About six months ago Drew and I cancelled our cable subscription. We’ve been watching our favourite television shows on our laptop.
Losing commercial breaks and all of the stuff advertisers want us to think we need was refreshing. I wasn’t expecting it to affect me as much as it did and does because when we had cable we rarely if ever paid attention to commercials. That time was usually spent by going to the kitchen for another snack or finishing up a quick chore.
Yet when we cut commercials out of our television habits I slowly noticed that I was less and less interested in new stuff just for the sake of having it. I’m happier to wear things out or use them up now. Even though I’ve never been the type of person to, say, buy a new wardrobe every year I did grow tired of what I owned more quickly than I do now.
And then I began to notice something creeping onto the foregrounds and backgrounds of some of my favourite shows:
A few characters gather together for a meal. Rather than sipping a cold drink from a glass tumbler they now drink name-brand juice or fortified water whose labels just happen to be in view of the camera.
They haven’t written what they are drinking into the dialogue (so far…) but until I train my eyes to only read on command I can’t help but know their beverages of choice.
Is this the new face of advertising?
If it is there is at least one advantage: the show doesn’t have to take a break to flash a product at us.
But every time it happens I’m momentarily jarred out of the world that each television show creates. When I watch a program I buy into certain assumptions about the way TV-land works:
- Vampires were born to mope.
- Female superheroes fight better in skimpy clothing.
- Women who wander into dark alley ambushes need a man to rescue them.
- If two people despise one other the first time they meet it means they are destined to fall in love.
Sometimes these assumptions are turned on their heads (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer). At other times they are not (see also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
To this list I’d also add:
- TV-land packaged food is manufactured by imaginary companies.
Part of the allure of fictional stories is the promise of escaping into another world for a little while. Product placement ruins this aspect of it for me.
The question is, in what other ways could products be marketed to us if fewer and fewer people are watching commercials?
What do you think?