Advertising got greedy. Now they are complaining because we zip through their commercials with our TiVos. It is all just too much. My phone rings at night with pre-recorded ads for candidates in the fall elections. You canâ€™t drive down the road without being assaulted by signs. Magazines are 50 percent ads with annoying inserts that force you to open at their location. The radio and TV are loaded. Even public radio has thinly disguised ads for themselves and sponsors who bring you the next program.
In the early days of television a program had one, count â€™em, one sponsor. Chevrolet brought you â€œThe Dinah Shore Showâ€ and Kraft Cheese, â€œTed Mackâ€™s Amateur Hour.â€ The ads were actually informative. There are hundreds of clever ways to whip up a semi-lethal meal with Cheeze Whiz. Each commercial break consisted of one message and they came about every 15 minutes, not every five. They lasted about three minutes, not eight to 10 minutes.
Just when you think they are done, they squeeze in one more for the company that brings you closed captioning. The last 10 minutes of most shows consists of eight-and-a-half minutes of commercials and one-and-a-half minutes of show.
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The founders of our country did not have all this pressure, except on Sunday, when the church would inform the parishioners about the latest shipment of dry goods at the local general store. The rest of the week was ad free so they could concentrate on raising crops, fending off home invasions and nursing little Mollyâ€™s grippe. They had to go looking for ads or subscribe voluntarily to the Montgomery Ward Catalogue. I have a mountain of un-ordered catalogs on my front porch.
The most annoying new thing in a field that has no shortage of annoying things is the back-to-back TV commercial repetition. Somebody got the idea that we are too stupid to get the message the first time so they repeat it again, and then again at the next commercial break, and again at the end of the show.
Some of the stuff they are hawking boggles the mind. Opus, the comic strip penguin from the 1980s, had a weakness for Turnip Twadlers. Ridiculous you say? How about a thing that scrambles an egg inside its own shell?
I am now hearing that free television will disappear because the commercials arenâ€™t working anymore. Will people pay for television? Isnâ€™t that sort of what we are doing now with our cable and satellite dishes? Itâ€™s just a question of how much more we are willing to shell out.
Speaking of shells, does anyone want a dozen pre-scrambled eggs?
Bill Abrams resides (and crusades against commercials) in Pine Plains.