Ginger and I went to see Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs today. As usual, we got there early because it’s a fairly new movie and we wanted a primo seat. So, as usual, we sat through the pre-movie on-screen stuff — what we used to think of as ‘previews’, but I thought a little harder about this time than usual.
Advertisers are having to adjust. It’s been going on for some time now, and this may not be new to you, but I’ve see advertising take at least two whole new directions lately. One of these ways has to do specifically with movie theaters, and that got me to thinking about the other one.
TWO: the advent of TiVo a few years ago, and subsequently all manner of DVRs that aren’t the TiVo brand, threw advertisers for a loop because people began to skip their commercials as they watched TV. You can set your DVR to record something, then start watching it whenever you want to later on. When those annoying commercials come on, you just skip over them and pick up your show at the next scene. Instead of complaining to Congress that people were subverting their attempts to try to get them to buy stuff, the advertisers have adapted and innovated. I don’t watch much TV except for baseball, but word has it that product placement has escalated in recent years, basically companies paying networks to embed their product into the show, thus increasing exposure inside the show instead of during the oft-skipped commercial breaks. What I’ve noticed a lot of during baseball broadcasts is that the announcers do short 5-10-second shout-outs: typically after a commercial break, a car manufacturer’s or beer brewer’s logo takes up most of the screen while Joe Buck or Jon Miller tells you that today’s game is brought to you by XYZ company. After the first out of the inning, the Pitcher Profile, the Batting Lineup, the Call to the Bullpen, the RBI Leader Board, etc. are all brought to you by some deodorant or snack food purveyor.
ONE: this is the one that gets me in movie theaters. I’m making myself sound old, I know, but “in today’s postmodern microwave society”, attention spans are at an all-time low. No, I don’t have a scientific source for that assertion, but you know what I mean. Advertisers can’t trust their audience to sit still and pay attention to what they’re selling for a 30-second commercial, so they have to get creative and try to tell the audience that they’re doing something other than watching a commercial. And they reinforce it in much the same way that I was told to write my papers in high school: tell what you’re going to say (introduction), then say it (body), then tell what you just said (conclusion). Before the previews started a few years ago, the theater had house lights on, curtains over the screen, and maybe some music playing softly. But nowadays, advertisers are taking this opportunity to show commercials. In the intro to the block of ads, someone comes on and tells you you’re about to experience some sort of spectacle giving you an inside look at something of paramount interest. Then they play a bunch of commercials – you’re the one who’s in the know about this cool new PDA, video-sharing web site, upcoming movie, sweet new ride, or must-see television event. Then at the end they wrap up by telling you that you’ve just experienced a First Look or got some great insider information on some gizmo’s features.
“Huh?” I ask myself and my wife. “I don’t have any special insider knowledge about the Nissan Cube mobile device; I haven’t been a participant in what goes on behind the plot in Jada Pinkett Smith’s new drama series – I just saw a bunch of commercials trying to get me to buy something or watch something.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining or saying that what the advertisers are doing is wrong in some way. I’m just saying that I take these “experiences” and “insider looks” for what they really are – advertising.