I counted 14 commercials in a row the other morning on GMA. I’m still having a hard time believing it. Fourteen! I had to actually go back (I have a DVR) and watch them in fast mode to count them, so ABC got me twice, those punks. Then the network was kind enough to give me another two whole minutes of content before they force-fed me some more commercials. Groan. I wanted to go back a third time with a stopwatch to see exactly how much time those 14 commercials took, but I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stand another look without running into the back yard naked howling and screaming and rubbing my sore brain.
I guess I’ve been slacking, because I didn’t realize just how laden these networks are getting with all these in-your-face interruptions. And I know that I’m not the only one that thinks that they’re getting way out of hand. I think that they are currently testing us, trying to see just how many commercials they can squeeze in before we start baling on them. Because that’s what I did after I counted them, it angered me so much. And I know that I’m one of the lucky ones because I do have a DVR, and I can skip past them if I want to wait for 20 freakin’ minutes before I start watching them so I have enough minutes saved up.
Actually, I’m getting quite good at skipping past these mind-numbing segments of consumer-convincing crap. I’ve learned to prepare for them by getting the remote control in hand when I see their approach, my finger poised over the fast-forward button (the skip button takes too many presses these days) and looking at the clock to guess how many of them I will be skipping over. We all know that they will try to show us more of them towards the end of the program because we have more of our time invested in the actual program itself, and we’re less likely to get pissed off and change the channel at that point. So I know that I will have to hit the 4x fast forward if it’s ten minutes to the end of the program.
These marketing guys that decide just how many commercials we get fed are getting so damned good, have you noticed? They are very good at their job, although they probably are afraid to tell a new acquaintance exactly what they do for a living (“I spend all day trying to guess just how much crap I can feed you guys before you get so fed up that you leave me”). They probably hold focus groups and design polls to see if they can get away with shoving even more unwanted trash our way before we get too sick of it. Oh, these guys are good, and getting better by the day. I’ll bet their spouses hate them, though.
They use so many tricks to get us to stop channel surfing with the intentions of hiding their crap behind what looks like legitimate content. They experiment with these new pseudo-commercials and their ilk, the kind of commercials that flash pictures or characters from the actual show that we’re watching so we think that it’s still the program instead of a commercial. They invent 5-second commercials because they know that our DVR Skip buttons only move skip in 30-second increments. They time the commercials differently for different shows, giving us a few minutes of content first on some shows and then jamming their commercials in, while on other shows they give us the opening logo first and then hammering us.
They know that they walk a fine line, these commercial-deciding hacks, because the majority of us (not the mindless sheep out there that will watch their favorite show regardless of the amount of content) do have a threshold for how much TV crapware we’re willing to watch that, if reached, will in fact flip them off and change the channel (ohmygod) or even give up on watching their show entirely (nofuckingway), which negates their intentions of getting us to watch even more of their commercials entirely. After all, if we don’t watch their show because we’re sick of all the commercials, then they can’t sell the advertising, which nullifies their job and they will have to go back to their job at McDonalds. But that threshold is a fuzzy one, and even the diehard commercial haters amongst us will give in and stay tuned unless we notice a stark change in the amount of commercial content we’re spoon-fed.
They really need to know that we’re all getting fairly disgusted with it all. But who do we bitch to? Most channels’ websites don’t have a contact email address named firstname.lastname@example.org. Good thing, too. I’d overwhelm those suckers.