Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Modest Proposal

Ban all commercials. That's right; just get rid of them.  And those infuriating mouseover ads that clutter up one's viewing of web pages.  Might as well ban print ads and radio commercials, too.
So why am I being so Jonathan Swift-like?  Actually, I'm sick and tired of those awful acne/skincare line commercials and the even worse commercials for the make-up line hawked by a certain supermodel.  They go on for way too long and are pretty dull. And I'm sick of before and after photos.
But it's getting even worse.  Yesterday, I noticed TWO other make-up lines with new commercials along the same lines.  And both again seemed to go on forever.
These particular ads usually run after prime time... I know, serves me right for being up.  But prime time is pretty bad, too.  I haven't done a study but I think there's more commercial time now than even a few years ago. So I thought I'd take a moment and search the web for some data.  A Wikipedia entry on "Television Advertising" says the average hour-long prime-time show in the 1960's averaged 51 minutes of actual show time.  For more recent shows, it lists the average as being 42 minutes of actual show time.  In other words, average commercial time increased from 9 minutes of ad time to 18 minutes of ad time - BIG increase! That would also mean that now the average commercial time is 30% of the typical prime-time hour.  Some snippets I saw around the net in my rough search put the average at 32% or so.  Is it just me, or does it feel like even more?
Sometimes the shows are so chopped up with commercial breaks, it takes some enjoyment out of the viewing experience.  On a certain network which often runs romance movies, I had on one of their original movies once not too long ago.  I was able to concentrate on it more during the second hour.  It was so chopped up - it seemed like 6 - 8 minutes of movie then 5 - 6 minutes of commercials. I didn't really sit with a stop watch, but I was watching the clock and it felt like commercials were actually taking up close to 50% of the available time.
Another instance and one that really gets me riled is this one.  On that same network or its partner network, they sometimes run my favorite telemovie.  I watched it when it originally aired, and have loved it ever since.  But now when they air it, they cut out a pretty good chunk of one scene, and smaller parts of others.  And trying to give them feedback was almost impossible.  Sometimes I think companies DON'T want honest feedback, only compliments. And I can't compliment them on butchering this wonderful telemovie, that their company made with such care originally!
This increasing of commercial time has more implications besides simply being annoying. The fellows who wrote the book Dollarocracy have noted that there seems to be a trend of local news broadcasts increasing political ad time at the expense of real news time.  Think of what that means in terms of voters really being informed.
And I'm also thinking about what this means for our attention spans.  With shows as choppy as the one I described above, is it feeding into decreased attention spans or helping to create conditions to decrease them?
So let's just ban those commercials - or - even more modestly - see if we can at least scale back their encroachment.

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