We have all seen the adverts. The mysterious, yet familiar, voice asking, “Are you tired of wasting your time and money on old products that don’t work?” while the actors portray some devastating moment in black and white: like finding some eggshell in your home-made muffin or pushing dirt around with your old mop. Then, in a flash of fulfilment, the new product zooms across the screen to save you from your wretched, miserable life. For only R199.95!

If you haven’t guessed which kind of adverts these are, you obviously are not the kind of student who watches much daytime TV. Verimark, the culprit of most of these ads, is a monster of local advertising, and was recently found to be the fourth largest buyer of TV airtime in South Africa in an independent market research study, the AC Nielsen survey.

However, some of the ads do fall away over time, despite their initial bombardment on our screens. Whatever happened to the knives that could cut through anything? There must be thousands of people out there with intact Coke cans, inferior knives and a severe look of disappointment on their faces.

Due to the increasing popularity of these products, I also worry that our science labs across the country might say, “Sorry, we’ve got no time to discover that new vaccine for malaria, we’re busy exploring the mystical properties of snail shell on acne”.

Despite the seemingly ridiculous nature of such advertisements, they appear to have an effect. The company posted a gross profit of over R200-million for the financial year ending in February and is growing rapidly.

What is in these simple items that draw so many of us toward them; is it the product itself, the way the advertisement is crafted or the promise of a better and easier life? All three factors probably come together in a blaze of psychological branding and the creation of a previously unknown need. All I know is: R199.95 is a small price to pay for some rocking abs that only takes five minutes a day to sculpt.