Desperate Admen & The Cro-Magnavox Man
The following article appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal:
We were all so struck by it, we all had to comment.
Desperate Admen – by Jeff Hirsch
It seems that digital recorders, along with a general disregard for ads in general, have sent viewership of commercials and advertising revenues plummeting. “They don’t catch people’s attention that much anymore,” according to a Japanese TV producer quoted in the piece.
The solution? Let’s make ads for people to watch ads!
We’ve mused about “creative bankruptcy” before, but not even Saturday Night Live could come up with something so absurd. Stranger than fiction, if you ask me.
The ever so brilliant reasoning: Let’s take something that’s broken and try to fix it with something that’s broken. And let’s tell our targets, both the companies that may potentially run ads and the people who will ultimately view them, that the medium is in its death throes.
It’s the ultimate irony. If there’s any hope to revive television commercial viewership, it’s got to be done through some type of under-the-radar buzz campaign. We already know the ads aren’t working.
Truly, this fits nicely under Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result.”
And the thought of generations connecting because of a TV ad? Are you kidding me?!
Cro-Magnavox Man – by Michael Laskin
50,000 BC – 1948 AD: The Age of Darkness
During this long dark period, The Cro-Magnavox Man had to amuse and educate himself via live interaction with others of his species. This was often accomplished in a face-to-face manner, around fires, or in what later became known as bars or taverns. Very little was accomplished in this long era, but there are writings that suggest it was not without amusement or accomplishments. There are no known survivors of this era.
1948 AD – 1960 AD: The Age of Discovery
A small, grainy, projected black-and-white image in people’s living rooms brought a sense of community and awe to the Cro-Magnavox Man. He and the other
hunter-gatherers (and their families and neighbors) would congregate around wooden pieces of furniture that housed this magical glowing device. All moving images would amuse and delight them: clowns, jugglers, chimps. singers, fire-eaters, and pretty women. They would often go to the bathroom or consume pretzels during the times when something that they called “commercials” were shown. This was truly the Age of Discovery for the Cro-Magnavox Man.
1960 AD – 1969 AD: The Age of Wonder
Some of the surviving Cro-Magnavox men refer to this hallowed period as The Age of Wonder, (also referred to by many as the “good old days).” This was the era when this magical device became known by its modern name: television. It achieved wondrous things: a televised presidential debate, the rise of Walter Cronkite, Dean Martin, Rod Serling, the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Red Skelton, and the landing of other Cro-Magnavox men on the moon! Truly for those fortunate enough to have lived in this golden time, The Age of Wonder hardly does it justice. The Cro-Magnavox men were enraptured by television and their buying habits were greatly influenced by the increasing number of commercials shown in this era – although bathroom and pretzel breaks were still documented.
1969 AD – 1984: The Beginning of Disillusionment
This era is marked by the beginning of the Cro-Magnavox Man’s doubts and fears about the world around him. He witnessed a horrible war on television every night. He saw hostages taken in other parts of the world. He learned that he might have something horrible called. “ring around the collar.” Grave doubts about the wonders of our world took hold in this era. Is your laundry as white as your neighbors? Is it really true that “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should?” Where there was once astonishment, there was now fear. Where there was once “Father Knows Best”, there was now Archie Bunker. In 1980 AD a program called “The Cosby Show” brought a brief respite to this slow unraveling.
1984 AD – 2000 AD: The End Is Near
This era in television is characterized by the continuing disenchantment of the Cro-Magnavox Man. The ascent of a new format called MTV staved off this collapse for a while – playing upon Cro-Magnavox Man’s increasingly short attention span. (the repetitive messages his brain processed over the previous 40 years had left him with a diminished ability to process long in-depth messages).
However, near the end of this time, new messaging systems came into place that forever changed Cro-Magnavox’s interface with the world around him: the internet and Tivo. Suddenly he didn’t have to worry about “ring around the collar.” In fact, he didn’t have to hear any of those messages at all if he chose not to. And he didn’t have to be reminded that there was a Labor Day Sale somewhere he might miss. He could choose where and when he wanted to be spoken to. This liberating revelation freed the Cro-Magnavox Man to enjoy other pursuits. His enslavement to the “messaging masters” was nearing an end. And the Cro-Magnavox men (and women) who made those commercials for television were facing a time of great challenges. It was their Age of Downsizing.
2000 AD – present day
Many of the patterns from the previous era are still in place and, in fact, growing more prevalent. The future of Cro-Magnavox Man remains in a constant state of flux. He now receives commercial messages in many varied and different modes. There are even theorists that feel he may revert back to face-to-face interaction with others of his species. The makers of the television commercials can only try to replicate their previous dominance, but it seems they may be doomed to extinction. Only time will tell.