BarnouwTheSponsor

BarnouwTheSponsor - Drawing by Lorenz; © 1976 The N ew...

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Unformatted text preview: Drawing by Lorenz; © 1976 The N ew Yorker Magazine, Inc. EAK’NWW, EileL . "Wt new”; WWW-m A- .u.\.....e.m..z...,_— - ,_. _ ‘4 a“ A The only part of television which has fulfilled its promise at all is the commercial. PAUL GOODMAN THE INNER F ORTRESS—the “commercial” The word is in quotation marks because it is—has become—a euphemism. “Commercials” used to describe and promote prod— ucts and still do, but they have meanwhile assumed a host of other functions. Often produced and exhibited at staggering cost, a network commercial is likely to promote not only a product but a way of life, a view of the world, a philosophy. Commercials are the main instrument of corporate image—gloss— ing, military recruitment, political campaigning, and tourist so— licitation and propaganda by foreign countries. Often, under the guise of merchandising, commercials are deeply involved in ideological conflict. They have a fateful, de facto role in educa— tion, and an impact on the world of religion. Along with all this, the “commercial” is :1 central element of television enter- tainment, outshining most other elements. Its success in this may be the key to its other successes. Before a child can talk, it may try to echo a television jingle. Songs, slogans, and humor from television commercials have be— 79 80 THE SPONSOR come the folk media of our time. The dialogue of the teenager reflects an obsession with television commercials even more than with its entertainment features. Even in commuter train and barroom, the talk echoes television commercials. A business textbook, The Television Commercial: Creativity and Craftsmanship, by Albert C. Book and Norman 1). Carey, calls the commercial “an American art form . . . ahead of inosl TV programs in being in tune with the United States.” (Zom mercial jingles have been anthologized in Great Songs of Madi< son Avenue, a New York Times book publication. A Roper re port tells us that 74 per cent of viewers often find commercials “fun to watch.” Each year some fifty C()nllllCl‘Cl:llS-~()lll' of 40,000 or so produced—win Clio Awards (named after Clio, the muse of history), presented at an annual American TV Com~ mercials F estival.l Clearly the status of the commercial—in spite of continuing, occasionally vituperative attacks—has changed since AT&T first broached the idea. The extraordinary stellar casts involved in today’s commercials reflect the change, and have undoubtedly furthered it. In the heyday of radio few top—rated performers were willing to do commercials. Today’s television commercials are populated by an international who’s who. Before he died, Paul Getty, reputedly the world’s richest man, filmed a com- mercial endorsing a brokerage firm. Sir Laurence Olivier, star of stars, demonstrates a camera. A former Republican vice presi— dential nominee, William Miller, plugs a credit card. Yankee superstar Joe DiMaggio, one~time husband of Marilyn Monroe, explains how to make coffee. Ricardo Montalban serves as lux— ury car salesman. Henry Fonda pushes vinyl flooring. The list goes on and on. Far from feeling demeaned by commercials, celebrities of all sorts now seem to covet and relish the selling role. Aside from lavish fees, some have won new fame through bravura perform- ances—such as Robert Morley’s pitches for British Airways, Jonathan Winters’s plugs for Hefties, and O. J. Simpson’s stylish performances for Hertz, the “superstar in rent—a—car.” Com— mercials not only exploit, but seem to confer status. Frank Per— due, proprietor of Perdue’s Chickens, became sufliciently cele~ DOMAIN 81 brated through his sad—eyed delivery of his own commercials ‘ to become a talk—show guest. Some actresses have risen to film stardom via commercial stints. For yesterday’s celebrities, com- mercials are now considered a comeback route. Out of the dis- tant past comes George Burns, brilliantly selling eat food; then Joan Fontaine plugging beauty products; and baseball great Bob Feller proclaiming his rejuvenation by a hair—color formula while two beautiful young girls clutch at him. It may seem a jovial game to viewers, but the huge stakes in— volved reflect the central role now played by commercials. The endorsing star may have a contract that runs to six or seven figures; like Bing Crosby, orange juice salesman, he may be a member of the company hierarchy. The production budget for a single 30—second commercial is likely to run from $20,000 to $200,000; some have gone higher. A 30—second canned—soup commercial featuring Ann Miller and other dancers in choreog— raphy by Busby Berkeley is said to have cost $250,000. If pro— grams were produced on this scale, a 90—minute program would cost $45 million—more than a Cleopatra. By 1972 members of the Screen Actors Guild were earning more from commercials than from theatrical films and television films combined. Earn— ings that year came to $62,330,895 from commercials, $38,555,— 730 from filmed television programs, $22,194,342 from theatri— cal motion pictures. The commercial had beeome, as an advertising executive put it, “the focal point of creative effort.”2 The production cost of a commercial is, of course, only a start. The subsequent showing of a 30—second commercial in prime time may cost a sponsor from $10,000 to more than $100,000. And since most commercials are used many times— scores or even hundreds of times—one commercial may repre— sent a multi-million-dollar venture. .Can it be worth it? What does it all mean? To the casual Viewer the statistics seem incomprehensible, suggesting a world totally beyond his ken. And they are incomprehensible unless one glimpses the changes that have come over American busi— ness in recent decades~to some extent, augmented by television. Busmess spokesmen often pav lip service to “market forces.” Orthodox economic theory pictures a need or demand over 82 THE SPONSOR which the entrepreneur has no control but which he seeks to satisfy by what he produces. But this picture, while it seems to survive in college textbooks and may apply in small businesses— especially local or regional businesses—is obsolete for the large corporations that dominate network television. Most of these live in a different world. Of the top 100 network sponsors of 1975, 81 were multinational corporations. Some have supply sources, manufacturing operations, and markets spanning sev— eral continents. Their global deployment holds potential for enormous power and profit—and disasters. With assembly lines dependent on distant suppliers, scattered labor forces, complex webs of regulations and levies, and ultimately on wide merchan- dising operations, they feel they cannot leave themselves at the mercy of “market forces.” Such companies, to ward off govern— mental interference, may invoke classic economic doctrine, but meanwhile their total effort is toward control—of supply at one end, demand at the other.3 To manufacture a product without at the same time manu— facturing a demand has become unthinkable. Today the manu— facture of demand means, for most large companies, television— its commercials as well as other program elements. The growing scale of mass production has inevitably made advertising more crucial, but this understates the situation. As society becomes more product—glutted, the pressure on the consumer to con— sume—t0 live up to higher and higher norms of consumption— has become unrelenting. The pressure, as various observers have noted, centers on selling the unnecessary. The merchandising of necessities— which, to some extent, will be bought anywaywcan seldom sus- tain the budgets applied to the unnecessary, unless the necessary is cloaked with mythical supplementary values. The focus is on the creation of emotion—charged values to make the unneeded necessary. All this is now so taken for granted that it is seldom discussed. The young writer entering advertising assumes that hope and fear are the springs he must touch—hope of success and fear of failure in sex, business, community status. As a dramatic medium that can draw on the resources of every art, and has as its stage DOMAIN 83 the privacy of the home, television has unparalleled opportuni— ties for this psychic pressure. It has intensified as the 30-second commercial has become the dominant vehicle, favored over the roomier 60-second form. There is scarcely time now for tech- nical persuasions, documentation, “reason-why” advertising. Everyone knows what the job is: instant drama, posing threat and promise. An important corollary is that the promise should be an un— deliverable promise. Everyone knows that soap will Clean hands, a razor remove hair, and a car transport you from one place to another. To promise such things means little or nothing. But there is no sure formula for being irresistible, for winning and holding those you love, or for rising to the top of the busi— ness or social circle. These are promises worth dangling. That this calls for a certain amount of “well—considered men- dacity,” as John Kenneth Galbraith calls it, is clear to everyone. Here the role of humor becomes especially important: it gives the game a quality of charm rather than fraud. This helps all concerned. The creators of advertising can claim that no one takes it all very seriously; it is all more or less in fun. The viewer can adopt a similar attitude. The viewer’s