A while back I read an article about the development of Television. The new form of media was initially heavily subsidized by the federal government, not because they thought it was essential for communication or entertainment, but because of the massive new opportunity for advertising and supporting the business community.
Translation: the reason TV exists is not for the shows, it’s for the commercials.
Fast forward to yesterday and the 2010 SuperBowl. As many of us know, this is the most watched TV event of the year, and as such, acquires the highest price for commercials. It’s a time to debut new commercials and to build up drama and controversy about which ones will or will not get played. It’s even a legitimate marketing strategy to create a commercial so racy that it intentionally gets banned. That then draws people to your website for the video…along with whatever you’re selling. And no, the content of the commercial and the actual business of your company don’t have to be connected in any way. GoDaddy.com is a company that sells website domain names and runs computer servers for people to rent. (They’re so benign that even my two websites, alanstucky.com and mennoshirts.com are hosted through Godaddy.com) They’re a tech company, but their commercials feature attractive women dancing around to a catchy tune.
Probably the most surreal experience of commercials this year comes from Hulu.com. They are a website that consolidates most of the commercially produced online video content into one website. I can watch things from Fox, NBC, and the SciFi network all in the same place. (It’s the single reason why I don’t care that I can only get 1 TV channel….70% of the time) This year, Hulu was advertising a special section of their website that would have all of the commercials all in one place. In an event where the explicit reason for watching (the football game) has become less and less important and the real reason for watching (the commercials) has become more obvious, Hulu has finally cut out all of the cultural theater and has brought out the real reason for watching any of it. In an even more amazing feat, Hulu’s “adzone”, as they’re calling it, is sponsored by Coca-Cola and features Coke ads in between the real ads. That’s right, commercials while you’re watching commercials. What’s more, because of the ability to embed online video content, hulu will get people (like me) to spread around these advertisements for free.
All of this may be readily apparent to anyone reading this blog, but I just feel like someone has to name the absurdity of it all. Will it stop me from watching the Super Bowl and participating in this cultural distortion? Well, it didn’t this year.