And Now a Word about Sponsors

I don’t mind commercials on television. I understand that in our capitalist society, you don’t get something for nothing. I watch my share of TV and I understand it costs a lot of money to make the shows and that money comes from advertisers. Looking back into the misty past of my earliest television watching, I find I can’t remember the shows all that well, but I do remember the peppy jingles.

“Hershey’s, the Great American Chocolate Bar.”

“Honeycomb’s big, yeah-yeah-yeah. It’s not small. No-no-no.”

I’ll be a hundred years old, a drooling vegetable in a nursing home somewhere. I won’t remember my name, but I bet I’ll still remember that “Pow-pow-powerful Good-good feeling with Cheer-Cheer-Cheerios!” I don’t think I’m the only one. How many people tune in to the Super Bowl each year to watch the game?

The Super Bowl ads are almost always slickly produced and very creative. That doesn’t have to be the case to be watchable. Growing up in Chicago we had Victory Auto Wreckers where the hippie’s car door falls off and he gets paid “cash on the spot”. We had Celossi-Ettelson Chevrolet (“where you always save more money”). We even had Empire Carpet (come on, you know the number!).

Even the worst commercials are funny in a Mystery Science Theatre kind of way. Eagle Auto Insurance comes to mind. Two non-actresses get into an accident and “Eagle Man” lands on the roof of their car. He lays an egg (yes, Eagle Man lays an egg) and the rates pop out in the mouth of a chick. In Champaign-Urbana they had a furniture store called Downer’s. Their commercials consisted of this angry old guy wearing a ten gallon hat and brandishing a swagger stick yelling, “Downer! Downer! Downer!” I always wondered whether he knew he was on television; he might have been just a homeless guy off the street whose medication had worn off.

What really annoys me is the repetition. I understand the commercials need to be aired and re-aired, but they don’t all have to be the same ads in the same order every five minutes. That to me just seems crass, half-assed at best. It assumes no one will notice that no thought or care has been taken when scheduling the commercials. I think that networks assume their audience doesn’t watch television the same way anymore. We all have TiVo or something similar. We don’t watch the commercials so they don’t waste the time to make good ones or schedule them to the right times. Well, we do notice. People may not have had TiVo when I was a kid, but advertisers had to compete against indoor plumbing. Don’t you think that was at least as big of a challenge?

My son watches Nickelodeon which is sponsored by fondue kits and upside down tomato garden planters. Did someone decide that demographics no longer mean anything for advertisers? On the Sci-Fi channel, everything is sponsored by Bowflex… every three minutes. I got to the point that the commercial actually turned me off the product. If I ever buy another piece of exercise equipment, I can tell you which one I won’t purchase. This nonchalance towards the audience is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While I skip through most commercial breaks nowadays, I stop to chuckle at the Apple commercials (“Hi, I’m a Mac and I’m a PC.”). TV Land actually shows “retromercials” and people apparently love them. However, my son has few warm fuzzy feelings for commercials. He’s been able to use our DVR ever since he stopped trying to chew on the remote control. He is very impatient with live television and can barely believe that we couldn’t just record it all and skip past the boring stuff. Advertisers take note: you are losing your next generation of buyers.



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