Click Here North Star Writers Group
Syndicated Content.
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Page
David J. Pollay - The Happiness Answer
Cindy Droog - The Working Mom
The Laughing Chef
Mike Ball - What I've Learned So Far
Bob Batz - Senior Moments
D.F. Krause - Business Ridiculous
D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive
April 26, 2006
You Vill Vatch My Commercial!
For 20 years (at least), television advertisers have been trying to discover the tonic for their worst nightmare. Egad! What if millions of Americans get up and head for the kitchen/bathroom/gas station just as my fabric softener commercial comes on the air?
In 1986, NBC devised a novel solution – the blank Super Bowl minute. Those ads are expensive. We need people watching them. So they put 60 seconds of pure nothingness on TV – perhaps a tribute to the Patriots’ offensive production that day – with clearly implied instructions to the American public to take their bathroom breaks right then.
I suppose the measure of that experiment’s success is the fact that they never did it again. But a journey of a million miles begins with a single step, and just because the blank minute didn’t stop American TV viewers from neglecting to watch ads doesn’t mean that something can’t do it.
The latest something may have less of a 1986 feel to it, and more of a 1984 feel. You will not change that channel! Because we won’t let you.
Royal Philips Electronics, a Netherlands-based company, has filed for a patent on technology that would make it impossible for you to change the channel once you’ve started watching a show and the commercials come on. Of course, there are ways around it. The alternative suggested by the manufacturer is that you pay a nice little fee to the broadcaster, and in return they can, er, conveniently find a way to disable the device.
Or . . . you can make the device work in reverse! It will get rid of all the commercials for you. You can watch your movie, your soap opera or your sitcom with no words from our sponsor. No word on the cost of this option, either, but you know those millionaires who are buying their way onto space shuttles? You’re probably in the ballpark. (Too bad there isn’t a device that would add commercials to PBS documentaries, so people could wake up.)
Now, lest you misunderstand, Royal Philips Electronics insists it has no intention of actually using this technology on any of its own products. Oh no. Not at all. Its spokesman says they just wanted to develop the technology so the industry would have it around.

You know. In case they want to look at it and think about what a good thing it is that they’re not using it.
Actually, it sounds like the technology will function in such a way that its application would come at the initiative of the broadcaster, since an RPE statement says: “We developed a system where the viewer can choose, at the beginning of a movie, to either watch the movie without ads, or watch the movie with ads. It is up to the viewer to take this decision, and up to the broadcaster to offer the various services."
Services? How might this service menu read?
Option 1: Watch our network and like it!
Option 2: Watch our commercials and ship with FedEx
Option 3: We give you back your remote and you can switch to the Weather Channel during commercials (there is a one-time setup fee of $40,000 for this option . . . we accept PayPal)
Option 4: Feel free to walk around your house during commercials (we will e-mail you the codes to unlock the doors to your TV room so you can get out . . . this option must be renewed every four days)
Who says watching TV isn’t becoming more interactive?
It could be that this technological breakthrough is a solution looking for a problem. Yes, TV viewers do tend to head for the bathroom during the commercials as opposed to, say, the resolution of the mystery or the fourth-and-one play with three seconds left.
But somehow TV advertising has remained a decent enough bet that sponsors still spend pretty serious money on air time, creative fees and production costs. The 30-second spot that cost $550,000 during Super Bowl XX went for more than $2 million during Super Bowl XL. Perhaps they realize that, for every viewer who has stepped out of the room or changed the channel momentarily, there are scores more just sitting there staring at the screen.
But the business community has rarely seen a non-problem for which it could not come up with a huge over-reaction in the form of a “solution.” So perhaps broadcasters will indeed decide to charge viewers for the privilege of changing the channel on their own TV set. After all, they’ve subjected us to decades of Dan Rather, Janet Jackson’s nipples, Geraldo, The View and David Spade. And we’re still watching.
What will it take to offend us? Broadcasters won’t rest until they find out.


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK25. Request permission to publish here.