Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's All In The Hype

I just got back from my annual trip to the Florida Keys and was overwhelmed by the hyperbole on display. It seems that no matter where you go or what you see, everyone claims it’s the “World’s Greatest.”

On this trip I was regaled with advertisements for “Craig’s World-Famous Fish Sandwich,” “Mrs. Mac’s Famous Key Lime Pie” and a charter service offering “The World’s Best Fishing Experience.” I also read an interesting real estate ad for a condo complex. Take note of these features – “Private lagoon, exercise room, full-size pool and a protected maria.”

I’m pretty sure they meant “protected marina” but now I was curious. Is a protected Maria sort of like a statue of St. Teresa?

I paid a visit to these people to find out. The rental agent was perplexed when I said that I didn’t want to see the property but wanted to know how they were protecting Maria. Was she under armed guard 24/7? Did they have her surrounded with motion sensors and alarms? Was she in good health? I was asked to leave and not come back.

When I got home I conducted a survey to check out these other claims. So far, no one I’ve talked with in Dayton, Ohio has ever heard of Craig’s fish sandwich, and Mrs. Mac and her Key Lime pie didn’t fare much better. I did get a heated rebuttal from a fisherman who claimed that Lake Michigan offered the world’s best fishing experience, though.

This is right up there with all of the non-stop political ads we’ve been subjected to. I’m certain that most of the candidates seeking public office have some fine qualities, but I find it hard to believe that so-and-so is “The world’s greatest dad.” What makes this kind of endorsement tough to swallow is that it’s delivered by the candidate’s kids. Unless they’re from a foster home or a previous marriage, how are they qualified to judge who the world’s greatest dad is? I think my father was a great guy, but I haven’t gone on TV to tell the world about it.

Book promotion is no better. Rave reviews are nice, but I groan whenever I read a comment that it’s the best mystery or romance ever written. If the reviewer hasn’t read every single book on the subject, how can they be sure?

I notice the same thing with movies. Every week, some PR person will tag the latest release with the line “This is the best film you’ll ever see!” I’ve seen some pretty good films in my time, so this is a bold claim to make. Since I don’t intend to stop watching movies any time soon, I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen them all.

What if all the hype is true? I can just picture people in Paris, France raving about the fried Grouper sandwich they ate at Craig’s Diner in Islamorada, Florida. Folks in Beijing may have begun a Twitter campaign extolling the virtues of Mrs. Mac’s Key Lime pie. And who’s to say that there isn’t someone in Kabul telling their friends “The next time you go to the Keys, be sure to take Stinky Dick’s charter fishing trip. It’s the best in the world!”

I’m still wondering how they’re protecting Maria.

* * * *

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.


Tina Donahue said...

Nailed it again, Tim. I tend to shy away from anything that's hyped to the limit - it's usually just that - hype without substance.

In Southern California there's a burger place called Tom's Best Burgers in the World. I asked a friend of mine who'd been there if they were the best. She shrugged and said, "They're okay."

Fiona McGier said...

Tim, you're a voice of reason in a world gone mad! Madison Ave, that is. So much of what we're bombarded with day and night is just that: hyperbole.

As an author trying to get readers' attentions, I've said I feel like I'm standing in a room full of authors, all of whom are jumping up and down, waving signs, and screaming "read MY book--it's the BEST!" Around the room is a second floor balcony where readers sit and watch us all, smiling in amusement and sipping champagne. Since I'm too short to out-jump anyone, and not willing to appear naked in public anymore (unlike my younger, streaker days, but that's another story), I don't get much attention. Sigh.

One of the things I was adamant about teaching our kids was to try to filter every advertisement through reason: why are they trying to sell me on something I don't need or want? Will this really improve my life? Will I really get the gorgeous blondes throwing themselves on me like rabid dogs if I use that product? Will that gorgeous man really be in my kitchen if I make that frozen pizza?

Then just turn off the device, tune out the noise, and get back to living your life with contentment...something advertisers view as the "kiss of death".

jean hart stewart said...

good column and good excerpts. I get so turned off with advertising seldom pay attention to it.

Tim Smith said...

Fiona, I've had that same dream, but I think I was naked!

For the record I didn't try Craig's fish sandwich, but Mrs. Mac's Key Lime pie was actually pretty good.

Still wondering about Maria, though...

Tim Smith