The Joys Of Modern Life

42. Advertising Science

Robert Webb
Monday 19 April 1999 23:02
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"PAY ATTENTION," warns Jennifer Aniston in her TV ad for some beauty product or other. "Here comes the science." And I always do pay attention. It's not that I'm curious about the chemical content of cosmetics; I just love the words. Liposomes, Hydro-fixers, Nanocapsules, Microscopic Beads: this is poetry in lotion.

Of course I have no idea what Elastesse or Nutri-ceramide actually do. But, like Chaucer or the nonsense verse of Lear and Carroll, they can be enjoyed for their sound alone. Plaque-ridden teeth now shine thanks to Actisan; anarchic free radicals are disarmed by noble Antioxidants; dull, lifeless skin is rejuvenated with Lipids. The propensity for fancy techno-babble is not restricted to ads for the gunk we apply to our bodies. These days even petfood comes enriched with something called Omega 6. This is great news. I don't know how some dwindling star in a distant galaxy can make your cat's hair shine, but I'm sure there are plenty of New Agers out there who do, and maybe a few cats. I just wonder - what happened to the first five Omegas? I'd like to see this trend spreading to other sectors of the market. Let's look forward to commercials for brown bread with added Xanadu 43 and for cook-in sauces seasoned with vitamin-rich Ozymandias 2.5.

It's also reassuring to know that my shampoo, now with Exclusive Silicone Protective Spheres, has been subject to "clinical trials". Although this sounds mildly fascistic, I'm quite sure that a clinical trial is not at all sinister. Some products will inevitably be found guilty: "Zis moisturiser appears to be lacking its full complement of Natural Carotenoids. Take it down to the laboratoire at once for a double dose of Bio-Marine Complex!" Those acquitted are then advertised on TV.

I am happy to be blinded by science. I take great solace in the knowledge that my hair cuticles will be smoothed by Pro-panthenol B5. As I plod the supermarket aisles, though, I wonder what would happen were I to accost a shelf-stacker and ask to be led to the stuff advertised on telly last night which functions on Acticalm Technology. Would they know what it is, and where to find it? I suspect not. The words sound as if they should be familiar, but out of context they can be as meaningless as a Jabberwocky. Which is how the best poetry should be.

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