Once upon a time, most TV commercials were merely annoying and some of them were even pleasant. Then something happened.
For some reason I still don’t understand, we allowed lawyers to advertise. Back when sanity reigned, lawyers could insert professional cards in print and that was about it. Now we have tort toads running spots to recruit members of class action law suits. The most egregious are the bottom feeders hunting the last few mesothelioma patients.
Drug companies never used to advertise, not prescription drugs, anyway. Now we have scenes of happy people with accompanying soundtracks of disjointed voices droning on and on with warnings that you might, oh, become impotent, poop your pants, grow breasts if you’re a guy, get cancer, hear voices. The point of the commercials escapes me completely. You need a prescription for these things. You’re going to tell your doctor to give you scrip for this cool drug you heard about on TV? Not likely.
Government commercials used to be rare and harmless: McGruff the Crime Dog, military recruiting, Smokey the Bear, the food groups, what to do when a nuclear strike is imminent. Now they slide monstrously gross-out spots showing sad, sad people with extremely rare side effects of smoking into family shows. Political commercials are beyond disgusting; they’re the pathetic lies and distortions of vermin.
Beyond the more blatant categories of slimeball commercials, lie the subtle ones which may be even worse.
The war against men, especially straight white men, continues to accelerate. Ace Hardware’s most recent man-as-dweeb spot shows a near-totally infantilized grownup on a child’s scooter wearing a helmet (a helmet!). Scooting along at a snail’s pace, he yells at his neighbors that the weekend is coming. In any other context, people in white coats would show up.
Car commercials do at least two astonishingly stupid things: 1) they show people, who clearly should know better, racing through city streets as if they were on the last lap of the Daytona 500, and/or 2) they show people suddenly able to do things they apparently couldn’t
do before just because they bought a specific brand of automobile. All of these things could be accomplished in any vehicle or they have nothing to do with automobiles at all.
State Farm’s latest string of car insurance commercials show various aftermaths of accidents with hapless, whiny fools actually singing something like “I have blah blah insurance so person come help”. The spots are so lame, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Progressive and GEICO chip in on the media buy.
There’s more, lots more. Beer commercials used to be funny, at least entertaining. In the last couple of years they’ve descended to a level of lameness once reserved for local car dealers. Business commercials (e.g. BDO, whatever that is) are so pompous, they could appeal only to people with delusions of royalty. Banks spout such astonishing claptrap that I’ve begun to think Barney Frank writes their spots.
Worst of all is the 3- to 5-minute string of commercials. What possible good could it do
a company – even with a great commercial – to pay for, say, the 4th spot in a string of abhorrent commercials? Much easier to just convert the advertising budget to Benjamins and set fire to a pile of them a few times a day.
Luckily, nearly all of us have clickers.