be a better communicator and 34 insights and skills? And all in just one day. This astounding offer comes from CareerTrack International, whose pithy slogan is “Training to minimise conflict in today’s team-oriented workplace”.

Its one-day seminar in Interpersonal Communication Skills comes with the guarantee that it can transform tongue-tied, introverted me into a speaker whose spell-binding eloquence could still the public bar of the Green Dragon with a single golden sentence.

I could also learn “certain acts of communication etiquette to help me convey a warm, trusting image” and “the one gesture that will memorably reinforce every statement you make”.

The programme comes backed by seven US managers. North Carolina Lutheran Synod office manager M Casper says: “This will enable us at the office to have a better working relationship and be a more productive staff.”

Sparkles, doesn’t it? I wonder how he would have expressed himself without the powerful communication skills newly at his command.

Society Bank’s S Sonnes enthuses that the programme “…will help in every area of my life: home, family, spouse and the workplace”. Poor old Sonnes. In that one short phrase he sums up the main components of his life: spouse and the workplace. Wedded to both, he now knows the one gesture that will memorably reinforce his preference for having his breakfast eggs served sunny side up and his coffee as warm as his trusting image.

These remarkable skills – did I mention “body language that draws people in”? – are taught by communication expert Janet Pederson. She comes equipped with the understanding I need to become a more vital, promotable member of my organisation, and knows the techniques I need to make an impact wherever I go.

But I’m not sure I would feel entirely happy with those techniques – or at least their effect. There are places I go where I do not wish to make an impact (the public convenience is just one) and where single gestures are often misinterpreted.

What I need is confidence, composure and competence.

Unfortunately, CareerTrack can do nothing for me since another of its one-day ú99 seminars is for women only (though it was kind enough to send me a brochure). It’s a pity I do not qualify. I would love to learn “a two-minute exercise that helps you identify and strengthen your self-esteem weak links” and “specific ideas on how to treat yourself better because you know you deserve it”.

I do, I do, but the problem is I’m a man. Perhaps that is why I have not heard “that little voice inside you”. You know, the one that “gives you words of warning or encouragement that turn out to be absolutely correct”.

How I would have enjoyed the “high-energy, after-lunch session” when my trainer taught me how to settle conflicts gracefully and keep my sense of humour in situations that enrage me.

My trainer, if only I were a woman, would be Cherie Cross – known for her high-content yet relaxed and entertaining style. In fact, I would have left wondering why every trainer cannot be like Cross, what with her ability to take a complex subject and turn it into information that is easily accessible and digestible. She knows, you see, the demands of being a woman in today’s complex world.

Americans amply endorse this programme, too. LM Berry sales/clerical support clerk Julie Averill heard a little voice inside her and it shrieked “Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!” It had become very excited during the high-energy after-lunch session.

It would be a mistake to imagine that Americans are concerned purely with the inner woman or man. They too suffer life’s minor physical irritations. But they don’t give in. Nor do they rush to the doctor or medicine chest. They go straight to the kitchen or broom cupboard.

I have before me yet another advertising message, this one promoting The Doctors’ Book of Home Remedies, which contains thousands of tips for healing everyday health problems.

Three easy instalments (sic) of ú7.99 will buy me more control over my personal health than I’ve ever had before.

I will learn how to stop an earache (sic) with a hairdryer, soothe sunburn with yogurt and rub aspirin on bee stings to stop the pain. I shall relieve athlete’s foot with baking soda, stop hiccups (to discover how, I have to buy the book, attend a seminar or both), calm nausea with mere ginger root, get rid of bad breath by brushing my tongue and soothe haemorrhoids (“this trick is one of the best remedies available” – again, only revealed to those who pay up).

I can clear bloodshot eyes without drops, quiet a colicky baby with a vacuum cleaner and moisturise hands without cream.

So for ú122.97 (seminar, plus book) I could, haemorrhoids soothed and tongue brushed, “express myself clearly the first time, without over-explaining (sic), repeating myself or having to ask unnecessary questions”, such as, `Where’s the baking soda? My feet are killing me’?”

And yet, astonishingly, advertising has its critics.

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