The Death of Commercials

I’ve been thinking a lot about commercials lately. Since buying a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) a few years back, I have almost completely stopped watching commercials. I’ll find myself either PVR’ing a show to watch it whenever I want, or I’ll start a show twenty minutes later, ensuring I can skip through most of the commercials. No doubt about it, the PVR has made viewing television far more convenient and enjoyable.

Now the irony of this is that the commercials are the reason television exists. Without commercials, there would be no money to produce episodes of HEROES, LOST, SEINFELD, FRIENDS, ER. well you get the idea. Yet as more homes invest in PVR’s, DVR’s and the almighty TIVO, the future is unavoidable — Commercials are going the way the UPN network.

So what are networks going to have to do? Something they detest — evolve. Networks and Studios are going to have to start finding new ways to reach the audience, and one of the most interesting ways I’ve seen so far, are in-show product placements. In this TV addict’s opinion, product placement is far more effective then regular commercials. For example, who can name me the car that Hiro rented to go to Las Vegas in this week’s episode of HEROES? Or how about the computer that was being tossed around the writer’s room in Monday’s episode of STUDIO 60? (Check the comments for the answer).

Viewers, or at least myself (in this highly unscientific study) can recall products that I see within a show far more then the commercial that air during the breaks. Why? I’m not sure. But it’s obvious that I actually pay attention to the show I’m watching rather then ignore or fast-forward through commercials I don’t care about. (Note to the CW, please don’t make us endure another ‘Aerie Tuesday’).

Network Executives, this message is for your own good. I love TV, and know that advertising is what pays the bills. I just want you take a moment to think pro-actively. Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, commercials are dead. It’s time to think of new [and innovative] ways to convince me to buy products. I’ll be waiting for you, in front of my TV (a beautiful new Sharp Aquos that I only knew about thanks to ads in Entertainment Weekly!)

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  • In case you were wondering, Hiro demanded to rent a Nissan Versa, as he saw it in the comic book and the computer that was being tossed around the writers room was an Apple Powerbook (all great writers use a MAC!)

  • That’s why there are promos at the bottom of screens now during the show (which sucks)

    But certain ad agencies don’t mind this fast forwarding. They say the subliminal effect is better than watching the whole commercial. Either way we’re screwed 😉

  • Dave… What ad agency actually admitted to that? Isn’t that the equivalent of cutting off your nose despite your face (I may have butchered the expression but you get the idea!) 🙂

  • Using a certain product on shows really doesn’t bother me. However when a character references said product or bugs a rental car agent about getting it over and over, I start to get a little annoyed.

  • PS: It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face, not despite.

  • Agreed, the Nissan Plug wasn’t so subtle, but hey – if it’s paying to keep HEROES on the air, I’m not going to complain….. until of course we realize that the Nissan actually has superpowers as well… then, the show has gone a bit to far.

  • THANKS! I knew I got it wrong and some genius reader would correct me.

  • I don’t watch commercials anymore either, (thank you DVR!) and I don’t mind if the product placement is subtle within the context of a show. (Applebees and Friday Night Lights did a decent job of it this week.) But I hate it when it’s awkward. I wrote my rant about it a while back when The WB was going crazy with the pop-up ads, but here it is if you want to take a peek.

  • I got my TiVo about four years ago, back when the Series 1 was still being sold, and I noticed this trend right away. My then-roommate and I coined a term for commercials that were so fun or so attention-getting that we’d stop the fast-forwarding to go back and look at them: TiVoBusters.

    There have been some very memorable TiVoBuster commercials in the last few years. IMHO, if the advertisers don’t want PVR users to skip their commercials, they simply have to make better commercials.