Taking a commercial breakDon’t you love television commercials? I do, at least as much as a dentist appointment,
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Don’t you love television commercials? I do, at least as much as a dentist appointment, appendix surgery, a blow to the gut, two Dear John letters, marriage without love, a DUI and a toothless smile from your mother-in-law.
Like an obnoxious drunk who parachutes into an in-depth discussion, these commercials interrupt programming at the most inappropriate times, diluting the product, confusing the message, altering the mood, sending overeaters to the fridge and completely confusing already addicted shoppers.
Of course, commercials have been around for as long as you and I have, leading us to believe that Adam, Eve, Moses and even Abe Lincoln watched them. But of course it’s not true since the first ad didn’t appear on television until 1941 when Bulova, the watchmaker, paid $9 for a spot on New York television station WNBT before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Lasting only 10 seconds, the spot displayed a picture of a big clock superimposed over the map of the United States with a heavenly voice revealing that “America runs on Bulova time.”
Meanwhile, the first ad on British television didn’t appear until 1955, probably because they don’t have baseball, basketball and the most comical show of all on television, All-Star Wrestling.
Nowadays television commercials annually reach their zenith during the Super Bowl when chances are one team will often be well ahead of the other, at least for a good part of the game and partiers, choking on charred ribs and Cheetos, will stop toasting and throwing back Jell-o shots long enough to tune into the latest super commercial, partly because a 30-second spot demands so much less time from our Attention Deficit Disordered population.
And let’s face it, some of the commercials are incredibly funny, goofy and entertaining, except when they run them back to back to back to back and back again, milking exorbitant profits from huge companies with canyon coffers in a manner that is nothing short of insulting to viewers, as though our time was no more valuable than one Milk Dud, two Cheerios and a slice of cheese from a McDonald’s burger.
Did you know that, way back when, in the late ‘40s, after countless surveys, great advertising minds determined that the best way to reach consumers was by creating shows that featured a product or product line from one company. Soon advertising agencies, not studios, were producing shows like the “Kraft Television Theater,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour” and “Coke Time with Eddie Fisher” which stood for something completely different than it does today.
This type of advertising worked brilliantly until television executives realized that their “box” was a really popular thing for people to plop down in front of. They got greedy and started hiking advertising rates dramatically and this led advertisers to buy short spots during the show rather than creating the whole show, leading us to where we are today, to an advertising onslaught, like the ’44 invasion of Europe every 15 minutes, as wave after wave of coma-inducing commercials engulf us like waves from Normandy and Omaha Beach, convincing us that each one of those company’s products is the best when in reality it’s their big ad budgets that are tops.
Nevertheless we continue to put up with this bribery in order to feast on “Festus,” “Felix,” “Felicity,” “Fran,” “Family Guy,” “Fringe,” “The Following,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Bachelor,” “Bunheads” and “Beavis and Butthead.”
Then, in the end, after the onslaught, we chase after cars or clothes and work at jobs we hate so that we can buy things we don’t need.
But I suppose it’s a necessary evil or as Steuart Henderson Britt said in “Marketing Management and Administrative Action:” “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
Holten is the special projects coordinator for The Dickinson Press and The Drill.