TV Commercials

CommercialsI get very weary of TV commercials. It seems that every time I start surfing the TV switching from one channel to another I constantly land on a channel during another commercial. You can’t escape them. I hit the mute button while the commercials seem to run for a full five minutes, then watch a minute of real content teaser telling me the content is to follow on the other side of the break.

There is no escaping all these commercials, seemingly endlessly telling me I need this pill or capsule to escape Restless Leg Syndrome, brittle bones, indigestion, sleepless nights, or other dreaded diseases of the moment. Insurance companies are always after me to get my auto or life insured and while saving hundreds of dollars.

How did this all come about? The USA’s first television advertisement was broadcast July 1, 1941. The watchmaker Bulova paid $9 for a placement on New York station WNBT before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. It was a 20-second spot which displayed a picture of a clock superimposed on a map of the United States, accompanied by the voice-over "America runs on Bulova time."

Remember the enduring phrase, "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should," from the eighteen-year advertising campaign for Winston cigarettes from the 1950s to the 1970s? Then there was “Where’s the beef?” that became popular during the 1984 presidential campaign of Walter Mondale. That commercial may be one of the reasons he lost that election.

Recall, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!?” Commercials are like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep “going, going, and going.” Beer and Geico Insurance are persistent, although I kind of like the gecko.

In their defense, commercials can also provide a service…it is a good time to use the bathroom or refill your coffee cup.

Commercials run longer than they used to. In the 1960s a typical hour-long American show would run for 51 minutes excluding advertisements. Today, a similar program would only be 42 minutes long; a typical 30-minute block of time now includes 22 minutes of programming with six minutes of national advertising and two minutes of local. Some networks even use a 18 minutes of show/12 minutes of commercial split. “A television broadcast of the 101-minute film The Wizard of Oz (1939) for instance, could, in the early to mid-1960s, take two hours even with commercials. Today, a telecast of the same film would last approximately two hours and 15 minutes including commercials.”

American viewers see approximately three hours of advertisements, twice what they would have seen in the 1960s.

But sometimes it is the commercial that attracts views rather than the programming. Consider the Super Bowl. It is known as much for its commercial advertisements as for the game itself, and the average cost of a single 30-second TV spot during this game (seen by 90 million viewers) has reached $2.7 million (as of February 2008).

TV advertisers are much interested in us old geezers. It is the 18-49 age group advertisers are interested in. Us old folks are too set in our habits in spending money. Some advertisers target audiences of the population such as certain races, income level, and gender. Some target young women who tend to be more profitable for advertisements than shows targeted to younger men. The theory being women watch more TV than men.

The number of viewers within the target demographic is more important to ad revenues than total viewers. According to Advertising Age, during the 2007-08 season, Grey’s Anatomy was able to charge $419,000 per advertisement, compared to only $248,000 for an advertisement during CSI, despite CSI having almost five million more viewers on average. Due to its demographic strength, Friends was able to charge almost three times as much for an advertisement as Murder, She Wrote, even though the two series had similar total viewer numbers during the seasons they were on the air together.

Many find commercials annoying. The main reason may be that the sound volume of advertisements tends to be higher (and in some cases much higher) than that of regular programming. “Beginning on January 2, 1971, advertisements featuring cigarettes was banned from American TV. Advertisements for alcohol products are allowed, but the consumption of any alcohol product is not allowed in a television advertisement.”

European countries fare a bit better than in the United States. “European Union legislation limits the time taken by commercial breaks to 12 minutes per hour (20%), with a minimum segment length of 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the program content.”

Then there are those of us who use DirectTV. For our subscription dollars we’re treated to channel after channel of purely commercial content. All those “infomercials” are included in DirectTV’s touting of carrying hundreds of channels “for our viewing pleasure.” I assume the cable companies, like Comcast, do the same thing.

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  4. Carolene Endersby–Part I

About Featheriver

Born and raised in Oklahoma. Improved in California. Out to pasture in Nevada. Born in 1933, Korean War Vet in USAF. Occupation: Criminal Law and Torts. Retired California Lawyer. Now live in Pahrump, Nye County, Nevada.
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