self-respect requires a rejection of most commercials on the conscious level, along with some ridicule. Beneath the ridicule the commercial does its work. “Will the bags under my eyes be gone when I get back from Miami?” asks a man in an airline commercial. “They may not be gone, sir,” he is told, “but they’ll be a whole lot tanner.” The humor is disarming. Dubious technical claims are avoided. But the commercial may well prod a yearning for rebirth in the Florida sun. The creation and management of demand are only one of the tasks of the commercial. For the multinational corporation, a more pressing task is legitimation of its vast and often mysterious operations—which require, for success, an environment of con— fidence. The global corporation derives its power from selective de- ployment. Its ability to shift supply resources, subassembly lines, and manufacturing sites, and to juggle merchandising and ac— 84 THE SPONSOR counting procedures to utilize—and press for—favorable circum~ stances is the key to its power and its growth. Multinationals have achieved budgets dwarfing those of many countries where they do business. But the stakes are so great that the temptation to use any and all means to eliminate uncertainties is almost irre- sistible. In a moment of hubris, the president of the International Telephone & Telegraph Company told his stockholders that ITT had in its time met and surmounted every device employed by gov— ernments to encourage their own industries and hamper those of foreigners, including taxes, tariffs, quotas, currency. restrictions, subsidies, barter arrangements, guarantees, moratoriums, devalu- ations—yes, and nationalizations.4 This boast was made in 1962 when multinationals were sharply on the rise. Later years brought reversals and crises—for. ITT, Lockheed, United Brands, and many others, including malor 011 companies—followed by revelations of methods used to over— come obstacles: bribery, subsidies to foreign political parties, negotiations for CIA interventions, and other means. By the 1970’s many multinationals had image problems and were faced with investigations, demands for antitrust moves, and legislative proposals for divestiture. As already noted, one response to this was lavish underwriting of public teleViSion series. But the com— panies also counterattacked via television commercials. When comedian Bob Hope, golf companion of US. PreSidents, ap- peared on the tube again and again to ask— HOPE: Who owns America’s oil companies? Fourteen million . . . . , . Americans, trusting in companies like Texaco! We re working to keep that trust! . . . he was not in quest of sales, but of public-confidence. Mobil, combating divestiture through various .media, ran commereials that displayed some of its vast installations, then posed a ques— tion: ANNOUNCER: Some people want to break up the big oil com— panies. Is smallness really best? Think hard. . . . It’s your country. DOMAIN 85 Are people influenced by such tidbits of plea and argument? As with commercials in general, most people are sure they are not influenced. The argumentation merely merges in the audio- visual wallpaper that is the backdrop of our lives. But the dam- aging news items that worried oil companies were, in most cases, broadcast only once, with utmost brevity, in non—peak hours. Texaco’s “trust” pitches were broadcast repeatedly in peak hours, in high—rated programs. Whatever impressions were left by the news items, they were soon overlayed with layers on layers of brisk reassurance from Bob Hope, an American institu— tion.5 ITT’s use of television commercials in 1974—75 and its appar- ent success in serving the company’s purposes are worth study. ITT was little known to the general public before Harold S. Ceneen became its president in 1959, when an extraordinary expansion and diversification began, giving the company an aura of glamour. But in the early 1970’s its reputation appeared to suffer devastating damage. In 1972 its $400,000 offer to under— write the Republican convention was linked by investigators with Nixon administration settlement of an antitrust case in a manner favorable to ITT. A year later it was shown to have been deeply involved with the CIA in disruptive tactics against the Allende regime in Chile, and even to have offered the CIA $51 million to help finance the disruptions. That same year publi— cation of The Sovereign State of ITT, by Anthony Sampson, further spotlighted the company’s manipulations of govern— ments, political parties, and media on an international scale. In 1974, on the heels of these revelations, ITT announced plans for a series of children’s programs titled The Big Blue Marble to “promote international understanding.” It showed enchanting scenes of children in many lands, and involved a pen—pal campaign. At the same time the company launched a series of prime—time commercials, many of which publicized IT'I‘ as provider of The Big Blue Marble and showed scenes from it, while others featured American students abroad under international scholarships provided by ITT—reflecting, like the Big Blue Marble spots, a warm intercultural feeling. All the spots featured the slogan “The Best Ideas Are Ideas that Help People.” 