Hey Advertisers: We’re hiding from you for a reason

Linda over at Rangewriter wrote an insightful post titled What is the deal with women’s nipples? where she looked at, among other things, T.V.’s inconsistent censorship of different parts of human anatomy.  It’s an interesting read.  The following thread began on topic but eventually wandered off into rants about commercials…which caught my attention because I totally share their sentiment.  It seems pretty much all of us loathe commercials.  In fact, we dislike them so much that we develop strategies and often purchase/rent expensive hardware just to avoid them.  But of course advertisers know this and are growing ever more cunning in their attempts to trap us into watching them anyway.

In a way it’s amusing.  Our viewing behavior reminds me of octopuses.  Linda also recently tipped me off to a fascinating article titled Deep Intellect which explores the amazing intelligence of these creatures and how recent discoveries are causing scientists to rethink what they know about intelligence in general.  At one point the author describes how octopuses in a research center resisted being taken out of their tanks to be tested in a maze.

“Some octopuses did not like being removed from their tanks. They would hide. They would squeeze into a corner where they couldn’t be pried out. They would hold on to some object with their arms and not let go.

Some would let themselves be captured, only to use the net as a trampoline. They’d leap off the mesh and onto the floor—and then run for it. Yes, run. “You’d chase them under the tank, back and forth, like you were chasing a cat,” Warburton said. “It’s so weird!” “

When I think about how hard we try to escape the commercials that advertisers try and trap us with, I can’t help but think of the octopuses.  We’ve been quite industrious and creative in our attempts.  We started by going off to other rooms during breaks but advertisers just turned up the volume on commercials.  Then someone invented the mute button.  Then someone went one better and invented TiVo so we could first record and then fast forward right through the ads.  Everyone at some point uses commercial breaks to just go off and do other things.  In fact, this behavior is so well known it’s taken for granted.  At a recent Weight Watchers meeting, the handout (distributed to WW meetings nationwide) suggested using commercials to get up and do sit-ups, speed walk around the house, jump rope, or otherwise exercise.  Avoidance of commercials has become institutionalized.

The predator/prey relationship that’s developed with modern advertising (actually, it’s starting to feel a bit like stalking) seems short sighted to me.  Why don’t advertisers, rather than trying to hunt us down and pin our eyelids open, just make better commercials?  Something that people want to watch?  We all know they can do it.  There are some amazing commercials out there, ads we enjoy because they educate/enlighten/move/entertain us.  For example, the commercials made for the Super Bowl each year have become one of the highlights of the game…they even have their own spin-off show.

Advertisers need to realize that it’s not that we don’t want to watch commercials, it’s that we don’t want to watch boring commercials.  They’re perfectly capable of giving us something valuable in return for our attention…a fair and reasonable exchange which most people could get behind.  And if they did I imagine it would go a long way towards developing some brand loyalty instead of making us want to avoid a company as much as we want to escape their annoying ads.

Here are a couple of my personal favorites, commercials that I would not only willingly watch during a break in any TV show, I would (and did) hunt them down on the internet to watch again afterwards of my own volition.  (Not to mention feature them in a blog post.)

First, this thought provoking commercial from Carlsberg Beer:  The Bikers

Second, a mythically humorous one from Toyota: Shoot it!

Third, pure fantasy from James Boag’s Draught:  Pure Waters  (Beer makers as a group seem to already understand what I’m talking about.)

Fourth, some amazing innovative design from Audi:  Audi RS6

And then of course, there is my personal all time favorite, this inspirational commercial from Pantene:  The Violinist

This, of course, is only a tiny example of the excellence our advertisers are capable of. The Clio Awards are given each year for the best in advertising in all forms of media, the world over.  You can see some of the other excellent commercials that have won in previous years in this small sample on AEF, the Advertising Educational Foundation.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

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3 responses

  1. Great post. I admire your way of thinking. I generally do what everyone else does: avoiding, i.e. taping and fast-forwarding. Your call for better quality of adverts might just be the solution!
    However, there is still the small flaw of personal taste. What appeals to one person might be dull for another. The AUDI spot above is a great example. While I can appreciate the artistic effort, the message is kinda lost on me and I find it too boring to want to watch it again.
    Similar with the Pantene spot. Yes, it is a lovely (if somewhat long) ad but what does her hair have to do with her brilliance as a person and violinist. So just because I can identify with her as a character I still won’t buy the product.

    • It’s true…no one could make a commercial that would appeal to everyone, and advertisers do have to target particular demographics. But there’s still plenty of room for excellence, and I personally wouldn’t resent even the ones I’m not interested in if they at least showed a little effort. 🙂

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