Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beware Your Pocketbook

Television advertising can be pretty clever. From children to romance, including food and humor, celebrities and luxury, ads are meant to catch and keep our attention. Commercials chase our wallets, and they chase them well.

Since many television viewers use commercials as a break from TV to do chores, use the restroom, or get a little homework done, commercial writers have created an art form in advertising in their pursuit for their viewer's attention, loyalty and pocketbook. Some ads are straight forward, while some make us think a little deeper, until the very end.

In the Raymond Williams reading, "The Forms of Television", he reminds us that, not only do advertisements organize television and radio production, but they help to finance both venues (Williams, pg. 66). This being the case, advertisers and network producers are both motivated to keep our eyes on the screen, and keep our heartstrings taut so as to convince us to buy the products, thereby keeping them in business. As advertising progressed, commercials became part of the flow of the programming lineup. It is interesting to note what audience is being targeted through commercials, as breakfast cereals and toys are endorsed during children's programs, and products such as Geritol are promoted during dramas and documentary type programs.

Williams focuses on four specific uses for advertising:

1) "...dramatized situations...governing [a] response - to pain, to anxiety, to the need to enhance attractiveness or pleasure, is sharply specialized to a brand product." Typically cosmetics, food or medications are used.
2) "entertainment techniques, current styles of singing and dancing."
3) "picture-sequences of sport, leisure and travel within which the product the product is inserted."
4) "the use of television performers, as themselves or in their character parts, to recommend products, or to be shown using them."

A trip down memory lane might prove entertaining, as well as informative in understanding how writers have used these techniques to attempt to keep our eyes on the TV, and inspire our shopping trips

The 1970s introduced the nation to Mikey. This ad was a huge success. It seemed that everyone knew who "Mikey" was.

This "dramatized situation" uses food and children to attract our attention. Kids have natural appeal, and in this instance, if Mikey liked Life cereal, the viewers would hopefully be tempted to try it, too. Cute, innocent(?) faces were used to keep viewers in their seats during this commercial break. This may have been the most popular ad in its time, but the next commercial was a big contender. In its day, this hamburger was pretty tempting, and the jingle was a big hit. People could be heard singing this song in public with no hesitation.

In this "dramatized situation" the food was very tempting. McDonald's used our senses, but also their numbers, as a means of persuasion. Their tactic was the fact that the burger looked so good, the jingle was catchy and easy to sing, and millions of hamburgers were sold, so who wouldn't want to part of this crusade and buy a Big Mac?  In my opinion, the burger was too big, and I didn't care for the "special sauce", but they won my 2 bucks at least once.

Moving on to the next decade, the Doublemint Twins were also very well known. Leisure and travel were the techniques used in this ad. No specific mention to travel is made, but the scene elicits a vacation by the beach.

I once heard a man tell his audience that if you want to sell a product, the best way to do is with either a horse, or a woman, because horses and women sell. It was true for Wrigley's gum. These women were attractive and the desirable. Note the men in the commercial that couldn't keep their eyes of the girls. The fact that the women were identical twins was a bonus point of interest, again, to keep viewers in their seats, and if those beautiful women chose Wrigley's Doublemint gum, then anyone watching would certainly be persuaded to buy Doublemint gum as well. Every girl knew that if she chewed Wrigley's she would be as pretty and desirable as the girls in green!

Fast forward to the present and it seems that fame sells. Celebritydom encompasses more than just the character at hand. Ordinary people like to be associated with the famous. If Danny Devito would endorse Direct TV, wouldn't you make the switch?

My last advertisement incorporates two of the above mentioned techniques, celebrities and current styles.

...and lastly, current styles grab the attention of the younger generations. This ad incorporates two of the above mentioned techniques, style and fame. Celebrities entice many to pull out their credit cards. This commercial would have likely caught viewer's attention without mentioning the name of the celebrity, but the girls on this bus add a dimension of fun to the ad that producers are hoping will entice teenagers to spend their allowance.

Advertisers use many tactics to keep the viewer's attention during commercial breaks, and the art form is getting more and more impressive, unique and clever as time goes on. As Williams stated "...advertisements in unsponsored programmes...has had...extraordinary effects on television as a sequencial experience.

1) What is your all time favorite commercial and why?
2) In what ways can advertising have a more positive effect on the public?

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