86 THE SPONSOR The Big Blue Marble films cost $4 million to prodtuce Ibut were given away to television stations, With the result t at t :1): appeared mainly in fringe periods. Not so the corporate co 1— mercials about the Big Blue Marble series and other intercu tural good deeds. The commercials appeared in evening titpe Iat. a cost of $4.2 million in 1974, and of $3.7 million in 197 . -n 1975 the campaign was also extended to other countries—1p America, Europe, Asia, Africa. The allocation of funds sugge’sl s that The Big Blue Marble and the scholarships ex1sted primarily to give the company warm—hearted themes to trumpet in pea - time commercials. The impact of the strategy is worth noting. ITT engaged the Daniel Yankelovich, Inc., research e()iiipai:1y to do periodic studies of public attitudes toward IT I. Thfi stub; ies included a question as to whether thecompany was t oug to “care about the general public.” During spot campaign the company’s “cares about the general public rating went up substantially. Similar studies by the Gallup'Organization, gangS ing the “social responsibility rating” of various large copipa'rlnle including ITT—not done for ITT—showed Similar resu lts.b e unfavorable impression of the news items1 113d apparent y een otted out b the “commerCia s. bhllflfflfilialiifiden mentionleld frequently in television newscasts of 1973, and also in 1974, when the “ITT case” was mentioned stantly in the Watergate hearings. But the'company 5 name I 1 not apparently come up in a single teleViSion network eveniillg newscast during the first six months of 1975, when the goo — deeds commercials were constantly on the air. These wplre shown some forty—four times on evening newscasts during lt1 at period. They sometimes appeared Simultaneously on all t ree neElYliZI-lig74—7S barrage of commercials apparently achieved its aim. According to Yankelovich, the ITT “cares about the gen}; eral public" rating more than doubled during a twelve-mont period, going from 20 per cent to 43 per cent. - _d o a The global corporations developed, during their rapi rise, d sense of mission. They saw themselves as creating an integralte world, organized on a rational basis. They pictured. themsfe vgs as principal forces for peace and development. Their Chic 0 — DOMAIN 87 stacle, as many saw it, was the obsolete nationalism fostered by nation states, which worked toward fragmentation. Armed with this world View, the multinational corporation has no guilt feel— ings about its power, wealth, or operating methods. These were needed to achieve its mission. An almost religious zeal infused the sense of mission. The global corporation, according to Courtney Brown, former Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, was the “prologue to a new World Symphony.” Many corporate commercials have striven to spread this gospel, which is seen as an essential shield for global opera- tion. The purpose is legitimation of power. This is behind the ceaseless repetition of “We’re working to keep that trust!” and “Is smallness really best?”7 The involvement of commercials in political argumentation raises numerous issues. One is a tax issue. Propaganda is not tax deductible, whereas most advertising is. But the line between them, as we have seen, can be fuzzy. For tax purposes the cost of making and showing commercials is generally deducted as a business cost—which means that the citizen is in effect subsidiz- ing much of the barrage of argumentation aimed at him. Harvey J. Schulman, attorney representing various public interest groups demanding “access” to the air, has called the Internal Revenue Service handling of this problem a “multi-million— dollar scandal.” Another issue relates to the fairness doctrine. In 1967 the at- torney John Banzhaf III argued before the FCC that broadcast— ers accepting cigarette advertising, which invariably linked cigarettes with romance and vigorous health, should be obliged to carry—free of charge, as a matter of the public interest— niessages on the association of cigarettes with lung cancer and other diseases. When the FCC found validity in the idea, “coun- ter—advertising" by various health agencies began to assault the cigarette ~so persuasively that Congress decided to ban