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Monday, February 27, 2017

We Interrupt The Commercials...

We were introduced to a new form of entertainment when television came into our homes. There was the Wonderful World of Disney, Tom & Jerry cartoons; adventure shows like Robin Hood, William Tell, Sky King, The Lone Ranger and live comedy shows. Along with the shows, there were sponsors. Of course.

When you had all this transmitted into your home somebody had to pay the bills, so commercials were invented. It was big companies like Texaco, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson that stepped up to help pay those bills. At the same time they got to boost their sales pitches, promote their tried and true products as well as introduce new ones. As television took hold and gained in popularity, so did the number of companies willing to sponsor new shows. It was a money-making idea that couldn't fail.

In the last seventy years or so, commercials (as well as regular programing) have become more sophisticated along with advancing technology. That's all well and good but there comes a point where the whole concept can be overdone. Don't get me wrong. In the last few years there have been some really great/cute commercials. They hold your attention without hammering at you to buy their products. There's the boy dressed as Darth Vader who tries unsuccessfully to use the Force then is startled when the family car starts up. Then there's the Clydesdales. Who doesn't love those magnificent horses? (Have you ever stood near one of those animals? I have and it made me feel small, like a child. They are so huge!)  But when does it get to be a bit much?

A few years ago, viewers complained about the volume of the commercials being louder than the programs they were paying for. I know they want to be seen and heard but when it's startling it kind of defeats the purpose. We don't like being yelled at by some barker intent on making sales. And when a commercial pops up in a bad spot, like in the middle of dialogue, it takes a few seconds to realize the programing has taken a break. Some commercials are good at cutting in seamlessly so you don't realize the switcheroo. After a ton of complaints hit the FCC, something was finally done about the problem. Programs were required to lower the volume on commercials. It sort of worked but it seems to me the advertisers found a way around the problem. The programs were taped/filmed with their own volume turned up a bit so the commercials, in contrast seemed quieter. I don't know about anybody else but that's how it seems to me.

There's another way the advertisers get to you. Have you ever stopped to count how many ads are  run in a single break? I have. In the last month, two of my favorite films have been running on a movie channel. Now, one of those films, I know for a fact, is three hours long. When it was shown, the time slot was four hours, and this wasn't even the Director's Cut.  What I learned was, for every ten minutes of movie and you get five minutes of commercials. Since those commercials are only thirty seconds long, you end up with five commercials at every break. So five minutes of every fifteen means twenty minutes of every hour is devoted to selling some products. At the end of the broadcast, you've seen one hour of advertising. That's sixty commercial messages.

 I know these programs have to be paid for and there are people who love commercials so where do we draw the line? Some years ago, the British had a solution. Commercials didn't run until the end of the broadcasting day. I don't know if they still do it that way, but it might be something to consider.

In the meantime, I suppose all we can do is "interrupt the commercials to return to the regularly scheduled programming."

                                                                           ~~~~~~~~~~

Dodie stopped and gave her a questioning look. "Tessa, has no one told you? Your groom arrives with the prince."

"My...groom?" Tessa paled.

                                                                    - from Diamond In the Rough

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