Sunday, September 21, 2014

2 ½ Commercials

Television remains addictive. In spite of tremendous competition from an array of sources ranging from the Internet to whatever device you happen to be carrying around in your hand 24/7, the power of TV programming cannot be denied.  And so it follows that advertising on this medium is a must for companies bent on moving product or services into a broader marketplace.

Incessant TV commercials impose a burden on our viewing pleasure, and certainly on our patience. While most of us would probably pay an annual fee to avoid them, the stumbling block would be an astronomical price tag for the blessing.  I know this sounds like heresy coming from a former Mad Man, but that's just the way it is. Everything in marketing is built around providing a platform from which to launch commercials. NBC anchor Brian Williams is a household hero (known to the two of us here at home as “Brinie”.) Even our idol falls short because he must make way for ads. “We'll take a break here” he intones after just 15 minutes reading from his teleprompter.  The thought crosses our minds “Geez, Brinie, where's the exhaustion, the “need to take a break” coming from? Of course this is all pretext leading into yet another batch of commercials.

Still there actually are some great TV commercials on the tube – many are evergreens. The Budweiser Clydesdale ads a case in point. Taking a tip from the TV show 2 & ½ Men, let me present 2 & ½ commercials presently honored in the Reilly Television Hall of Fame:

#1 is the AT&T Mobile commercials featuring the competent and friendly “supervisor” who talks about the value of multiple-user packages. Her name in real life is Milana Vayntrub. Milana is natural, her words believable.

#2 Progressive Insurance features memorable “Flo” as their rep steering viewers to the best deals by comparing her company's rates with others. Flo in real life is Stepanie Courtney who, like Milana, is an actress/comedian.

# ½ is the Geico gecko series accompanied by the wonderful voice of London-born actor Jake Wood.  The gecko is animated, not real-life like Milana and Stepanie, so he only scores ½.

There you have it. Television commercials can be entertaining and informative if they avoid overdoing it. Like strawberry shortcake – one helping is grand but having shortcake three meals a day for a month is, well you get it, far too much of a good thing. It's the same with great commercials.

Companies cannot afford not to advertise on television, but at the same time they must avoid irritating viewers, the ultimate purchasers. Let's hope more advertisers will be successful in creating a happy balance.

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