Cigarette advertising from the air after 1970. In consequence both the cigarette commercials and the counter-commercials vanished from the air. But the idea of fairness-doctrine applicability to commercials did not vanish. Environmental groups wanted to answer automobile commercials promoting high—powered—and 88 THE SPONSOR highly polluting—automobiles. They also wanted to answer fuel company commercials promoting their off—shore drilling, strip— mining, and nuclear-power operations. The networks tried to ward off the problem by restraining advertiser and would-be respondent alike. They cited a policy— often proclaimed but irregularly followed—of refusing to sell time for “issue advertising” except in political campaigns. Mobil Oil vice president Herbert Schmertz called this policy “outra— geous” and said the company was being deprived of “First Amendment rights.” He Wanted Mobil commercials to present in detail the company’s views on the energy crisis. The networks argued that such issues were adequately covered in their news, documentary, and discussion programs, but Sehmert'l. dismissed this coverage as inadequate. He considered news programs “en— tertainment.” Mobil even offered, on several occasions, to pay for reply time for its critics, if Mobil were permitted to express itself fully in its “commercials.” The networks declined the offer and stuck to their policy—a threat, as Schmertz saw it, to “free speech.” But the environmentalists were no happier with the deadlock. They too considered the coverage in network— controlled news, documentaries, and discussion programs super— ficial and inadequate—and argued, moreover, that many com— mercials which the networks accepted as legitimate “product advertising” were already touching on controversial issues—off— shore drilling, strip—mining, nuclear power. As for the FCC, it seemed in a state of terror over the Pan— dora’s Box it had opened with its Banzhaf ruling. In 1971 it issued an official declaration that the cigarette problem was “unique” and that to extend it to product advertising in general would “undermine the present system, which is based on prod— uct commercials, many of which have some adverse ecological effects.” This was a curious, damaging concession, which seemed to confirm what the environmentalists were saying. A similar self-damaging statement came from NBC, which estimated that the three networks would have had a $69.4 million loss for 1970 instead of a $5 0.1 million profit if they had been required to give time for “counter—advertising” of the sort initiated by the Banz— haf ruling. Again, the argument made network commercials DOMAIN 89 seem highly questionable, although the purpose of the statement was to urge the FCC to stand firm.9 In subsequent declarations the FCC seemed determined to steer clear of issues posed by commercials. It apparentl felt it could leave those to the industry’s “self-regulation”ys stem built around the NAB Television Code, and to the Fez/deral Trade Commission—With its jurisdiction over false and mislead— ing advertising. Both of these regulatory arrangements had however, a long record of ineffectuality. , I. he FTC has had periods of zeal, but the procedures im osed on it have tended to keep it relatively impotent. The FTIC re— Views the scripts and story—boards for thousands of commercials each. year. It may look into procedures used in tests and (lClll()lll; claims,“ and even ask for . . .. gs may lLJd to a cease—and— desist order, which the. company can then challenge in court Such challenges may take years to resolve. By the time a Cease: and—desist order is actually implemented, the campai n in ues tion has usually been replaced by another. g q - Sometimes years of struggle lead to FTC victories in which principle is vindicated but practical consequences are minimal li iiiding that the action of Carter’s Little Liver Pills had nothin ‘ to do with the. liver, the FTC ordered the company to sto intigj iiiaiing that it did, and to drop “liver” from its name Iftook sixteen years of litigation to make the order stick. Users of the product may not Iiave attached significance to the chin re even noticed it.10 i E l or VC‘eritol involved a similar sequence of events, in which the I‘ ICVwon—hut won little. In 1965, after long investigation the It I (. ordered the makers of Geritol to stop claimin that thd product would cure “tired blood” resulting from iifon‘defi— eieiicy. In a unanimous nineteen-page decision the commission said that “tiredness is not a generally reliable indication of iron detiCiency” and that, in any case, “Geritol would do little to cure most run—down feelings. When the company nonetheless re—introduced the theme, the FTC brought suit which was fi- nally settled in 1976 with payment of a $125,600 fine b the J. B. Williams Company—Nabisco subsidiary and maker ofyGer- 90 THE SPONSOR itol. But by that time Geritol had switched (with enormous ' 11 ‘ aign. I success to a very different camp _ Inste:)1d of people with “run-down” feelings, each commerCial now showed a radiantly healfihé young, 2101111311: IlaaZiIiEgd “ ’ in love and I ta e erito . . , lvfarlfes gerlitrgl!” She ’would explain that looking afteryourzsipllcl; is important, so she got plenty of rest, enouglli efxeileclirsee;1 cou— Geritol-every day!” Some of .these commercia 5 heat their love ples clinging to each other, givmg the impreSSion t . 