FTC Ads Dial the Wrong Number

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Picture this. You're sitting down to dinner in your idyllic dining room, complete with flowered wallpaper, with your photogenic husband, two perfect children (a boy and a girl, of course) and your Barbara-Bushish-looking mother (or mother-in-law; they're entirely interchangeable - and neither will say anything bad about your cooking).

To show you're a no-nonsense woman with no time to be June Cleaver, you're wearing jeans. Just then, the telephone rings. Everyone looks up wondering who would call when all of your friends know that dinnertime is family time at the Daysgoneby house. You pick up the phone. There's a pause, and then that nasty telemarketer for ProductsRUs comes on and asks for Mr. Daysgoneby. Annoyed, you slam down the phone and say to your husband, "Honey, it's time to sign up for that no-call registry." Your mother (or mother-in-law) says, "Right on, Kathy. I signed up last week. I just hate those calls. By the way, this is excellent soup."

That's the clichéd world the Federal Trade Commission lives in, according to one public service announcement (and my added dialogue) that is part of the FTC's campaign to promote the list. Above the picture is the headline, "It's Your Call."

However, the Daysgonebys must live near President Bush, who had this to say in launching the registry: "When Americans are sitting down to dinner, or a parent is reading to his or her child, the last thing they need is a call from a stranger with a sales pitch." (An informal poll of DM News dads couldn't recall the last time they had read to their children, though one distinctly remembered cleaning his pool the other day.)

JDG Communications, Falls Church, VA, developed the ad, as well as similar PSAs for other segments of the population, including a Hispanic-American mom in her very tidy living room with her son and daughter. All the books, magazines and toys have been miraculously put away, while the boy sits on the floor playing a guitar. The girl is seen handing the phone to their mother, and if you listen closely, you can almost hear her say, 'I think it's another of those loco telemarketers, Mama."

I haven't seen any of the ads appear in any newspapers or magazines yet, but by the number of people signing up for the registry, the FTC could have done just as well (and saved money) using a picture of a phone with a big red slash through it.

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