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Cable TV culture shock: What happens when you reunite with commercials after 10 years

When I was nine years old, my mother put a strict time limit on the amount of television my brothers and I were allowed to watch. You can imagine one hour a day was difficult to divide between six siblings, all of whom were at different ages and interested in different shows. As the second-youngest, my Pokémon episode was definitely not as important as my older sister’s more sophisticated half-hour of Friends.

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By Ashley Mussbacher (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 26, 2014

Signing up for a bundled cable package to save money is possibly one of the worst decisions I’ve made so far this year.

When I was nine years old, my mother put a strict time limit on the amount of television my brothers and I were allowed to watch. You can imagine one hour a day was difficult to divide between six siblings, all of whom were at different ages and interested in different shows. As the second-youngest, my Pokémon episode was definitely not as important as my older sister’s more sophisticated half-hour of Friends. So, I used to occupy myself with activities other than television.

My life without television was a pretty peaceful one. I never walked around with commercial jingles stuck in my head. I never sat through a restaurant ad that made me drool over sizzling lobster dishes and steak. Nor did I ever turn the television on for white noise, only to realize I had been standing in the living room, zoned out with a dripping dishcloth in one hand and a spoon in the other.

Whenever I heard people talk about these experiences, I couldn’t relate.

The first time I turned on the TV after Shaw set up the box, cats came up on the screen. It was an adoption channel featuring furry feline pets. And I remember thinking, this is just like the internet.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I can’t remember if commercials were always as bad as they are now. By bad I mean sexist, stereotypical, prejudiced, patronizing, and at some points downright insulting. A few examples will emphasize my point here.

First there’s the ad for bacon. While bacon has always been a mealtime favourite, I would’ve  expected to see this ad in the 1950s. It’s set in a kitchen, and a woman makes two kinds of meals for her classic salt-and-pepper family; with and without bacon.

Now the message behind the scene is clear: if you cook with bacon, your good-for-nothing husband and children will help you set the table and do the household chores. I think the only thing missing in this ad is the woman’s apron, and a mushroom cloud rising through the window in the background. I thought this was a contemporary audience?

Then there are those commercials that make use of animated characters and catchy jingles. While this is a brilliant marketing scheme, it only works if the jingles are catchy, not rip-your-ears-off annoying, and the characters are memorable. At first glance you’d think these ads are aimed at children, but that’s not necessarily true.

Two cars race down a speedway, zig-zagging, and drifting around corners in the city. They come to a stop before a red carpet and the paparazzi, and the drivers get out of the cars. They are animated mice in suits. My first reaction was to switch off the television. I can’t even remember the model of vehicle they were trying to sell, because I was so distracted by horribly animated mice. Marketing fail.

It leaves me wondering if people are actually convinced by these ads. I find these commercials insulting to my intelligence. What happened to informative ads that actually gave vehicle details or the health benefits (if any) of eating bacon?

Instead, television commercials have been dumbed down drastically. Are any of them actually succeeding in sales, or are we just a society that mocks their tasteless marketing schemes?

Maybe commercials have always been this way, and I’m the one who’s changed. But one thing’s for sure: they’re not going to make money off me.

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