I'm sure I saw a television advertisement for the Ab Circle Pro (an instrument said to be the gateway to taut abdominal muscles) one evening recently while I was roasting pumpkin and red onion, boiling penne pasta and grating parmesan. I was struck by the incoherent timing - and it slowly dawned on me that it was the first time I'd seen it advertised without being in my dressing-gown.
And then I realised that extended advertisements or infomercials for looking great, getting trim bodies and tight faces, are routinely placed in time-slots in which the members of the audience are feeling their frumpiest. Just after midnight and at breakfast time we're at our most fragile; we're guaranteed to be pyjama-clad, unmade-up and quite possibly hungover - perhaps all three at once. Frankly, anyone looks amazing in comparison to our current state and we're most susceptible to claims of easy results for little effort.
A few years ago I was laid up for three days in a Wanaka hotel after spraining my ankle at Treble Cone ski-field. I spent most of the time in bed watching TV. I recall being utterly mesmerised by the prospect of a flat stomach which could allegedly be achieved by purchasing a DVD. By the fifteenth time I'd seen this commercial in three days, I too needed one.
Not wanting to be a spur-of-the-moment purchaser and being highly mistrustful of marketers trying to lure me at my most vulnerable moments, I resisted telephoning them in the wee small hours.
So I waited until daylight to visit their website and discovered that rather than purchasing a single DVD I was actually signing up to DVDs sent at regular intervals - perhaps indefinitely. Even I didn't need a flat stomach that badly. And surely if they had faith in their initial DVD they wouldn't then try to on-sell further ones? Anyway, it was an equation that really didn't stand up to scrutiny.
I do confess, though, to subsequently 'investing in' some of ex-super-model Cindy Crawford's Meaningful Beauty lotions and potions. My habit of eating half a bagel with honey in front of breakfast television proved costly. I naturally flicked to other channels during the advertisement break only to be well and truly seduced by a parade of smooth faces, wide smiles and pseudo-science.
About a year ago I signed up for what may yet prove to be an unending supply of face moisturisers, cleansers and serums. Well, Ms Crawford is about my age and still a serious hottie. Can you blame a woman for trying? Ten points for sheer optimism, at least.
The moral of the story is to get dressed and groomed before submitting yourself to the temptations of infomercials. And, on some level, we must question the integrity of brands that pitch themselves to an off-peak audience likely to comprise the unemployed, the clinically depressed and the elderly. Perversely, they're preying on the very people who are least likely to have funds spare to buy random products offering elusive promises of youth and slenderness.By Shelley Bridgeman