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Is this a business magazine, or a 12-step program? Every week in Ad Age there seems to be a new declaration by a high-profile coupon junkie disavowing the ruinous vortex of addiction.

My name is Procter, and I'm dependent on something bad for me...My name is Lever, and I can't believe the things I've done to get my fix...

And so on. For years brand-abuse counselors have been warning about ever higher doses of sales promotion, and self-destructive users scoffed: "Hooked? Me? No, no. I can handle it. But it's the rush, man. The market-share rush." When you're on a cents-off jones, you can persuade yourself of anything.

But suddenly, it's hip to be in rehab. The latest is Post cereal, which has not only embraced everyday low pricing, but is making an ostentatious public display of reform.

"You told us what you want for breakfast," says a voice-over, in a spot from Grey Advertising, sprinkled with images of smiling Post employees posing with boxes of cereal.

"And while we're proud that for a lot of you that means one of our Post cereals, there's more to it than that. You also told us what you don't want. You don't want to pay an arm and a leg for any box of cereal. And you don't want to have to choose a cereal based on coupons.

"So at the Post Cereal Co., we've lowered the price of every one of our cereals every single day. We didn't make the boxes smaller, or put less into them. And soon we'll give you coupons good on any Post cereal. You choose when and what you want to buy.

"We think we're off to a good start, but, really, what you think is a lot more important, so our address and 800-number are on every box. We hope you'll use them.

"You see, the people at Post are pretty much like everybody else. We shop in the same supermarkets. We know what it's like. We think we're doing the right thing. Post. Breakfast made right."

Suggesting, among other things, a sordid history of cereals sold wrong.

For instance, a viewer might wonder, if smiling Bob Edmond of consumer response and smiling Larry Liggett of operations and smiling Mark Leckie, the president, are so blasted compassionate, why have they been gouging an extra buck per box out of us for years? (And if they are so normal, why are they hugging those Fruity Pebbles?)

It's one thing to recognize that your way of doing business has been ill-serving you and customers. It's another thing to position your change of ways as a humanitarian gesture.

Didn't make the boxes smaller? They damn well better not have made the boxes smaller.

Maybe that's what consumers have come to expect, but failure to be deceitful does not constitute moral high ground. Reminding us of typical package-goods duplicity is meant to be self-serving; actually it is self-defeating.

Also smarmy, sanctimonious and altogether unbelievable, because it only calls attention to the disingenuousness of ad claims in general, and this one in particular. Any fool understands this move is grounded solely in the corporate interest of our caring friends at the Post Cereal Co. division of Kraft Foods, formerly Kraft General Foods, unit of the Philip Morris Cos., makers of Marlboro and other fine carcinogens.

We're delighted, Post boasties, that the horrid monkey is off your back. Now, would you kindly get off of ours?

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