1a, to film a life was ecstatic, and interrupted only momentari) d d fin commercial. One such 30-second production, introduge :11 thg the 1976 World Series between the Cinpinnati Re s and his New York Yankees, featured Cincmnatis Pete 119;; an ade wife. These commercials seemed to be FTC—proof. ey up to no technical claims. They did not speCify, or eyen suggfes ,St ” what extent the radiant bloom was the result of. pleritylo ere, (,n- “enough exercise,” “looking after yourself,. being in izgabl Geritol. But while making no claims, their impact waslp t Ciny accurately reflected by Pete Rose when he told an tip series cinnati crowds, welcoming the Reds from tli'eir or victory, “The Yankees didn’t take their Geritol: - irrele- The success of the campaign suggests the increasmg. ted Vance of most FTC review, which tends to be word-omen nd: In the new commercial dramaturgy, verbal'promise isda .secoer ary matter, vague and urideritated, while Situation an imag y re visceral eve . . - wchheOIIiTthas sometimes tried to cope with deceptive 'Vlsusil: persuasions, but found itself in a quagmire. In an early act:101i1n a this sort, it objected in 1956 to a Rolaids pitchmap resseval of white coat—clearly intended to suggest medica apcprob de— Rolaids. But a consistent policy of this sort could har fly ‘6 of veloped in a world populated by authority—cloakeg- gazeb— all sorts, real and mythical, live and animated—inc, 1A 1111g h the ers,” “policemen,” “superstars,” “busmess leaders. t ougmtim “doctor” was banned, a “schoolteacher. 1I1”a classroom c 't b ued for years to ask “How do I spell relief?7 and to answer i y writing bn ablackboard “R—O-Ii—A-I—D-S. d. t d towqrd Some FTC regulatory actions have been irec e , DOMAIN 91 studio methods used in “demonstrations.” It questioned whether it was proper, in filming a commercial for Campbell Soup, to put clear—glass marbles in the soup to make the vegetables cluster near the surface. And whether it was proper, in picturing a pud- ding garnished with “whipped cream,” to use shaving cream instead because it has greater resistance to studio lights. And whether, to demonstrate that Colgate Rapid Shave cream was so moisturizing that it would enable you to shave sandpaper, it was proper to use plexiglass sprinkled with sand, rather than sandpa— per. FTC experimenters had actually tried to shave sandpaper, and found it harder than the commercial had indicated. Most such FTC efforts do not seem to have generated wide support. Even the US. Supreme Court seemed more amused than disturbed over the great sandpaper embroglio (“(IoUier h'livsi-s (Min oN Snares," reported The New l'm‘l‘ 'l‘imc.\').” libe widespread admiration lUl' “chicane,” discussed long ago by l'horstein Veblen, may help to explain this. Yet in one area of controversy, :1 groundswell of indignation and support has been evident. This concerns advertising ad— dressed to children. Leading the attack has been a Boston—based organization formed in l968—Acti0n for Children’s Television, led by Peggy Charreu. In appearances before the FCC, FTC, and congressional com— mittees, ACT began to attack commercials in children’s pr0~ grams on various grounds: use of beloved hero—figures for prod— uct huckstering; nutritional miseducation in candy and food commercials; deceptions in toy commercials; and the immorality of promoting over—the—counter drugs to child audiences. It even declared advertising in children’s programs to be inherently ex— ploitat ive and a disservice to society.13 Beginning in l971, the organization filed with the FTC a se~ ries of petitions focusing on “edibles.” It pointed out that 98 per cent of the nation’s children suffer from tooth decay, that sugary foods play a leading part in this, and that meanwhile commercials for sugared products (along with those for me— chanical toys) overwhelmingly dominate the commercials ad— dressed to children. These sugary commercials were seen as tantamount to a crusade for bad teeth; also for malnutrition, 92 THE SPONSOR resulting from the diversion of appetite and purchasing power to worthless and harmful products; also, for food habits that in later life lead to obesity, digestive troubles, and problems of the heart and arteries. ACT noted that in a specific seven—hour period on a single Saturday—October 28, 1972—the CBS—TV outlet in Boston showed sixty—seven commercials for sweetly flavored products, mostly candies and snacks."