True stories of those who saw and believed

ADS: No 145; OPTIMAX LASER TREATMENT
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The Independent Culture
"Remember how it felt to see clearly without your glasses or contact lenses?" says the voiceover cruelly to a shimmering blur. "Imagine how it'd feel to see like that again," as the blur sharpens into tots in a paddling pool.

This is the advertising face of a modern medical procedure, the Optimax laser "miracle" for curing short sight. And like Victorian enamel signs for dentists and patent medicines it is crude, direct, price-specific and stuffed with testimonials ("since I used your soap I have used no other"). A running strip at the bottom of the screen invites you to call for a free brochure; pounds 395 per eye flashes in large letters before us. The scientific mise-en-scene is utterly perfunctory - a few seconds in the optician's chair with the glaucoma goggles.

All the effort has gone into the testimonials, literally shining-eyed examples of the lucky 12,000 who have had the burn. And choosing the right people, cutting into the interesting anecdotes has paid off. They're utterly convincing types (advertising regulation now requires named testimonials to be real, but most viewers dis- believe them, so the art lies in the auditions and editing). They're thirtysomething, socially unplaceable - and they say wonderful things. One man describes how, on the day after his lasering, it'd been "a cold dull November day, and I could see the outline of the branches against the sky and I thought, 'this is excellence' ".

A pleasant-looking woman, of the kind who can only be called Michelle, says: "This is how I looked with glasses; this is how I look now." Another man - good casting for a detective-sergeant in The Bill - says, "it's the best money I ever spent; I wish I could've had it done 15 years ago".

I'm sold and I'm not short-sighted. This is the respectable vanguard of elective interventions, a new advertising category on British TV - it's been going for years in America - liposuction clinics, new teeth for old, hair grafts, hernia cured the new mesh way, and men need suffer no longer.

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