My sister-in-law hates commercials. She has the remote close by when watching TV so she can mute them, often while commenting on how much she hates the intrusion into her show. I think she’s not alone in that.
Somehow though, I’m an odd duck. I actually like commercials. I think I probably prefer watching a movie on a TV station with commercials than one of the premium ones lacking them (DVDs are another story, I’ll get to that…)
Now, don’t get me wrong. It annoys me just like everyone else when advertisers manage to suddenly increase the volume level by about 20 decibels to scream at you … I’m Canadian of course, and we’re polite. We don’t like a lot of screaming. The Canadian government actually passed laws designed to prevent the overly loud ads. Likewise, some ads are just plain annoying – those that aim to be serious but portray adults as incompetent simpletons and the endless pharmaceutical ones in the States which inevitably list possible complications far worse than the disease they’re trying to cure. My favorites of those are ones for asthma meds which may increase incidents of asthma, possibly resulting in death! Well, i suppose a dead person won’t be suffering asthma attacks anymore, so one way or the other, the product does its job!
But that said, I like commercials. Maybe it’s my background. Growing up, my uncle was in charge of a large advertising agency and he talked with pride about his commercials and the jingles he created, the most indelible of which is doubtlessly still ingrained in every Canadian over the age of 30’s head. Alas, he passed away before I got to the age where I could have taken advantage of the time-honored practice of nepotism to use in making my ability to be annoying and repetitive to good use.
Really though, commercials are a plus to me for three reasons. They can be informative, they’re fun and when they’re not, they give us needed breaks.
It goes without saying that the job of commercials is to sell their product and service, and as often as not the product they’re selling isn’t one I need. However, on the rare occasion something new comes out that I might have use for, chances are good that I’ll find out about it through a commercial somewhere. And for those which don’t tell me anything useful … what’s a good TV show without a drink to sip on? At least on a DVD, you can pause. Live TV though, not so much. Without those Lipitor or ladies’ shapewear ads, when would I make that run to the fridge, or percolator…or to the bathroom to, umm, make room for that next drink?
My real love of ads though, is the ones that entertain me. Wendy’s old ads with the red-haired girl who was obsessed with their food (Morgan Smith for the record, more recently Candi on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Veep. No word on whether she convinced President Meyer to serve burgers in the Oval Office like the real-life one does these days!) were always humorous. Much more so than their rival Burger King’s with the creepy, also red-haired “King” who as I remember it used to do things like look in girls’ bedroom windows at night to let them know about the latest Whopper offering.
Probably no industry has been better at making fun commercials though than one which is about as far removed from fun as we can get – insurance. Let’s face it – everyone hates having to have insurance and generally aren’t fans of the providers. If you’re not using it, it seems like money down the drain (which is going to clog that drain… good thing there are Drano commercials to let you know what to do about that) , and if you do have to use it, it’s always a bad time… often made worse by paperwork hassles and delays. For all that though, what other industry has given us so many 30-second invitations to laugh out loud?
From Progressive’s “Flo” to Farmers’ guy who’s seen it all to the Allstate’s hapless “Mayhem” (Dean Winters, who’ll forever be remembered for playing a raccoon in a 30-second bit much more than his John McFadden character in Sex and the City or the Battle Creek show he starred in), the ads for the annoying necessity are reasons to stay in the room and run to the fridge when the main program returns. The kings of that though are another insurance company. From the friendly traveling gecko to Eddie Money in a travel agency to squirrels – lots of squirrels – no one has made more great commercials of late than Geico. So much so they self-deprecatingly mocked themselves in a recent series of ads for non-existent DVDs of their ads, while having a real online poll for people’s favorite one. Last time I checked in the Hump Day camel was in the lead. My personal favorite was the action hero whose mom called to fill him in on the squirrel situation at her house.
They can be loud and annoying, or they can be fun and informative. A reason to walk away, or to stay in the room. And a few make you want to reach for the mute button. Which, come to think of it, makes commercials a lot like people.