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Sunday, 10 January 2010

American TV part 1: Adverts

We don't get cable or satellite, so my observations on American TV are based solely on the terrestrial channels, mostly ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Adverts. We got them in the UK on most channels (not the BBC), and they'd crop up every 15 minutes, so in a 1/2 hour show you'd get adverts at the beginning, middle, and end. We countered this by recording everything we wanted to see and fast forwarding through the ads. The show would actually cover about 25 minutes of the half hour. In an hour or longer show, they might space the breaks further apart but run longer ad breaks.

In the US you get an advert break before a show, then right after the opening credits, a couple of times during, and right before the closing credits, so a 1/2 hour show would have about 21 minutes of actual show.

Perhaps that's not so bad considering we're paying nothing for our viewing. In the US once you've bought the set and the aerial, the actual viewing s free, compared to the UK TV license at a current 142.50 GBP a year.

However if we DID get cable or satellite TV, those extra channels also carry adverts, so you're paying at least $30 a month for the channels, and you still have to watch the ads. Hmmm.


For the ads themselves, there are a heck of a lot of Medical ads, mostly pushing some prescription drug, and urging the viewer to badger their doctor into prescribing the miracle cure. The funniest or perhaps scariest part is the list of possible side effects each drug has, read at lightning speed, and including many things worse than the original problem, including sleeplessness, skin rashes, blindess, severe chest pains, vomiting, hair loss, death, and other delights.

Then there are the beer ads. Bud Light give their adverts titles, which as an Advertising insider I know is so they can be named in award ceremonies (yes, advertisers give themselves awards for their wonderful work).

Pick-up Truck ads are great. There are three major competing pick-up trucks currently being advertised, the Ford F-150, the GMC Sierra 1500, and the Dodge Ram. All are pushed as the best truck of course, for different reasons. The Ford is smart, the Sierra is powerful, and the Ram is... I forget, but anyway, you really need one to go down to the store for your groceries. Well you must, because that's what I see them being used for. The Sierra can tow a Californian Redwood, but I usually see them in parking lots. They have to park a lot, because they only get 12-15 mpg.

Ther are other car ads too, Toyota pushing reliability and fuel efficiency, Ford pushing reliability and fuel efficiency, and Nissan pushing reliability and fuel efficiency.

Perhaps the best adverts are the local ones. Because the channels are National, but audiences are local, you often get adverts for local businesses, from mattress suppliers to bars and restaurants, from Realtors (i.e. Estate Agents) to Dentists. It's actually quite educational. For now.

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