A New Cable Network Devoted to Advertising: The Ad Channel! Whatcha Think?
“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” — Leo Burnett
Every once in a while, and again this month, I come across an article written by someone with a visceral hatred for advertising. In this case, the writer begins by stating that all advertising is manipulation.
Manipulation: the action of manipulating someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.
Manipulate: control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously.
(Disclaimer: my career in advertising spanned more than 30 years.)
One line from the Adbusters Manifesto reads, “To fight the mental takeover of an ever-present ad industry…”
Is the advertising industry trying to take over our minds? O.K., yes, advertisers do have an agenda that has to do with your mind. Or rather, businesses have an agenda, by means of their advertising and that is this. When you think of going out to eat, a restaurant wants THEIR NAME branded on your brain. That is, they want the top of mind position in your thoughts. When you get hungry and don’t feel like making a meal, they want you to think of them as a favorable alternative. Same goes for when you need to pick up something from the hardware store, or choose a bank, or buy a car.
Yes, businesses want their stores or products to be something that “comes to mind” as a solution to your perceived problem or need. Will you be drinking beer in front of a football game today? Budweiser wants you to “think Bud.”
This top of mind awareness has to come from somewhere. That’s why restaurants and other businesses have “Grand Openings.” It creates an occasion to get the name out there. so people know the business exists. To make the opening grand they need to get the word out, which is achieved in a variety of ways using the media. Ads, radio spots, television spots, a Facebook Event, direct mail, if possible some coverage in the newspapers, all serving as a kind of invitation to the party.
People who do a lot of interstate highway travel have no doubt had the experience of being hungry and wondering where they will stop to eat. I’ve found billboards, hated by many, to be quite useful in these situations. “Next Cracker Barrel: 21 miles.” Why is this such a problem? Does Cracker Barrel manipulate people into stopping? Those billboards just let people know that there’s a Cracker Barrel up ahead and the memory of your last experience, if it was good, will do the rest.
It may be time to start thinking about Xmas Shopping. Let’s narrow our scope to television advertising. I found this David Ignatius op-ed piece quite telling. It’s cut out from a yellowed, aged newspaper and regrettably I’m not sure how aged, but I’m guessing mid-90s. He begins with this:
“New evidence (as if we ever needed more) that business has taken over the American mind: Surfing the channels in these dog days of summer, it’s hard not to conclude that the advertisements on TV are better than the programs.”
I don’t believe he’s the only person to make this observation. That’s why instead of blocking ads, why not block the shows? In fact, what if we create a new cable network called The Advertising Channel. I’ve already begun outlining the programming. Here are some of the shows you will see.
- Beer Commercials, with whole episodes devoted to different brands. The opening week would be a full hour devoted to Budweiser Super Bowl commercials. Who wouldn’t want to watch this?
- Oldies Hour, featuring television commercials from the 40s and 50s.
- 60s and 70s commercials.
- 80s and 90s commercials
- Car Commercials. A DVD could be used in schools to teach the history of the automobile.
- Banned Commercials. Commercials that went a little too far.
- European Beer Commercials.
- European Oldies Hour.
- European Commercials Banned in the USA.
- A program about the ad agencies that made the commercials.
Week One: The Marlboro Man and Leo Burnett International
- One of the programs could feature a host, seated by a fireside, looking spiff, who introduces commercials one at a time, telling details about the making of each, the duration of the spot, etc. One week could be about famous people who starred in TV commercials. Orson Welles, for example.
- Movie Trailers. We can show current, recent and past trailers. This program could also have some kind of talking heads who provide stats on how effective the trailers were at filling seats on opening weekend. Maybe that show could be called Box Office. Or maybe you’ve got a better name, I’m open.
- Maybe a show in which teams compete to come up with the best commercial for a new product. People who lose get fired. (Oh, has something like that already been done?)
- What about a show in which people are selected to get an inside look at how commercials are made on Madison Avenue. Modern, not nostalgic. “Making Commercials With The Stars.”
- How about a show devoted to advertising before there was television? It could be a history of print advertising from 1900 to the Present.
- “Scandals” might make an entertaining segment. I am referring to advertising related scandals, not the Jimmy Swaggert kind. Here are a few, and there are plenty more.
- And finally, perhaps a curated program called The Clown Show in which we feature political ads from the past. 60 years of political advertising from local to national. There’s a whole dumpster full of these stored somewhere, I’m sure.
I mentioned my idea to a friend. “What about this? A cable channel that only airs commercials.” My friend replied, “I’d get the buttered popcorn out for that one.” He went on to say, “Half the time the commercials are better than the show you’re watching. They have higher production values.”
While researching for this blog post I learned that the Networks are aware of the problem of too many commercials. Here are some sample headlines I came across, the content self-explanatory:
— TV networks shed ad time as consumers skip commercials
— Even TV networks agree there are too many commercials — Marketplace
— Heavy Commercial Loads Are Killing Basic Cable 10/18/2017
— TV’s Ad Apocalypse Is Coming — The Atlantic
Would this idea work as a new cable channel? I dunno. It was fun noodling the idea of it. Probably too much risk involved for all the work required to pull it off. Then again, what is life without risk? We could even make a show about the making of the show.
Here’s another idea: Selling advertising for our ad channel network. We’d have to limit the amount of ads we sell, because we wouldn’t want to interfere with our regular programming, right?
Related Story: HERE’S A TAKEAWAY FOR YOU.
This has to do with online advertising, and specifically Facebook. Did you know you can turn off ads that appear on your Facebook page? Or at least restrict them somewhat? Here are your written instructions:
1. Open your Facebook page and click “settings,” and then “ads.”
2. Click on the “ads based on my use of websites and apps” setting and press the “choose setting” button and select “off.”
For another take on advertising, see my article “Let Us March Against Phillip.”