Generational change

People of my generation, who were children watching television in the 1960s and 1970s, had to sit through commercials impatiently. Commercials were the price we paid to watch a show. Commercials interrupted our viewing pleasure; they were to be tolerated, endured, mocked, groaned at, avoided by leaving the room.

We can flip past the ads in magazines and newspapers, choosing how much time we spend on them, controlling the flow. Television and radio, however, lock us into their time frame; we are captured audiences.

How many of us, then, grew up with a visceral distaste for advertising because of this sense of being trapped in the linear structure of television commercial “breaks”?

My daughter and her generation, in contrast, are having a different experience. She never watches linear TV. She timeshifts  programs on the Tivo, skipping the commercials. She watches programs on network websites; she switches to Facebook on a different browser tab when the (fewer) commercials run. When young, she watched home videos and PBS programs. She’s not used to interrupted viewing.

How many of her generation will develop a different attitude toward commercials? Mike Masnick argues that advertising is content, and that advertisers need to attract viewers by making interesting content. How will commercials evolve to attract my daughter’s attention now that they can no longer depend on having her captured attention through linear television?

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One thought on “Generational change

  1. Belatedly: I really liked commercials. Part of it, of course, was simple greed: I wanted whatever was being advertised, and I enjoyed wanting whatever was being advertised. But I just liked watching the ads, I liked the idiom, I liked jingles, I liked looking at those foreign adland families and kitchens, I liked the Samsonite chimps, I just liked it. And if I had reason not to keep on lolling through the commercials, it was intermission.

    I worked in advertising for a while in my 20s, and found that the detestable part wasn’t the um creative end, which is as close to a native art form as we get, but the way that advertising works by preying on people who don’t know who they are. “Here’s you, O confused chump,” says the ad, “and your kind of person accessorizes with this car, this grill, this vacation.” And the chumps say, “Well, I guess that is me. Wrap it up.”

    I used to get a lot more exercised about that, because I assumed that if the chumps were only left alone, they’d figure out who they were and stop throwing away money. Twenty years’ more living has convinced me I was wrong — that confused adults are unlikely to figure out who they are, and are just as pleased to have someone else tell them so they know what breakfast cereal to eat and who to vote for. Ob-la-di. I marvel at the longevity of the GEICO gecko.

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