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Ad Nausea
8.18.2001 by Zebulon

Take a minute and take a look around you. Man, what a dump. Seriously, invest in some Lysol or something. But my original point, before I was distracted by the filth you wallow in, is that you probably encountered an ad. Be it on your TV, radio, or computer screen, ads are everywhere.

But lately, or perhaps gradually over the years, advertisers have been getting more aggressive. Product placement on TV. Pop-up ads on your computer. Marathon-length commercial breaks. Hell, we’re even forced to watch commercials before movies. Older TV programs are edited to allow for today’s ad quantity.

Of course, product placement is as old as TV. Shows were often originally named after, and produced by, their primary sponsor. Shows like the Dial Comedy Hour, The Duncan Hines Suspense Show, and Marlboro Presents Uncle Nutzy’s Puffin’ Kids Klub were everyday fare. And instead of commercial breaks, the stars of the shows themselves would often pause to endorse the product. Take this example from Uncle Nutzy’s Puffin’ Kids Klub, aired in 1952:

Uncle Nutzy: And that’s how you survive a nuclear attack, kids. Just remember: duck and cover!

Boy #1: Gee Whillikers, that’s a spiffy thing to know, Uncle Nutzy!!

Uncle Nutzy: That’s right, Boy #1! And here’s another nifty thing to know: A great way to take care of your parents!

Girl #1: Why, that’s crazy talk, Uncle Nutzy!

Uncle Nutzy: Shut up, you little… er, precious thing, you. But you see, your parents aren’t getting enough Vitamin Q, which has been found by tall, handsome men in lab coats to prevent epiglottis decay.

Boy #1: That’s awful, Uncle Nutzy! Whatever can we do?

Uncle Nutzy: Well, just tell your parents to go to the store right now and buy a big box of Marlboro brand cigarettes, the only brand proven to supply Vitamin Q!

Boy #1: I’ll sure do that, Uncle Nutzy! But do I need Vitamin Q?

Uncle Nutzy: Well, Boy #1, it’s never too early to start looking after your health.

Girl #1: All this sounds like Communist talk to me.

Yes, The FBI was running public service ads even then. And I’m sure we all remember Transformers and G.I. Joe, which in their heyday were introducing characters every episode:

Hawk: Falcon, Leatherneck, Duke, Scarlett, Ditchdigger, Aquaman, Crankshaft, Ash, Ricardo Montalban, Zorro, I want you to meet the newest G.I. Joes, Scoop, Life-line, Deathscythe, Corkscrew, Arnold Palmer, Fireplug, and 1982 Chrysler Cordoba. We’ll never see these Joes after today’s episode, But they are invaluable members of any good G.I. Joe team and I’m sure, should they happen to be action figures, that they would be available at a store near you for a reasonable price.

But even that was not enough for advertisers, who wet their collective pants with glee when the Internet gained popularity. A great forum for the exchange of ideas, eliminating racial, political, nad national boundaries! We must flood it with ads! Banner ads! Pop-up ads! Ads you can’t close as long as you’re on line! Let’s fill their mailboxes and newsgroups with ads and more ads! They’ll love it!

But that still wasn’t enough. Advertisers are still looking for unoccupied places to fill with ads. Their latest brainstorm is, I swear, ads on gas pumps. Yes! Someone discovered that people pumping gas were just STANDING there, pumping gas, when they could be looking at ads atop the pump and inside the pumps themselves, in little TV screens. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

So just be aware of what’s going on, and treasure the places you find devoid of ads. You’ll not have them long. There’s already a giant slide-projector in the works that will orbit the earth, projecting ads on things like mountains, lakes, walls, and anything else people look at. Or maybe that’s just a dream I had. It ended with "Enjoy Coca-Cola," the image beamed directly into my dream via a microchip in my pillow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a book.

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