Friday, March 13, 2015

Revisiting "A Modest Proposal"

Almost exactly a year ago on my Daisies and Diamonds blog, I posted a small rant against commercials.

Well, as viewing would have it, I feel it's time to revisit. Just for now, my primary consideration is tv commercials; but internet ads are also far too invasive and ubiquitous.  It seems to me that the tv situation has probably gotten worse!  I haven't sat with a stopwatch yet (two would be good - one to track actual show time, one to track commercial time), but I've noticed that we're lucky to get ten minutes of show time between commercials.  It seems closer to around 8. This article has some Nielsen stats as of May of last year. 
guess what?  I just found some more recent stats - and commercial time has increased again!  And I read somewhere we allow more commercial time than does most of Europe. Then there's the matter of the commercials themselves.  Well, the aforementioned article says that there has been an increase in short (15 second) commercials.  Maybe.  But I also seem to notice some long ones -  those that run around FIVE minutes (think vacuum, weight loss system, the 'not shampoo' haircare line, and some creepy thing to wear over your eyes while sleeping).  All those overly long commercials are extremely annoying and quite unwelcome - to me, anyway.  Oh yes, and if you feel the networks are jamming in more commercials; you are correct!

What is this doing to us? First, a big item: this affects our democracy.  Really.  John Nichols and Robert McChesney, authors of Dollaracracy, have written this overview article.  Pay attention to their points about political ads found on page 2!

Second, what does it do to us to be so relentlessly subjected to sales pitches?  Although I'm not quite as negative as the author of this article, he did hit on a point I feel is very on target. From the article:  "It is not the cacophony of the commercial claims on our attention that has shortened our attention spans; it is the soullessness that the market economy demands that has sent us searching for self-medication."  He also has some great stuff about Neil Postman's prediction about entertainment conquering social domains and the fears arising from monetizing attention in the paragraph just following that quote.  There was also something I saw about a fellow who said that tv was now just a medium for getting us to pay attention to commercials - but I've even combed through my history several times and haven't found it.  But that observation does have the ring of truth, doesn't it?

But to inject a humorous vein and in an effort to shame the offenders, here are nicknames I propose for some of our tv networks, although rampant proliferation of commercials seems to be across the board:
  • Americans Broadcasting Commercials
  • Commercial Broadcasting Service
  • Nothing But Commercials
  • Greeting Card Channel Sales and Promotions
  • Hawking Quite Zealously (think of the letters that are two before each starting letter alphabetically)
  • Commercial Nirvana Nightly
  • Totally Broadcasting Spiels
  • Advertising Massively Channel
  • Ultimately Serving Advertisers
  • Every Sponsor's Product Network
  • Advertisements & Endorsements

And the matter of those "Pledge Break Stations" is another discussion entirely!

If the commenters on some of these articles are any representation, at least some folks are disgruntled about this ad creep.  So - what can we do to scale these commercials, ads, and promos back to some reasonable level?  How can we push back about the relentless advertising - not just on tv, but on the internet and so many other places all around us?  Thoughts?

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