This LifeAlert Ad Is Creepier Than American Horror Story

life_alert_basementFear can be a good motivator in marketing. It’s probably not such a good motivator when your ads freak everyone out so much that they leave the room or change the channel. What company has consumers so frightened that they’re begging the company to stop showing the ads? Life Alert. Yes, the people behind the often-mocked “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” ads.

Life Alert has a new spot airing, apparently on daytime television. It’s aimed at their typical audience of senior citizens who live alone, but…well, we’ll just let you watch it.

The sound isn’t necessary, if you’re at work: there’s menacing music and the voice of an older woman wailing in agony, then saying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” to no one in particular, because there’s no one within earshot who can save her. That’s the point. The ad preys on the fears that people who live alone have: life is going on right outside her window, but too far away to hear her cries for help. The spot makes it clear that the woman will die in horrible pain stuck at the bottom of her basement stairs. It’s the cold opening of an episode of CSI: Boca Raton.

It’s meant scare you into asking “what if” about yourself or elderly loved ones. It’s effective marketing. Too effective, if you ask many viewers of the ad who have complained on the Life Alert Facebook page.

Welcome to the Facebook age: where once our complaints were written on paper or even e-mail and acknowledged privately, now we can post our complaints for the everyone to see. This is good and bad, but what really interests Consumerist is how Life Alert is responding to viewers’ concerns.

Here’s a selection of complaints posted on the Facebook wall and as comments in response to the company’s posts, lightly edited to fix major grammar and punctuation issues:

I sleep with my tv on at night and your commercial wakes me up and i think something is happening to my mother. It’s a very scary way to wake up in the middle of the night. …It’s terrible.

Stop airing that awful basement commercial with the old lady begging for help from the bottom of the stairs. It’s indecent and disturbing and wakes me up when I’m trying to fall asleep to the TV.

I do applaud you for offering Life Alert’s services. BUT I am troubled by your most recent commercial. My kids beg me to change the channel when it comes on tv, because it frightens them.

Shame on you for a commercial that is meant only to scare senior citizens. It is a disgusting way to sell any product. Stop airing the ad with the woman crying for help at the bottom of the stairs. It is truly a shameful way to try to take advantage of older Americans. If that’s what you need to sell your product, it is not worth anything.

Please stop airing that commercial with the old woman at the bottom of the stairs. I thought that her skull was going to have been cracked open and bleeding when they showed her. My own grandmother fell and cracked her hip and we brought her to the hospital immediately, but this just makes me feel so awful inside I start crying. I’m 17 years old and this is way too scary. I don’t want to see anyone in that much pain and crying when I’m just trying to enjoy my day. Please take it off the TV.

How does Life Alert respond to complaints like these? They say that when you’re lying at the bottom of your stairs wailing for help, you’ll wish that their ads had been even scarier. We paraphrase. Slightly.

In our business, we consistently hear horror stories of how families procrastinated in getting a Life Alert only to discover their loved one had fallen and was on the floor for hours (sometimes days) before someone found them. They have even complained that our commercials are corny, and NOT SERIOUS ENOUGH, and that our message doesn’t get through. The guilt and fear these families feel after a preventable tragedy is very real and far worse than any commercial.

Our goal is to wake people up to the realities of what is going on with the elderly and to get a medical alert system as a PREVENTIVE measure, not a reactionary result to a tragedy. To date we have received many calls and emails from aging parents and/or adult children thanking us for showing them the severity of the problem affecting our beloved aging community.

We understand that some people may have different tastes and either like or dislike our commercial, but the thousands of lives we are saving daily is very important to us and the families that trust us.

We hope that you will remember this commercial when it comes time for a family member who may need extra help, and although you may not choose our service, we encourage you not to wait for a tragedy to happen before getting a medical alert system for an elderly loved one.

Thank you,
Life Alert

Okay. We get that, and we’re all for being proactive and not waiting for an emergency to take precautions. Their goal is to disturb you and make you imagine yourself or someone you care about in the same position. Maybe this ad will save lives, but we know for sure that it’s freaking people out.

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  1. Cara says:

    I can not think of any scenario where I would ever purchase something from a company that tried to scare me into doing so.

  2. Xenotaku says:

    In the age of cell phones, their service is even LESS needed than before. It’s not like the old days, where you’d have a corded phone, or a cordless phone on a charger, you couldn’t reach (yes, both of these have featured in their ads). Worried about a family member who lives alone? Get them a pre-paid cell phone with emergency services and emergency contacts built in on speed dial. Then they just have to hold down one button and get directly connected with help, instead of using an intermediary.

    [edit to add more]

    Furthermore, a cell phone will let you explain directly what the problem is. I don’t know /exactly/ how LA systems work, but you it the button, and they send an aid car to your house. What if you’re not at home? What if they’d need specialized equipment? LA isn’t going to help with that.

    • A woman in a dress or skirt or nightgown usually doesn’t have any pockets to carry a phone in. Life Alert does have a version with GPS, but the idea behind these is that you only use/wear them at home.

    • ReverendTed57 says:

      I can’t speak to LifeAlert specifically, but my grandmother-in-law has a similar service. When the button is pushed, a device hooked in-line with the telephone places a call to the call center and puts it on speakerphone, so if you’re within earshot of the phone you can tell them what’s up. Otherwise they probably just send emergency services to your home (where the device functions). It seems like these days it’d be easy enough to have a wireless mic in the necklace\watch unit.

    • Alecto67 says:

      @Xenotaku
      You’re forgetting the senior citizens who have no use for cell phones or any newer technology. Plenty of people out there don’t have cell phones.

  3. Liberal says:

    I live alone and am not to far away from attaining the age where should I fall and cant get up I might just die before my mail person notices I am not getting the mail. With that said I have put some thought into these services. My issue is the equipment likely would fail when I needed it and all the preparation would be for nothing. You are depending on charms. Scaring you into depending on toy equipment. I bet your heirs could sue them all day and not get a dime or a refund. Just think a refund!