Each year advertisers spend billions of dollars on television commercials. While some Americans watch them, others press the mute button when a commercial comes on. According to a "Business Week" article titled, "Television: Counting the Eyeballs," thousands of Americans are skipping commercials.
"By some estimates two-thirds of TV viewers cut the sound during commercials, channel-surf, or skip them alt because they are annoying or irrelevant," the article says.
A "Media Life Magazine" article by Kevin Downey says television advertisers are also bucking the first airing trend. The first ad airing gets the most views, or eyeballs, as Downey puts it. After that viewers are off to the bathroom or the refrigerator – bad news for advertisers. In fact, some industry experts think 50% of their advertising is wasted.
These trends are changing television commercials. "Coming soon: A Horror Show for TV Ads," another "Business Week" article, details some of these changes. Advertisers are looking for the programs and air times that give them the largest financial return. They are also using TiVo, an electronic system that tracks what viewers watch and when they change channels.
Some advertisers are beefing up commercials with flashy music, graphics, and unfortunately, misleading information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cites misleading practices in its article, "Toy Ads on TV." According to the FTC, television toy commercials may exaggerate performance, fail to say that special skills are required to use the toy, and show extra pieces that are not included. Toys may also require assembly, a discovery that makes parents groan.
But the viewing pubic – and that includes kids – is getting smarter. The Media Awareness Network Web site has a lesson plan for kids on evaluating commercials. The plan, "Looking at Food Advertising," asks kids to rate commercials that target them. Kids look for selling techniques: animation, filming tricks, music, bright colors, and celebrities. The plan asks kids to discuss the brand characters they like best and to write and perform their own jingles.
Adults and kids may learn from commercials. Perhaps television commercials should pass the Silent Movie Test before they are aired. When you take away the background music, catchy jingle, and sell copy – often a hard sell – many commercials are misleading. A recent commercial makes the point. Without sound, it looks like a dog food commercial. With sound, it is a flooring commercial. What a difference.
If people are watching commercials, but not listening to them, it makes sense to create commercials that sell without sound. Why were silent movies popular? The medium was new and the story lines were simple – maiden rescued, thieves caught, child saved. Scene changes and plot twists were explained with a few sentences. Television commercials that pass the Silent Movie Test may attract more notice. One image, color, or word could make a viewer buy the product.
Copyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson