6 Bizarre Ways Companies Subliminally Screw With Stuff On TV
With all of the quality shows currently on the air, the common consensus is we're living in a Golden Age of television, despite the fact that both TV sales and cable subscriptions have been steadily plummeting like Jack Nicholson at the end of Batman. The reason? Streaming is slowly taking over.
This means viewers are becoming even more adverse to watching commercials than ever before, since the world is full of services that will provide the same content without them (not always legally). This has created a battle in which broadcast TV is having to fight for ways to get more advertisements into your eyeballs, whether you like it or not. And things are starting to get weird. As we speak, they are ...
Speeding Up Old Shows To Cram In More Ads
Even in a world of Netflix and, you know, torrents, about 90 percent of our TV viewing is still done via regular old broadcasts. So, most of the time when we're watching reruns of our favorite episodes of Frasier or Seinfeld, we're watching them in syndication on TBS or some local Fox affiliate. Did you notice that something seems ... a little off?
It might be because channels have begun airing reruns of popular old shows on fast-forward, just to cram more commercials into their allotted time slots. Oh, sure, they're not running them at double speed so that Ross and Rachel are zipping around their apartment, having a wacky, high-pitched chipmunk argument about their wedding. You would notice that. No, this is more subtle -- someone compared the original broadcast airing with the syndicated rerun of the same Seinfeld episode and found that the latter has been sped up by about 7 percent.
That may not sound like a lot, and it is, in fact, barely noticeable to the casual viewer, but it effectively shortens a 25-minute sitcom episode to just 22 minutes. On paper, this actually makes sense because commercial breaks have progressively been getting longer -- commercial breaks on cable are between one and two minutes longer than they were just a few years ago. The only way that channels such as TBS can accommodate the longer commercial breaks that have since become the industry standard is either cutting actual scenes or making everybody talk just a little bit faster. Or, you know, just making less money.
So, the comic timing is just a little off, the awkward pauses are just a little shorter, and everybody is moving at a pace that suggests they're on just a tiny amount of methamphetamine.
Making Ads DVR-Proof
Thanks to DVR devices such as TiVo, you can now watch any show on television and fast-forward through every commercial break. Have you ever wondered why it's a fast-forward button and not a button that just skips forward two or three minutes? Wouldn't that make more sense? Actually, the designers of TiVo absolutely could have made a skip button, but they chose not to because they were terrified that no network would support a device that could be used to circumvent commercials.
Instead, they included a fast-forward option, so that even if you skip the ads, you still kind of have to watch them. After all, a blurry McDonald's logo is still a McDonald's logo.
You make a great point, TV. I think I will eat seven Big Macs for lunch."
As such, some companies have started to develop commercials with the fast-forward viewing habits of DVR owners in mind, such as the one showing a super-slow-motion video of a Volkswagen that looks like a static advertising image while you fast-forward through it. Other companies such as Grasshopper phone system have created an ad featuring a mascot that never moves from the center of the screen, which eventually leaves you with a dime-store Jiminy Cricket image, burned into your retinas.
"You'll see me in your sleep! And I won't be friendly then."
Dish's Hopper DVR does have an ad-skipping feature called AutoHop, which can be set to automatically jump over every commercial break ... unless, of course, you're watching a show on any network owned by Disney, because the House of Mouse will not have its money fucked with.
Putting Ads Directly Into Your TV
There really is no fathomable reason anyone would ever need to invest a fraction of the cost of a college education on a brand-new 4K TV because a) chances are it will be obsolete in a year, and b) fucking this:
They're not advertising a cruise, they're advertising a second job to help you pay off your 4K TV.
Yes, that is a banner ad being displayed on a new Panasonic television set, which is a default feature built directly into the unit. Admittedly, it's an optional setting that you can go in and turn off, but why in the name of The Ben Stiller Show would anyone ever want their TV to shove banner ads into their face every time they try to adjust the volume? According to some reviews, if you use your new Panasonic smart TV to stream a program from your laptop or any other external device, the TV will helpfully interrupt what you're watching every so often to show you a commercial. That's right -- the TV will interrupt you as you are watching a movie that you own for the occasional commercial break.
And here's an Australian news report on how Pepsi is so delicious that there's no need to see the rest of the broadcast.
They're Making Sports Teams Call Timeouts To Work In More Commercial Breaks
If we had to guess what advertisers hate more than anything else, it would probably be the human bladder, followed immediately by live television. The unpredictability of live broadcasts, such as sporting events, makes it difficult to schedule commercial breaks without running the risk of viewers missing something ... unless you're TNT, who has absolutely no problem smash-cutting to commercials in the middle of NASCAR races, making some of them, as one sports writer put it, "virtually unwatchable."
We're 70 percent sure he wasn't talking about the actual race.
Well, a while back, networks struck a deal with advertisers in which they promised to set aside an agreed-upon number of commercials for each game. For example, networks airing an NFL game are required to air 10 commercial breaks per each half of the game. If this limit isn't reached before the final whistle, network executives have been known to "suggest" coaches take unnecessary timeouts. There's even a guy on the field whose sole job is coordinating when they air commercials so no time is wasted. He's the guy you see can see on the sidelines wearing elbow-length orange mittens.
Being a soulless, capitalist shill is no excuse for not having fashion sense.
This practice has actually resulted in giving a team a chance to score an additional touchdown. Things are a tad worse with basketball, though -- both the NCAA and the NBA have mandatory commercial breaks, which sometimes results in coaches being told to take timeouts during the most inconvenient times possible. That might seem like an ultimately minor annoyance, but according to a comprehensive analysis of hundreds of games, timeouts in basketball can actually impact the final score. So, if you're looking for someone else to blame for your bookie breaking your leg, ESPN might be a good start.
Cranking Up The Sound
Commercials suddenly exploding from the TV exponentially louder than the program you are watching (a phrase here meaning "with the same volume and subtlety of an elephant stampeding its way through a helicopter crash") have become such a problem that a former commissioner of the FCC admitted that his own family would constantly bug him about it during dinner. All that mid-meal nagging seemed to do the trick, and in 2012, new FCC regulations went into effect, ordering stations to keep the volume of their programming and their commercials more or less on the same level. Problem solved, right?
Well, not exactly. While detailed figures are hard to come by, it's estimated that this rule change was utterly ignored by most advertisers. For one, the law was phrased in a way that allowed stations to raise the volume of a part of the commercial, and then keep the rest at a normal level. There were also no regulations against cranking up the ads' background music, which might explain why we keep hearing pop songs from our parents' youth with cleverly rewritten lyrics to sell luxury sedans at 200 decibels. Other advertisers didn't even bother to go this far, and, instead, just slowly raised the volume of their commercials until we ended up right where we started.
"I thought I said to make him louder."
"It doesn't matter how high or low we set it; he always sounds like that ..."
So, the ad comes blasting into your living room, you pick up the remote to turn down the sound to normal levels, and then the show comes back on and all of the characters are whispering to each other. And while you're angrily trying to get the sound back where you want it, you'll ... decide to buy that advertiser's product, we guess?
Taking Product Placement To New, Terrifying Levels
What do advertisers do when all methods of getting you to actually watch commercials has failed? They put the product directly into the show.
As you probably know, product placement is the art of taking a scene from a popular movie or TV show wherein Brad Pitt caves a man's face in with a soda can and boldly asks, "Could it be a Pepsi can?" Traditionally, it can vary in subtlety from the judges of American Idol all drinking from glasses clearly emblazoned with Coca-Cola logos, to characters openly stating the product's benefits as part of their dialogue, to Kevin Spacey building a small barricade of Apple products around himself to ward off the invading forces of immersion:
You may remember this from the episode where Spacey plays two games of
Clash Of Clans while booking a flight and taking six phone calls.
There are roughly nine Apple devices in that one shot, and, believe it or not, Apple didn't pay a dime for that kind of advertising. Instead, the producers just sent Apple a message asking if they would like to provide the show with any free products to use as props. Apple responded by sending them a bunch of iPads and iPhones, which were then scattered around the set.
Companies do this all the time because no sane producer will turn down a crate full of free props, and having your product visible in a major movie or TV show is free advertising. But, what if you want to insert an ad for Bud Light Lime into an old episode of Cheers? Fortunately, thanks to a company called MirriAd, you can now take TV shows that have already aired and retroactively edit all sorts of new advertisements into them, like some sort of bizarrely specific capitalist haunting.
Ford brand Restless Spirits are less intrusive than the leading competitor, and they use EZClean blood!
MirriAd has already digitally put ads for teabags onto the host's and contestants' mugs in the British version of Deal Or No Deal, despite our long-held understanding that messing with tea is punishable by death in the United Kingdom. And in the U.S., the same technology has been used to insert ads for current movies into old episodes of shows like How I Met Your Mother, a practice that is arguably less offensive than that show's bullshit ending.
Next, they plan to dub in subtle new dialogue, such as, "Hey, Barney, would you like to go
see REMEMBER TO INSERT NAME OF POPULAR CONTEMPORARY MOVIE HERE?"
For more weird things related to television, check out 5 Nightmares You Live Working For America's Worst Company and 5 Bullshit Lies Cable Companies Are Feeding You Right Now.