Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Pitchman's Persistent Promotion

Being barraged by advertising is nothing new. Ever since mankind has occupied the planet, “the pitch” has been present. In the ruins of ancient Pompeii, commercial messages and election campaign displays were found, dating back to the first century.

Modern consumerism dictates that the sole purpose of man is to consume goods and drive demand for products. None of this is new. What is new is the daily ratcheting up of the “in your face” quotient of the advertising. More and more, advertising is being foisted upon captive audiences. Almost every waking moment is filled with another pitch for someone elses product. It seems as if slogans are the modern American lexicon.

Never was this more obvious to me than last night while gassing up my automobile. Driving by station after station with prices for Regular at $2.25, I resigned myself to pulling in at Exxon to fill up the tank and empty my wallet. As I approached the pump and began my transaction, the credit card display and information center on the pump morphed into a video screen. Like a prisoner, I was forced to endure a barrage of commercials for products ranging from e-loans, credit cards and God knows what else during my five minute ordeal. In the past, filling the tank was an opportunity for a few minutes to zone out and engage in some modern day mind-numbing that is part-and-parcel of our crass commercial culture. No longer however, can I be allowed a few minutes to just allow my mind to idle. No sir! Some marketing guru recognized that another five minutes of my life was not being manipulated by him and his Madison Avenue mates.

Everywhere one goes, there is a video terminal spewing forth marketing content or some other cultural white noise. Our regional coffee chain, Dunkin’ Donuts, now has CNN Headline News displayed 24/7 on squawk boxes, in every one of their franchises. Obviously, some deal has been struck by this news monolith and said coffee chain. I could go on ad nauseum about the ubiquitous presence of commercials in the public square.

Major league (and minor league) baseball games have become a steady stream of advertisements, as the real competition isn’t between the home team and their opponent, but rather the game itself and the advertisements jammed between each and every pitch.

“That foul ball was brought to you by MasterCard, the official credit card of Barry Bonds’ foul balls.”

The other day, while watching the Red Sox, I found the ads behind home plate at Yankee Stadium annoying as hell. Even the goddamn History Channel had an ad in rotation that was being flashed behind the batter on every pitch.

Maybe we could reach a compromise with marketers. How about they create a device that you could attach before retiring for the evening and they could just broadcast their messages during sleep. Better yet, maybe they could just implant a chip in our brains that would allow them direct access to our impulses and save us all the hassle of watching the damn commercials in the first place!


Somewhat related to the above, I found it ironic, in this age of ever-present advertising and the selling of every inch of space and second of media, that all the major networks and cable news channels broadcast the Pope’s funeral. I can only imagine the revenue lost during this hour of time.

I found it ironic for several reasons; the aforementioned loss of revenue and also, despite the charges of many conservatives and other right-wing spokespeople that say the media is “liberal” and “secular”, the media obviously doesn’t have an issue giving prime media time to the funeral of a religious leader.

Stat of the day:

Ranking of world religions by size (from

Christianity 2 billion (half of these are Catholics)
Islam 1.3 billion
Hiduism 900,000 million
Secular/Athiest/Agnostic/Nonreligious 850 million
Buddhism 360 million
Chinese Traditional 225 million
Primal/indigenous 150 million
African Traditional and Diasporic 95 million

Comment: If a major leader of either Islam or Hinduism, or even a secular or agnostic leader died, would they warrant the international media coverage that the Pope’s death received?

Personally, I found all the adulation, reverance and talk of being "moved" by the eulogy at the funeral all to be over-the-top. I was somewhat offended by having journalists became cheerleaders for the Vatican, at the expense of much of the previous 2,000 years of Church history that isn't very pretty. I understand American's aversion to anything historical, but the sex abuse scandals (of which this Pope was complicit in the coverup) are recent and the Church in my mind, has never come clean on addressing the root causes.

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