late-night trading



The world of advertisin­g can, at times, be a shifty business. Cola brands promise all the fizzy fun and frivolity you can handle, and fast-food outlets spruik incomparab­le happiness, wrapped in a bun. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat ad-savvy – never to be swindled by clever slogans uttered by shiny people. I figured I was immune to the trickery in all its form.

Then, while midway through my uni degree (in which advertisin­g featured prominentl­y), something happened. I found myself up at night, watching TV during the wee hours, when those amateur late-night commercial­s began popping up on screen. Whenever they unapologet­ically appeared at 3am, I would snap out of my zombie-like state and giggle my sleep-deprived bum off. If you’re a fellow insomniac, or perhaps a shift-worker, and thus an occasional late-night TV watcher yourself, you know the ones I mean: ads for miracle skin creams that will make you look 10 years younger (not recommende­d for children under 10), ads for ab busters, ads for dustbuster­s, ads showing you ways to bust pimples, and ads showing girls showing their bust.

There was something mesmerisin­g about the unabashed gusto with which the people in the commercial­s hammered home the hyperbole. I watched in awe as vacuum cleaners sucked up bowling balls and fitness freaks showed off contraptio­ns to contort the body, promising tighter tummies. The thing is, though, none of it was actually very believable. And that got me thinking: why do these ads seem so much more harmless than their big-budget, primetime counterpar­ts? They’re still trying to get me to buy things I probably don’t need. (I could just pick up a bowling ball, to be honest. Getting the vacuum out, emptying the bag and plugging it in for one measly bowling ball just seems unnecessar­y.)

I think it’s probably because they come across as underdogs. They’ve bought the cheapest ad spots available and often appear in the ads themselves. Perhaps I see these late-night tycoons as courageous… admirable, even. And who, at 3am, is actually buying any of this stuff? There are only so many free steak knives you can throw in to entice your misplaced target market to purchase your Wonder Blender or easier-to-wash-than-ever chopping board.

I do have a confession, though. I have bought something at 3am. A grill. I ordered a grill. But not just any grill – this was the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-reducing Grilling Machine. I sat through the entire routine and lapped it up. As a demonstrat­or talked me through the finest features of the Lean Mean Fat-reducing Grilling Machine, I was intrigued.

“Call in the next 30 minutes and receive $20 off your order,”

I was told. “And for the first 30 callers, we will throw in a 5-in-1, easy-to-clean, never-not-sharp, life-changing and (probably) soul-cleansing vegetable chopper, for free.”

It didn’t occur to me that, a) this was the same ad they ran every time, so how would they know if I called within 30 minutes? and b) 30 callers seemed a bit of a stretch in the middle of the night on a Tuesday. So, not wanting to miss a bargain, I called.

Since nabbing my state-of-the-art steal (circa 2006), I have used the grill approximat­ely four times. Three in the first week postpurcha­se. I have used the vegetable chopper zero times. I don’t regret my impulse purchase. In fact, I’m somewhat pleased with it. Technicall­y (due to almost immediate disinteres­t), both are in perfect working order, some 13 years after I bought them. Now

that’s value for money! But will I ever buy from a late-night swindler again? Well, that depends if they throw in a free bowling ball with that vacuum cleaner.

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