Monday, June 12, 2006

Never believe a commercial

It doesn't matter who pays for a commercial--they're all biased. Most of the time, it's to get you to buy something. During elections, many are about voting for or against someone or something. I have yet to ever see a commercial that's actually designed to inform the person who's watching it. Never. Not once. Zilch, zip, zero. And anyone who watches a commercial--which is everyone since they're impossible to avoid--should remember that. Commercials are not about providing information, although they are often designed to look like they are.

The thing that got me thinking about this was a Geico commercial I just heard claiming that the typical person who switches their car insurance to Geico saves, on average, about $500. I don't really have a beef with the Geico company, and I actually think they're one of the better insurance companies out there. But that sounds like a pretty solid number, huh? Call them up for a rate quote and they can save you $500 bucks. It's a very misleading number, though.

First off, they don't say how long it'll take to save $500. I assume they mean $500/year. But a disreputable company might show how much you save over the typical lifetime a policy holder sticks around with them. So perhaps the typical policy will save the person $500 over the next ten years. If you happen to assume they meant $500/year, well, that's your own damn fault.

Okay, let's say that the typical person who switches does save $500/year. It's still a misleading number. What about all the people who don't switch? How much did they save by *not* switching to Geico? Of course people who switch to Geico are saving money--if they didn't save money, they wouldn't have switched in the first place. And the more they save, the more likely they'll switch. After all, if I'm only going to save $10/year on auto insurance, it may not be worth my time to switch. Consequently, the numbers are going to skew very high.

In fact, I'd bet every single auto insurance company in existence could tell you how much their customers saved by switching to them. State Farm, Farmer's Insurance, Progressive, blah, blah, blah. Every one of them can tell you how much money their customers are 'saving' by switching to them.

In a nutshell, the claim that the typical person who switches to Geico saves $500 is pretty worthless as far as being informative. It's a big number, it's an eye-catching number, and it's a number that means absolutely nothing. After all, they aren't trying to inform you about anything--they want to catch your eye and get a shot at your wallet.

Since I'm talking about auto-insurance companies, I'd like to post a couple of comments about Progressive's ad campaign that they'll show you their rates and the rates of several other competitors. It's a very clever ploy, I think. Let's say they show you the rates of four other companies. They figure out a rate to give you, then search their database of ten other company quotes and list four that won't beat theirs.

Or maybe they just stock their database full of information with insurance companies that usually have higher rates than they do.

Seriously, though, does anyone really believe those rate quotes for their competitors is completely biased free? They can give very accurate rate quotes from competitors and still skew the results to favor themselves.

I hate commercials. If they weren't so misleading all of the time, it wouldn't bother me so much. If they actually educated consumers instead of trying to manipulate them, I'd be happy with that. But alas, that is not to be in a capitalistic society. *sigh*

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The $5 million baby photo

I've always been puzzled at the fuss people make over baby photos. Most babies, I've found, are pretty hard to distinguish from each other. More than once I've been looking at a baby and wondering if I should call it a 'he' or a 'she' while talking with the parents. Seems rude to call it an it, but heaven forbid, you don't want to get the sex wrong either!

So I've always been curious about why anyone gives a hoot about seeing a picture of celebrity babies. It always seems to be the case, but they always end up looking like--*gasp!*--a baby!

Now it's Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's turn. Shiloh is the name--stupid name, but don't get me started on that rant. People magazine landed an exclusive right to publish the first photos of baby Shiloh, and they'll donate the money they paid to some charity to help the poor and hungry. Which is fine--I'm all for helping out the poor and hungry. But this is the line in one article that got my attention: Experts said worldwide rights to the pictures could sell for anywhere from $5 million to $7 million.

Holy crap! That's a lot of money for stupid little baby photos! Heck, I could Photoshop some of my baby pictures into a photo with Angelina and Brad and probably pass it off as legit. Do people really want to see what Shiloh looks like that badly? I've done a favor for you, and People can save themselves a boatload of money. I did a Google search for baby pictures, and found one that could probably pass for Shiloh. Oooh, and ahhh. Then go do something better than fret about what Shiloh looks like. It's a baby, people!