Nobody Watches TV Commercials Ever

My sister knows the jingle or slogan to every single commercial I have ever seen growing up. Whether it be slogans like McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It,” Subway’s “Eat Fresh,” Geico’s “15 minutes” or her personal favorite, the Perfection Game Song, which she can probably sing forward and backward, she knows them all.

It may be because of all the TV we watched as 1990s kids or the ability to annoy our parents with stupid questions, but commercials have always been a large part of our television lives. Recently, however, that trend has stopped. Saturday morning cartoons have been taken over by DVR usage and children and adults alike are flipping through what now seem to be useless television ads.

The problem seems to lie with how people view ads today: long, unnecessary and downright annoying. Before, the ads added to the experience of television. Saturday mornings were filled with sugar-induced hyperactivity and cartoons with commercials that could not simply be fast-forwarded through.

Nowadays, any child knows how to work the DVR, can watch their cartoons anytime of the day and easily skip the commercials. The only time commercials seem to be useful is during the Super Bowl or if people are unlucky enough not to have a DVR to skip over them.

So what does this mean for the future of television advertising? In reality, the days of TV commercials are numbered. Many people now use some form of DVR to watch their shows, and those who do not switch channels during the commercials and wait for the program to come back.

But advertising itself has not died. With so many shows being streamed through the Internet on sites like Hulu, Netflix and cable companies like CBA, NBC and ABC, Internet advertising has grown even more popular.

Many people associate Internet advertising with annoying pop ups that show when you click on certain sites. However, many popular streaming sites rely on their advertisements to get any sort of revenue at all. At first, sites like Hulu offered very few commercials, something that watchers found more appealing compared to normal television. But as time has passed and the need for server space has increased, so have the commercials; after all, there is no such thing as a free website.

Lucky for many online video watchers, a shift in the type of commercials being shown has occurred. In hopes of reaching out to viewers, people are able to “like” or “dislike” certain ads to make them appear less often. Now ads can be specific to the point where they can show your name and even be interactive. Johnnie Walker online commercials had a “gift translator” with their ads on Hulu so viewers could discover what their gifts were really saying to the receiver.

For some, even these short commercial breaks (about a fifth of what they would be on television) are too long and many have turned to other sites that upload lower quality videos without commercials, which is my personal choice for watching shows that Hulu no longer streams.

With so many people turning away from the small commercial breaks, the advertising market has had to find new and more creative ways to reach the public. This has brought a new wave of viral marketing that could replace television advertising all together.

For anyone who is not familiar with the term, viral marketing refers to the new usage of social networking sites to spread advertising buzzwords like a virus — hence the name. One notable example is the competition created by Six Flags pitting rides against each other while having Facebook users vote in their favorites. The consumer is still being reached, but they do not even know that these are advertisements in disguise.

Using blogs, status updates and video clips, information can spread across the Internet without commercials and no longer have a negative connotation.

This new marketing trend shifts the consumer away from the television and onto the computer, useful because Generations Y and Z are spending more and more time online for school and leisure which has led us to become the first digital generation.

I’ll always have fond childhood memories of watching, and even enjoying, television commercials; but in this present situation, advertising through television is all but dead. However, there is one ray of light shining from the new advances of viral marketing that keeps the hope alive for advertisers — the public can still be reached through the Internet.

Sara Naor is a first-year film and media studies major. She can be reached at snaor@uci.edu.