Help! I’ve #ThrowbackThursday, and I Can’t…You Know The Rest

…but hey, why state the obvious, right?

I admit, I feel like a bit of a jerk every time I laugh at the commercials advertising today’s product. Much like The Clapper commercials, they probably aren’t supposed to be funny, but they don’t try to be serious.

What is it with older people and terrible acting? The Clapper Lady made it an art form, and the woman in the original version of today’s commercial clearly took lessons.

But instead of clapping to turn off the lights and television…

She’s got a much more precarious issue. One we should take seriously…

…but have never quite come to a point of maturity where we would.

And despite the cheesy advertising, the system is a literal life saver, but has seen its share of controversy. How, you ask?

Stick around, you’ll find out!

Life Alert Emergency Response System, originally LifeCall, is a main unit connected to a pendant worn by the owner. When in need of emergency response, the owner presses a button, which connects the main unit to 911 dispatchers, and also contacts authorized points of contact – a neighbor, family member, or doctor, for example. The product was first introduced in 1987 as LifeCall, founded by Isaac Shepher, Zohar Loshitzer, and Arik Amir, and is based in Encino, California. Life Alert provides service nationwide.

The famous “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” was trademarked in September 1992 by LifeCall, but expired in 1993 when LifeCall went out of business. The phrase was then taken over by Life Alert Emergency Response Inc., and registered for trademark in October 2002. Like The Clapper commercials at the same time, the original commercials barely looked updated, and featured depictions of elderly individuals in precarious situations – illness, chest pains, falls – really going for the scare factor, but actually just looking overdramatized.

I think these freak me out more now, but in the early 1990s, they were actually quite funny.

And speaking overdramatized and precarious…

In September 1991, nine District Attorneys sued Life Alert for high pressure sales tactics and misleading consumers about how the system contacts emergency services. The company’s false claims indicated that the system had special access to 911, local emergency agencies responded faster to Life Alert calls versus conventional phone calls, and preferential treatment Life Alert customers get. Of course, it didn’t help that the training manual told trainees to scare potential customers with the worry that they were in danger, and when selling the service, “go for the emotional sale, not a logical sale.” (Source: Holding, Reynolds – September 13, 1991. “$2 Million California Lawsuit Claims Life Alert Pressures, Deceives Elderly“. Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona. p. A11.)

In addition to these exorbitant claims, Life Alert representatives would quote an overinflated price, only to bring it down in order to make the potential customer think they’re getting a huge discount, selling for $1,700 to $5,000, when systems could be rented from local hospitals for $25/per month. In reality, the service merely relayed calls to 911 operators, who would then call for emergency service providers. By 1993, as a result of the claims Life Alert made, they were told to stop with the falsities, and to pay amounts to a victim restitution fund, civil penalties, and prosecution costs. But before that happened, Arizona’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit in 1992 citing consumer fraud, with Life Alert agreeing to stop soliciting business in Arizona, without pulling service from existing customers in Arizona.

Reminds me of the time I signed up for ADT and got this “this is what it costs, but here’s what you’ll pay!” pitch. No one said “you’re gonna die without this service!”

But before all of the controversy and lawsuits, the commercials were a gem of advertising. They’re still airing today, and seem to be just as scare tactic-esque as they were in the 1980s and early 1990s. Who could ever forget…

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…and how about?

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I always remember seeing commercials for LifeCall/Life Alert on – of all channels – Nickelodeon (!) during the day. Like Clapper Lady, the image and audio of Life Alert Lady have never quite left my head, deep set on that special part of the brain which is reserved for weird commercials we saw as kids. These days, the commercials – among advertising for Medicare, Medicaid, and until recently, Trumpy Bear – are in regular rotation on Antenna TV. I could understand a channel like Antenna TV, which is clearly targeting a certain demographic with classic sitcoms that I’m obviously much too young for (not really – 90% of what they air, I watched in primetime during their original airings), but Nickelodeon always seemed like a stretch. I guess grandparents babysitting Nickelodeon-watching grandkids during the day in 1988 were the target audience?

The current commercials, while still providing some of the fear-mongering (toned down from those original commercials), really lack the panache of the “old people in scary situations” commercials.

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I remember seeing this one a few years ago, and oh my goodness, that poor woman! I actually get goosebumps from her cries for help!

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Apparently, it was newsworthy for the terrifying depiction of this woman’s pleas, as discussed by WFTS in Tampa Bay…

I am not going to lie, while the older commercials make me laugh, this one terrified me. I remember it not airing long, but didn’t know this was the reason.

I guess they finally figured out how to scare reality into us, but man, is it a brutal reality!

From life saving devices to a celebrity pitching wine, we move on to another well-known advertising campaign of its time tomorrow.

It doesn’t save lives, but it can save dinner conversations. It saves something!

Have a great Throwback Thursday!

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