Saturday, May 14, 2005

Commercials Between Commercials

Contributed by Norm Weathers

Fondly, I remember the days when the only commercial at the movies was the ad with the animated popcorn, enticing my appetite for exploded kernels. Now, in order to keep my ticket price below my monthly income, I suffer through extended versions of tired commercials that mock my inability to ignore them just to pretend the savings come back to me. Not only does this saddle me with the great fortune of even more time spent inside a darkened room with strangers, but it leaves the burning question: Shouldn’t my ticket come with a disclaimer that my eight bucks is simply a partial payment for the entertainment? Apparently I’m not the first one to say so, as one movie theater chain, Loews Cineplex Entertainment, is recognizing that listed film starting times may need to more accurately reflect reality. I wish my evening news would take the hint.

Lately it seems that more and more stories on news outlets such as ABC are offering up what functionally serves as an advertisement for a for-profit company, wrapped decoratively in a story about some wild transaction or event planned entirely for the purposes of generating that very story. What was once reserved for “spotlight-of-the-week” pieces has begun to sneak out of goofy features programming straight into the top-story “hard news” section. For example--- numerous news outlets such as MSNBC, WNBC, AP NEWS, and CNN have reported the story of crafty publicity stunts that the online Golden Palace Casino has successfully engineered by purchasing unusual items from Ebay, such as: a grilled cheese sandwich said to resemble the Virgin Mary; Britney Spears’ alleged pregnancy test; and advertising on the flesh of willing human billboards. The casino is a Canadian gambling site with a business address in Antigua, and consequently cannot do direct advertising in the U.S. By purchasing these auction items, they have gained national exposure worth many millions of advertising dollars in a location they can’t buy it. All for the price of a grilled cheese sandwich (notwithstanding its celebrity likeness).
Ironically, most of the news reports acknowledged in those stories that, by reporting on the story, they too were falling victim to this publicity strategy. When did reporting on how you’re getting duped by a publicity strategy—in which a corporation uses the reporting of a publicity strategy as the strategy itself--- become a legitimate news story? Isn’t this a self-feeding circular non-productive calorie waster?

So when do I get to sit through the evening news, tub of popcorn at the ready, without having to endure the advertising booby-trap the media gobbled up as a legit hard news story? What time does the REAL news begin? Maybe there will come a day that the media outlets take Loews Theatre’s lead and inform us that news actually begins at 6:12, after the fake news is done. At least that gives me some time to browse through Ebay for a salami sandwich that looks like Dan Rather! (Golden Palace—call me!)


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