Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crappy Commercials

I have moved on and so have my posts.

Thanks for visiting.


Blogger Nick said...

Jafo, I have recently engaged in some correspondence about this ad and others. Rather than repeat myself, I think I'll just copy them here, with your permission.

Nick Swift
St. Catharines

--- Source message ---
From: (Nick Swift)
Sent: 10/12/2008 22:21:43
Subject: Re^2: [Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association] New Comment Posted to 'When Does Innovation Become Irritation?'


Thanks for your reply. Yes, that would be alright with me (if you want to publish an abbreviated version of my offering, and thank you for offering to do so). My crucial point is that the provocation, irritation, obnoxiousness, pain, whatever you want to call it, is inflicted intentionally. That does indeed make it torture, and anyone who thinks I'm wrong can look the word up. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary specifies "severe" pain, but "severe" is not an inappropriate word when you add the aspect of extreme repetitiousness and surprise, in the sense that you don't get a warning that one of these commercials is going to come on, and thus can't avoid (at least) the beginning of them.) If anyone doesn't understand my point about the intention, they haven't grasped why I am protesting it -- it is this very thing that is used to (as I say in my email) obtain, maintain and manipulate the listener's attention. There are lots of commercials that lots of people find obnoxious for all kinds of reasons, but their annoying aspect is, as it were, a byproduct of the advertiser's attempt to be something else: usually, entertaining. As such, they are completely different from what I am talking about, which seems to be a case of advertisers abandoning any hope of being creative, and deciding to be destructive instead. Anyone who isn't alarmed by that should be.



--- Source message ---
From: "Sandra Singer"
Sent: 10/12/2008 21:39:00
Subject: RE: [Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association] New Comment Posted to 'When Does Innovation Become Irritation?'

Nick - you've submitted a post in ernest, hence, this reponse. We can publish in-part some of your comments, but not your personal corresponences with other organizations. We also avoid singling out a specific company with a grievance. If you would like to express your opinion about advertising commercials - that is reasonable, and perhaps it might insitgate further opinions. If you would like me to abbreviate your post, I can do this for you upon your reply.

S. Singer/CMA

From: (Nick Swift)
Sent: Wed 12/10/2008 12:56 PM
Subject: [Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association] New Comment Posted to 'When Does Innovation Become Irritation?'
An unapproved comment has been posted on your blog Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association, for entry #382 (When Does Innovation Become Irritation?). You need to approve this comment before it will appear on your site.

IP Address:
Name: Nick Swift
Email Address:

Visual pollution is better than auditory pollution because you can, at
least, close your eyes. When the medium is sound, there's no escape. I
recently wrote some emails (see below).

Dear Canadian Institutes of Health Research,

Please find below an email I sent to the (Canadian) Institute of
Communication Agencies. I have not received a reply. Since I sent it, I
have been told by Teisha Gaylard, Director of Policy at the CBSC (Canadian
Broadcasting Standards Council), that they, like ASC (Advertising Standards
Canada), are concerned only with "content," and "We unfortunately can be of
no further assistance in this matter."

It seems to me that this issue has clear mental health dimensions, and
hence I am forwarding it to you for your consideration.

It may turn out that it is only in the human rights context that Canadians
may be said to have a right to not be subjected to something that our
government and public opinion condemn when it happens in a Syrian or
Iranian jail -- the difference is only one of degree -- but, if that is
true, it surely represents a failure in the context of protecting and
maintaining Canadians' right to be (mentally) healthy.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Swift
St. Catharines

--- Source message ---
Sent: 02/12/2008 14:01:10
Subject: Torture as an advertising method

Dear Institute of Communication Agencies,

I write to you as a member of the public, and a watcher of television and a
listener to commercial radio.

My concern is the increasingly common attitude on the part of advertisers
that it is acceptable to gain and maintain, and manipulate, the attention
of the public by using techniques that amount to the infliction of pain.
In both radio commercials and one (that I am aware of) current television
commercial, listeners are subjected to material not only that no sane
person could be expected to find other than objectionable, but that the
advertisers quite blatantly expect them to find objectionable, and are
counting on that reaction as part of their psychological method.

I have in the past complained to the Canadian Broadcasting Standards
Council about commercials that I have heard on one Toronto news radio
station in particular. They have always replied by explaining that they
deal with the broadcaster, and Advertising Standards Canada deals with the
advertiser. In each case I have then received an email from ASC explaining
that they apply the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, and that it
applies only to content, and does not address the issue of what might be
called techniques of advertising or what they called in their most recent
email to me "standards of taste," and that the latter are "subjective." I
am pleased to say that, presumably because of the response of the
broadcaster to the action of the CBSC, to the best of my knowledge those
commercials were discontinued. At least, I stopped hearing them.

In the case of the television commercial, it is still being broadcast.

The crucial issue here is that it is not a matter of taste. These
commercials are unequivocally torturous.

1. A spoken sales pitch is delivered simultaneously to the sound of
someone tap dancing, or the sound of someone whistling tunelessly, or other
sounds that no one in his or her right mind would enjoy hearing. The
listener is forced to focus on the sales pitch as the only means (short of
tuning to another station or turning off the radio) available by which to
escape the torture of listening to the objectionable noise.

2. A man......... speaks......... like this, with long........... pauses
in places where............ they would not naturally occur. He is
describing the unpleasant aspect of having a slow Internet connection, in
the hope of persuading you to sign up with a company that ostensibly offers
a better one. This is like going up to a complete stranger, poking him in
the eye with a stick, and saying, "That hurt, didn't it? Want to buy some

3. The most recent manifestation of the "Pay attention to your pension"
radio commercial. These were bearable when the phrase was repeated
occasionally throughout the course of a sales pitch delivered in an
otherwise more or less normal mode of speech. Then some genius had the
idea of doing the equivalent of whacking the listener across the head with
a two-by-four plank: he begins very quietly, saying, "Pay attention."
Then there is a long pause, and he says it again, more loudly and more
urgently. Then there is another long pause, and he says it yet again,
still more loudly and with still more outrageously presumptuous urgency.
For anyone to undertake such an approach in person would be to endanger his
life in terms of the reaction it would be likely to provoke.

But that is the point, isn't it? He is getting our attention. The problem
is that he is doing it in a way that is utterly unacceptable.

Where did the idea come from that it is alright to do this?

The television commercial, which still airs, is the one for Greypower auto
insurance, and that grabs the viewer's attention -- until they have reached
the remote and the mute button -- using the sound of a car horn beeping and
the woman driver leaning out of the window and yelling at the driver in
front of her, "Come on, already! Let's go!" Then a man comes on and says,
"You don't drive like her. Why should you have to pay the same insurance
rates as her?"

I have made a point of speaking to as many people as I can about this
commercial, and asking their opinion of it, and without exception they find
it annoying.

The idea that it is a matter of "taste" is utterly absurd. "Taste" has
nothing to do with it. Indeed, these commercials actually depend for their
impact on the fact that no one likes them.

And that means they are quite literally using torture to try and sell us

I want to know why it is allowed, and what it will take to stop them.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Swift
St. Catharines

January 5, 2009 at 1:15 p.m.  
Blogger Jafo said...

Thanks for the post Nick. I have always wondered why companies cannot just explain their product/service in a straight foreward manner without assaulting our senses or intelligence. I would be more inclined to look favourably on a company that conducted business in this manner than on one that continually grated on my nerves.

January 5, 2009 at 3:05 p.m.  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

free counters

Jafos Journal - Blogged