by Magnus Shaw
Creativepoolers, welcome back to our list of ten of products advertising told us we couldn't live without (when, in fact, we absolutely could). Please feel free to use the comment box to let us know if there's anything we've omitted. After all, ten seems a very modest figure.
5. Tumble Dryer Balls
It's a funny thing, but the less we understand something the more we are likely to pay for it. We'll happily buy a fork because we can easily comprehend how the combination of sturdy handle and pointed prongs is effective in stabbing and moving food to our mouths. But we won't pay a fortune for one. However, when a manufacturer announces they have built a rubber ball with carefully arranged protrusions, the better to circulate hot air through our garments in the dryer, we're agog at the miraculous science involved. What's more, we have no idea what we should pay for this technological breakthrough. Which means these miracle workers are able to bill us upwards of £8.00 for a few pennies worth of latex. Still, if it shaves 25% off drying time, that's a fair price, right? Except it doesn't. In independent tests by 'Which?', an average load took exactly the same duration to be ready, whether the balls were present or not. I guess your dog may enjoy them though.
4. Wireless Keyboards
Wireless technology is fantastic. No doubt about it. In these modern times one can stroll around the house, nattering away on one's cordless phone while emailing on one's smart phone and reading Twitter on a laptop (extra hands may be required). If one is feeling ambitious, one can even do all this in the garden (weather and ownership of a garden may be required). Nevertheless, there are situations where a wire is pretty much acceptable. When connecting one device to another a few small inches away, for instance. This is the case with the computer keyboard. I would challenge even the most expensive and plush wireless keyboard to go through the "pairing" process with in less time it takes to plug a regular unit into a USB socket. I'm saying, it can't be done. And don't start with the "It looks neater" argument. If the glimpse of a couple of inches of cable is causing you anxiety then you, my friend, are too highly strung for your own good. Plus, "unpairing" will cause you more stress than you are equipped to deal with.
3. Motor Vehicle Static Electricity Straps
Most of the products we've looked at thus far have made a specific claim for their usefulness. These strange rubber flaps don't even manage that. Depending on the supplier, the selling points tend to vary. If you're unsure what I'm discussing here, these are long, narrow "tails" which can be attached to the bumpers of cars. They usually have a lightning bolt logo running down them and they touch the road as the vehicle progresses. Now, one claim states this discharges the electrical build-up produced by the journey, which in turn, prevents the occupants from feeling car sick. Unfortunately there has never been an established link between static electricity and car sickness. The malaise is caused by the movement of the vehicle disrupting the liquid in the inner ear. A second claim suggests the dispersal stops shocks occurring when the passengers disembark. But as the people themselves carry a small charge, it doesn't matter whether the car is carrying static electricity or not.
Perhaps these useless bits of durable rubber influenced the flogging of those rubber tumble dryer balls.
2. Clothing With Logos
You have to admire this. Probably the most wonderfully inspired and successful marketing ploy in history. Rewind to the eighties and garments were readily available in any number of fabulous colours (or lack of them if you were of a gothic inclination). Flared trousers, straight trousers, pirate shirts, puffball skirts, pixie boots, Doc Martens, mohair jumpers, skinny ties - the choice was almost endless. Rarely seen, however, was clothing with the manufacturer's emblem splashed over it. Skip forward thirty years and just look. Not only is branding visible, it's almost an essential element of the outfit. What's more, we've been convinced that we're much cooler if we're sporting a particular logo. And because of that kudos, certain clothing brands charge considerably more for their gear than others. Boiled down, the casual wear industry has devised a means of mobile advertising, with customers as the vehicle. And, here's the genius bit, they've persuaded us to pay a premium for this privilege. Now that's clever.
I'm aware there may be a few fans of Astrology reading this. If so, you may wish to stop reading now. The fact that millions of people, in hundreds of countries, part with precious money to receive a ream of poorly imagined hogwash, is utterly depressing. It's not hard to see why our ancient ancestors would regard the night sky with awe and wonder. And, when their priests and elders told them these lights controlled their lives, they had no reason to disagree. But now we do. With radio telescopes, we can see billions of miles into the cosmos. We know what causes suns to live and die. We have some idea what black holes are about and why Saturn has rings. Hell, we've even walked on our moon and sent vehicles to Mars. And yet, we are still invited by the misguided or unscrupulous to discover what the future has in store, based on ancient and unreliable star-charts and guesswork. For some curious reason, instead of laughing loudly and telling these charlatans to sling their hooks, we prop up an industry worth several billion dollars a year.
As with all the products covered this week, there's a huge upside to the story. We're all blessed with freedom of thought and choice, so we can save ourself money and dignity by recognising a white elephant when we see one and walking briskly in the opposite direction.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.
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"Advice" a collection of Magnus Shaw's columns is now available as a Kindle book.