CBS head honcho Les Moonves has recently come out against Dish Network and their mean ole’ commercial skipping Hopper DVR. As a lover of television shows and hater of anything that interferes with my uninterrupted viewing of them, I should totally be on Dish’s side, but you know what? I’m not. I’m on Moonves on this one or rather I support the protection of one of media’s most unfairly maligned and rapidly endangered art forms-the television commercial.
Look I know that many if not most commercials are inane, head scratching, sometimes insulting wastes of time, money, energy, and space but there are those that aren’t, those that rise above the muck- as being really, really good or so bad they’re good- to live on past those thirty seconds onscreen to forever become part of our pop culture zeitgeist.
We wouldn’t have ‘Where’s the Beef?’ or the innocently naughty Brooke Shields cooing ‘Nobody comes between me and my Calvins’ if we’d have ad skipping technology available. Would anyone even know the words to the ‘Oscar Meyer Bologna’ song? ‘I Feel Like Chicken Tonight?’ The McDonalds ‘Big Mac’ song? Those were staples of my elementary school playground song challenges and earned me many cool points. The Oscar Meyer song had the added benefit of being educational as I never failed to know how to properly spell bologna.
Okay, maybe the above examples are a little too old school to appeal to you. (I am, afterall, a child of the 80s). So how would you feel if you never had the pleasure of discovering Isaiah Mustafa (aka The Hot Old Spice Guy) making you really consider buying Old Spice shower gel? The weirdly adorable talking E-trade baby? All those awesome early 2000s Apple iPod silhouette commercials? Would insurance companies even have bothered to take it to the next level in what has turned out to be an awesome three way insurance commercial war between Flo from Progressive the Geico gecko and the All State tag team of Mayhem and President David Palmer? Tell me you don’t love the latest Geico commercial with the two kids warily playing with their pet possum and cannot wait to see what crazy situation Mayhem finds himself in next.
And then sometimes commercials go that extra mile by giving you more than a good punchline, they give you new music! Microsoft’s Internet Explorer commercials featuring Alex Clare’s catchy, funky ‘Too Close’ earned a place on my iPod. I discovered the awesomeness of Cat Power through her thirty-second snippet cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ for a 2008 car commercial for the Lincoln MKS (and yes, I remembered all of that without looking it up!). (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_JGDO3X87g)
What’s that you say? We can find all these commercials online and through viral campaigns on Facebook (or some other social media). Yeah, you could, but there is nothing like the emotional shift of watching a scene on CSI with the crew discovering a bloated, bloodied body, then cut to black, and then suddenly have a trippy Fancy Feast cat commercial launch you into the land of warm fuzzies. There’s something about the thrill of discovery with commercials while watching television that can’t be matched online.
I get the current societal regime is all time efficiency, but commercials are not the enemy! Your inability to schedule your day better should not be taken out on them. They are as integral a part of pop culture as television, film, and music, and books and they do not deserve to be fast-forwarded, skipped, or ‘hopped’ completely out of existence. They have their place and purpose. To make us laugh, cry, find new products, find new music, new catch-phrases or just make us reach out to text someone ‘Did you see that stupid Skittles commercial with the girl kissing a walrus?’
So I ask you to give your fast-forward button on your remote a rest every once and a while and save a commercial. It may not end up being the most entertaining thirty seconds of your day, but you can feel good about doing a good deed for the day and making a contribution towards saving the pop culture arts.
Dean Winters a.k.a “Mayhem”