Sunday, July 04, 2004

Commercials Insult You

Tell me if this is familiar to you: "The Twenty! Entertainment Ignited!"

Oh wait, I'm sorry: "The 2wenty!"

If you watch a movie on one of Regal Cinemas 4000 screens nationwide, you may have seen the twenty. Sorry, 2wenty. It's a slickly produced aerial bombardment of TV-themed ads that play during the "twenty" minutes before the movie showtime. I used to think the old fashioned "unscramble this name: TMO HANSK" slide show was annoying. Now, I look back at it with warm nostalgia. So the 2wenty airs at top volume and prevents you from talking to your friends, fails to convince you to watch "The Grid", and then mercifully ends.

Here's where I really wanted to punch the 2wenty. At regular intervals, the 2wenty says "Don't go anywhere... the 2wenty! will be right back!"
And then you get a normal, non-TV-themed commercial. Say wha?

Ladies and gentlemen: a commercial just paused for a commercial break.

My good God. You know, I paid $9. Infomercials on TV at least are free. At least they don't pause for commercials, even though they are just one big commercial. What a sucker I am. Am I really so desperate to see Spiderman 2 that I'm willing to sit through commercials within commercials? And pay for the priviledge?

The insult of the 2wenty is not so much that it occasionally pauses for other ads, but that it tries to pass itself off as something more entertaining than a commercial. At the end of the 2wenty, this message plays: "We hope you enjoyed the 2wenty! If you missed any part of the 2wenty!, try to get to the theater early! The 2wenty! Entertainment ignited!"

"We hope you enjoyed the assrape! If you missed any part of the assrape, try to get to the rapist early! The assrape! Your sphincter igntied!"

Sit at home and watch some commercials, and keep a running count of how often your intelligence is slyly insulted. I'm going to do it right now. I'm going to turn on the TV and get insulted. Here we go.

Whoa. The Next Karate Kid with Hillary Swank. Let's move on. Okay, here's a commercial. Shermin Williams paint. yadda yadda...

Yes! Shermin Williams wants me to join them during their Great Paint celebration! Aha! A perfect example!

In any other context besides a TV commercial, the concept of a "Great Paint Celebration" is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever conceived. Think about it. "Hey Bob, you coming down to the GPC? I think they got some rides, $6 draft beer, and some kinda new paint-based candy!"

But no, your brain is so attuned to the unique logic of the universe of commercials, that when you get invited by a commercial to join them in a Great Paint celebration, nothing could be more natural. Of course there's a great paint celebration. Why wouldn't there be a great paint celebration? Sign me up for the GPC.

Here's what you do, in general. Think about what the commercial wants you to believe. Sure, the commercial wants you to go to Red Lobster. That's obvious. But how is it making its point? If it says that there will be Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster, think about what a Cheddar Bay Biscuit means. Is it a biscuit from Cheddar Bay? Bobbing carefree in the low tide until it was netted?

Well no, it's probably just a cheesey biscuit. But why throw the word bay in there? Why call the chicken "Dockside chicken"? How can you stick a seafoody adjective on land food? The sad answer is that it's all part of an effort to confuse you into thinking that there's some sort of seafood magic imbued in each menu item. Again, what would be completely preposterous in real life somehow manages to make total sense in a commercial.

Yesterday, I tried to argue that commercials no longer work. We've erected barriers. Today, I tried to offer several examples of how commercials insult you by letting you know exactly what they think of your intelligence. Tomorrow I'll offer a theory on the future of commercials. Hint: I think they're doomed.

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