I work in advertising but hate watching commercials. Trust me, the irony of this is not lost on me. Advertising pays my mortgage, but I can’t bear to sit through them. I am a notorious channel flipper and usually watch shows  on a ten minute DVR delay so I can rock the 30 second skip button. Eight “skips” and an 8 second jump back and you are painlessly through a commercial break. I love you TiVo.

But I understand that ads need to exist. Television programming isn’t free and the relatively modern phenomenon of product placement, while usually ham-handed, is something I can live with. There are logos and products front-and-center in the latest TV shows, video games and feature films and they are here to stay. And I don’t really mind that the talking heads on American Idol are all drinking giant Cokes. (Or rum and Coke, as the case may be. I’m looking at you Ms. Abdul.) Or that Jack Bauer’s crew at CTU used Cisco-brand communications devices that bailed them out of a jam every week.

But programmers have taken things one step further. It has gone from mildly obtrusive to infuriating and I’m sure that it is the wave of the future… actors directly pitching products in the context of the story. It has already gained a foothold in daytime soaps, where Days of Our Lives has been shoehorning in spots for Cheerios, Midol, and Chex Mix for a while now. And they have made the move to prime time, where Subway saw huge response to their in-story product pimping on NBC’s Chuck. I get what they are trying to do, but it still feels like pandering. Unfortunately, it is having the exact opposite effect on me and I feel like I need to let the networks and advertisers know how I feel.

So from this day forward, I will not be watching Days of Our Lives or taking Midol anymore. You have my word on it.


  • January 8, 2011, 12:08 pm  Reply

    Since direct ads aren’t nearly as effective as they once were, more “subtle” approaches will most likely increase. It takes the testimonial technique up another level. It’s one thing for an actor to pitch a product. However, the audience doesn’t necessarily feel an emotional attachment to the actor as much as their character. If the character is seen actually using a product on a show, it has more potential for credibility.

    The next step will be when certain products slip into shows, people will be able to buy them online direct from their TV. Just a matter of time.

    • Jimmy D
      January 10, 2011, 1:54 pm

      Fair point. And I’m with you in seeing a need to find a better way to get the message to the masses. My only real complaint is when it is done poorly. As a society, we have been so overexposed to advertising messages that even a layman can recognize “ad speak” when they hear it. Maybe I’m a little cynical, but when it is shoehorned into entertainment content, it makes for a negative experience for me.

      The Chuck example I linked to above is probably a better example of how to make it palatable. The product was actually a plot point. Sure, it could have just as easily been Chips Ahoy cookies or a Starbucks coffee, but at least there was a effort to make the product placement relevant to the story, rather than just having two characters say “Mmmm, tell me about this tasty breakfast cereal we eating,” when it is apropos of nothing.

      I totally agree with you that the next step is direct interaction with advertisers via our television/DVR. Quite frankly I find the idea intriguing, but I’d want the impact on the actual broadcast kept to a minimum. I’d almost rather see the screen letterboxed with the bottom quarter of the screen used as advertising space with the opportunity to click for more info or to purchase.

      Maybe a “tell me more later” type of interface where I can get the information I want once the program has ended? Something similar to special features on a DVD where an icon pops up when there is additional info available. At the end of the program, all the info I selected would be available for my review.

      It’s probably a little to passive for most advertisers, but as a consumer, I would love it if I could click a button when I see Liz Lemon eating a Pizza Hut pizza and get a coupon in my email. I don’t need her to give me a 30 second breakdown of the newest toppings available in between jokes.

      Thanks for the comments.

Leave a Comment

four × one =