Saturday, October 30, 2010

We Should Never Have Fast-Forwarded

I'm one of the worst offenders. I have a Tivo. Even before Tivo my family obsessively muted the commercials because (I don't know whether you've noticed this) the commercials are at least 20% louder than the actual programming. Now I never watch anything when it's on anymore. Even if I want to watch something live (e.g., the final episode of Project Runway, or any episode of Mad Men), I generally fast-forward through the commercials. I'm obviously not the only one, because advertisers have resorted to two new strategies, one of which I like and one of which is really starting to burn my cookies.

The one I like is that they've resorted to making interesting commercials. I know, right? Who would have thought of this novel idea? I will stop my Tivo to watch each of the Dean Winters Allstate commercials at least once. My parents are obsessive fans of the Aflac duck--you are not allowed to fast forward through the duck under any circumstances. A lot of commercials have an arresting visual that makes me curious enough to go back and at least see what they're advertising. And the Unilever campaign placed during Mad Men airtime was genius.

The other type, which isn't really new, just changed, is the "in-your-face-commercial-in-your-TV-show" ad. Some of these are a little more subtle--during a recent car chase on Fringe, we inexplicably got an incredibly long and focuses close-up to show us that Olivia and Peter gave chase in a Taurus. Charlie on Numbers drove a Prius, which was actually in character, but he talked about it a LOT, which wasn't. On Chuck, Devon has just bought a minivan. Not just any minivan, "an AWESOME minivan! The Toyota Sienna, the safest family auto in its class." No, seriously, that's what Devon tells Ellie. In one of the craziest examples, during the episode of Bones where Hodgins and Angela finally tied the knot, they first rented a Prius and got so distracted advertising it that they got thrown in jail. Here again, Unilever has managed to go tasteful by putting Unilever products into Mad Men...where they kind of seem like they belong.

The in-show ad is not a new idea--television has been placing products in its shows for a long time. But it's definitely getting more aggressive and brazen, and less well-integrated with the entertainment that delivers the advertising. I'm not sure where these trends will be headed, but it's probably safe to say it'll be even more obnoxious eventually. I wonder if we'll end up fast-forwarding through portions of the actual shows...and then if we do that, I wonder what they'll do to us?

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