Death of a Sales Pitch

This week, I ask you all to look inside your hearts to see if you can spare a bit of love and sympathy for the poor, embattled ad executive.

No? Oh, come on, not even a teensy weensy bit?

Well, that doesn't surprise me, but it's going to come as yet another shock to the advertising industry. You see, there's this rumor going around that people may not be— gasp — paying attention to commercials on television!

“I believe that the 30-second commercial, which is the underpinning of the broadcast revenue model is — I'm not going to say dying — but quite ill,” said Sunni Boot, president of Zenith Optimedia Canada, in a recent Globe and Mail article.

Apparently broadcasters are especially miffed at TiVo technology, which allow users to zip past commercials without so much as looking at them, much less enduring them. Not to burst the advertising industry's bubble or anything, but TV viewers have been using technology to avoid commercials since the medium became popular. A quick review:

1963 — The Toilet: many viewers took advantage of minute-long commercials to go to the loo.

1974 — The Fridge: when commercials got shorter, viewers simply used the time to raid the refrigerator.

1985 — The Remote: the mute button becomes the most popular feature of the remote control. Mine was so well used that the button now says: “ute.”

1996 — The VCR: tape your favorite shows, watch them when your schedule permits, and fast forward through the commercials. Well, okay, fast forward, overshoot the mark, zip back, overshoot again, and see the last five seconds of the last commercial. But mostly avoid the commercials.

2005 — The Internet: download your favorite TV shows with ads already chopped out of them.

Networks have a right to be annoyed about people avoiding commercials — after all, it's advertising revenue that pays for the shows that people like to watch. However, broadcasters really only have themselves to blame. Instead of broadcasting commercials at sensible intervals and appropriate times, they've used this formula for advertising:

1) Assume your audience has the intelligence level of a kumquat.

2) Allow advertisers to create commercials that are so stupid that even kumquats would go “Oh come ON, already!”

3) Play these commercials 400 times an hour.

4) Repeat.

Okay, so maybe it's not 400 times an hour — but I've noticed that those Internet downloads of “hour long” television programs are only about 42 minutes with the commercials removed. Even if you only watch one program over a typical 10-year run, that's nearly three days of your life just watching commercials. Just think of how much quality reality TV programming you could watch instead! [Editor's note: Just think of the quality time you could spend reading the Bible.]

And I don't know about you, but I refuse to watch movies on television anymore. In order to pack forty minutes of advertising into a two-hour movie broadcast, you have to have one commercial every three minutes. This kind of ruins any drama or tension in the flick:

VADER: If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

LUKE: He told me enough! He told me you killed him.

VADER: No. I am your father.

COMMERCIAL: Is your toilet the biggest cleaning job in YOUR house? Try new Flushit! It cleans, it polishes, it's the best!

LUKE: No. No. That's not true! That's impossible!

VADER: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

LUKE: No! No! No!

COMMERCIAL: Do you suffer from the burning itch and pain of hemorrhoids? Suffer no longer! New GoodByeItch will help you work by the seat of your pants again!

Personally, I won't mourn the death of the 30-second ad spot. Indeed, I may be tempted to wish the same fate on pop-up windows on the Internet and the telemarketing industry. A little advertising goes a long way. It shouldn't interrupt your dinner or make you want to lose it.

P.S. This column brought to you by Flushit and GoodByeItch. Mention you saw them here, and get 20% off your next purchase!

(To read more of Chandra's work, visit

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