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“Wait! There’s more!” A Look at Advertising
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 04/20/2015

Business books The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Many outside forces are trying to manipulate you. They are incessant and reappear in different forms dozens of time each day. They purposefully endeavor to appeal to your emotions, security about yourself, and your ambitions. Their goal is to dictate what you do with your money and time.

Is this the devious labor of some sort of dictatorial society or a nefarious cult? No. It is the chief goal of the advertising industry. One of the aims of commercials is to persuade the public to gravitate to a product. Whether one thinks of this as a bad deed or a necessary lubricant for the wheels of commerce, it is alive and well.

In many ways, manipulative persons are like commercials. They try to get others to buy into their product or agenda so they can profit.

Corrections professionals can identify possible manipulators. This helps us to counter threats to ourselves and staff who may fall victim to those who would endeavor to orchestrate set ups. The greater our experience and awareness, the better we are at coping with exploitation that comes from handlers. In other words, through our experiences, we know how and when to deal with coercion. This may sound cynical, but it is part of our job.

The above is some food for thought for trainers who may use this ice breaker. However, the first thing the facilitator should do after some introductory remarks is to issue a disclaimer. It can be borrowed from the following.

“We are in no way endorsing the following products. Nor do we seek to denigrate the products. It is not an exercise in product testing. We are, however, looking at the tactics that some commercials and infomercials use to sell their product.”

With that said, the instructor could provide some visuals for the audience. While watching, the participants will write down phrases, strategies, tactics, and other means which advertisers utilize to maximize advertising effectiveness. The instructor has a few options for the visuals:

Option 1 “Recorded commercials” – The facilitator can record portions of selected infomercials and play them for the class. This option will hold the fewest surprises since the instructor knows the content.

Option 2 “Live” – Turn on the television in the class room and surf through the channels. Hunt for infomercials. This will only be as effective as the time of day and the channel capacity provided in the training room. Infomercials are often shown in the late night or early morning, though some are shown throughout the day. It is up to the instructor to check ahead. I actually tested this option on a class of college students enrolled in a corrections/criminal justice class. It was more effective than I could have hoped. After the first few commercials and a prompt from me, the class contributed many insightful comments.

Option 3 “Homework” – Tell students in advance that they shall sample a few infomercials at home and record their observations about the phrases, strategies, tactics, and other means which advertisers used to sell products.

Option 4 “Recall” – The facilitator calls upon students to recall some of the most memorable characters of infomercial fame. This should spur discussion and others will add to it as the class warms up.

For whichever option is used, there should be a recorder capturing all remarks of the class. When those are compiled, the facilitator will ask questions based on his or her style of inquiry. Whatever the style, the questions will ultimately seek answers to this: “How are some prisoners like the infomercials? When a prisoner attempts to manipulate staff what are some of the methods used?” The recorder will write these down. After that task is complete, both lists are compared.

Here are some random observations on the tactics and phrases used by advertisers to sell products:
  • Prey on weaknesses and insecurities
  • Use a before and after shot
  • Use testimonies from ordinary looking folk
  • Employ celebrities to tout the fine aspects of the product. Some include Pam Dawber, Cher, Suzanne Sommers, Chuck Norris, Lindsay Wagner, Christie Brinkley, Davy Jones, Christopher Knight, Daisy Fuentes, original MTV V-J’s Roger Daltery
  • Call in the experts – Mom figure, owner of company, allergy specialist, working chefs, professional carpet cleaners
  • Good for entire family
  • Use a goofy husband who is a bit ham-handed with sensible wife to guide him. This is also seen in innocuous male and moderately attractive female duos. This combination is effective in selling ladders, vacuums, air filtering systems, computer learning systems. This preys on basic willingness of viewers to make friends with people on television who are not intimidating, may be endearingly flawed, and are attractive but not narcissistically so.
  • Use a common denominator such as working parent who has little time in the day and can benefit by using time saving devises
  • Pair a skeptic with someone who proves that the product works. Just like in a situation comedy, in a one-half hour period, everyone is satisfied
  • Show how easy the product is to use
  • Wait! There’s more! Offer a “gift” for trying the product
  • Accentuate the negative. Show how if you continue on the same path, you will remain miserable and unsatisfied
  • Sex sells with some products – this is particularly true for exercise equipment, cosmetics, body enhancers, get rich schemes, and subtly in other products
  • Challenge experts with a new product. For example, a professional painter with a brush performs slower than a novice with a paint spraying mechanism.
  • Don’t pay 3 payments of x amount, pay only 2!
  • Show how similar products cost more, are harder to use, and will not give you as many benefits
  • Urgency: Call within 121 minutes for further savings. Call ME now!
  • Shipping is free
  • The call is free
  • Results are guaranteed
Further discussion could follow. This can be applied to the corrections profession. It is as simple as looking at the compiled list and asking, “Have you ever witnessed any similar manipulation in the workplace? The instructor should state that if the discussion leads to staff who manipulate, no names should be mentioned.

Certainly, advertisers need commercials to move products. Yet, it behooves us to look at commercials in a new light. This can be an exercise in thinking in terms of persuasion or manipulation.

I will not state that this is guaranteed to work. However, I will say that this is an excellent icebreaker to use to introduce a module which covers manipulation in corrections. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

Try it now for free! No salesperson will call!

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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