January ushers in a smorgasbord of excellent sports events, ultimately driving me to sit for many hours in front of the television flipping between tennis (what a match in the final of the Australian!) or football (what a game in both semifinals of the NFL) or basketball (what a hype in the regular season Heat-Bulls rematch).
Usually, I mute/change channels/walk away when the commercials run. My history in advertising notwithstanding, or perhaps because of it, I find the commercials tedious and derivative. This feeling is no doubt enhanced by my increased sports viewing, for which the advertisements are predominantly directed at males.
The male-dominated advertising usually focuses on cars and trucks, beer and (depending on the sport demographics) medical treatments for dysfunctional health. I’ve noticed that these ads tend to exaggerate the worst tendency (in my opinion) of TV: the presumption that viewers are not very bright.
I’ve railed before at my disgust for “laugh tracks”; the fear of television programmers that viewers will not “know” when something is funny unless they hear laughter coming from the TV. Ever go to a live stand-up comic performance and see them flashing a “laugh” sign?
For the purposes of this post, I stayed with the TV during the commercials yesterday and watched as much of the miniscule type as I could as it flashed by. Beyond the ludicrous statements made, the practical chance anyone could actually read all those little words (while flashing pictures, speeding cars and all manner of distraction are occurring at the same time) is small. Fortunately, I was aided by the endless repetition of the commercials.
So, let’s see how intelligent we aren’t.
Today’s headline is the show starter. There were cars spinning in circles in the sand, cars slicing through wet roads and doing a 360 degree turn into a dead stop, cars on impossible inclines and, in my favorite, a car simply driving a winding road. In each of these instances, the famous “professional driver, do not attempt” (occasionally with the added bonus of “closed course”) was flashed in tiny letters for about a second (perhaps two?). I only feel bad for those people who are no longer allowed to drive winding roads without a professional driver.
Another fave is the advanced drive assist options touted by the cars. The commercial proudly (and loudly) proclaims the breakthrough. Make sure you read that tiny type that says the assist/aid/whatever is not a substitute for careful driving. In other words, this car will nearly drive itself, but if you have an accident, don’t blame us, we told you this shouldn’t be depended on.
You have your “best in class claims” <small print: based on the arbitrary segment that might only include two other brands>; you have your cool advanced options <small print: not all features available on all models, such as the less expensive model you wanted>; you have your impressive EPA MPG bragging <small print: use for comparison only, actual results will vary, as in much lower>.
A new one I saw yesterday showed a vehicle excitedly showing all the stuff that could fit in the back of the vehicle, with a tiny type admonition reminding you to properly secure everything you put in the back (presumably, this is not because the back will pop open and spill the contents).
I suppose the explanation for this is based on the litigious nature of American society, requiring statements of such overwhelming obviousness as to be insulting…presuming anyone actually read these here-than-gone messages (frankly, before my “study session yesterday, the only one I ever noticed was the “professional driver” one). Still, the effect is unnerving. Are we presumed to be that incompetent? Will a split second, miniscule sized warning make a difference in anyone’s life or, more importantly, court case?
I could go on with more posts regarding TV, advertising and the assumption of the dumbness of the American viewer. You could even do the same, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I feel I owe you a proper warning as you read this post:
Professional blogger. Do not attempt.