‘ There were also commercials for cereals—generally considered an essential part of a healthy diet. But it was pointed out that most cereals promoted on children’s programs were sugared cereals, some being 50 per cent sugar— as much as some candy bars. In the commercials surveyed, such products were regularly associated with love, joy, fame, power. ACT cited a 1971 study of twenty-eight hours of children’s programming that included not a single commercial for fruits, vegetables, meats, or milk. Their absence was also a message, in the opinion of the nutritionist Joan Gussow. She pictured tele- vision as selling a diet “that makes it impossible for a child not to go wrong.” Although most viewing by children involves programs that are not “children’s programs,” many advertisers have found “children’s programs”—clustered on weekends and late after— noons—especially effective as sales vehicles because most chil— dren watch them without parents, free of any parental counter- advertising. Moreover, mothers are subsequently found to yield to children in product selection to an overwhelming extent—to children five to seven years old, 88 per cent of the time for cereals, 52 per cent for snack foods, 40 per cent for candy, 38 per cent for soft drinks. For older children, the percentages were ‘ Among the products promoted relentlessly on children’s programs ACT mentioned Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Kit-Kat, Hershey Bar, Junior Mints, Butterfingers, Mr. Goodbar, M&M’s, Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Pastry, Kellogg’s Danish-Go—Rounds, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Devil Dogs, Ring—Dings, Yankee Doodles, Yodels, Big Wheels, Hostess Cupcakes, Hostess Twinkies, Nabisco Sugar Wafers, Charm Big Tops, Holloway Milk Duds, Holloway Black Cows, Nestlé Crunch, Nestlé $100,000 Bar, Nestlé Triple Feature Bar, Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Life Savers, Turkish Taffy, Clark Bars, Zag- nut Bars. DOMAIN 93 even higher, according to a Harvard Business School study. As sales agent, the child is supreme.* ACT told the FTC: “The United States is a nation of nutri— tional illiterates. Probably the single most influential contributor to this problem is television advertising.” Along with its campaign on “edibles,” ACT demanded a halt to the promotion of over—the—counter drugs in children’s pro— gramming. In 1971—72 three major drug companies were pro— moting vitamins directly to children, selling them as sweet and colorful. Some were shaped like popular cartoon characters. lludson Pharmaceutical Company was plugging Spiderman Vi— tamins, using Marvel Comics superhero Spiderman as product salesman. The product was criticized by ACT as adding to the sugary assault and also as promoting pill—popping in quest of power. It was said by physicians to pose an overdose danger. ACT meanwhile continued—in statements to the FTC, FCC, and congressional committees—to urge a ban on all advertising in children’s programs. These crusades gave the industry tremors of anxiety. To head off government action, the NAB in 1974 adopted amendments to its Television Code. These ordered an end to selling by pro— gram hosts, and shortened the time for commercials on chil- dren’s programs from 16 minutes to 10 minutes per hour~later, to 9% minutes per hour. In commercials for sugared products, the Code Administration began to demand insertion of phrases like “as part of a balanced diet”—or a Visual equivalent such as an orange or glass of milk somewhere in the picture. Various drug companies agreed to discontinue Vitamin promotion on children’s programs. A subsequent campaign for Spiderman vitamins was stopped by an FTC consent order which stated that “children are un— quahllcd by age and experience” to make decisions about vita— ' - lvl Illlllkn. * An :ulvcriising ('M‘clllivc for Oscar Mayer & Co. once explained it this way. Ile depicch women as weak on brand loyalty, then added: “But when you se 1 a kid on your product, if he can’t get it, he will throw him- self on the floor, stamp his feel and cry. You can’t get a reaction like that out of an adult.” Advcrlii‘i/Ig Age, july 1‘), 1965. 94 THE SPONSOR The FCC remained largely on the sidelines but issued a Policy Statement. It called on stations to “limit advertising to children to the lowest level consistent with their programming respon— sibilities”——as though such advertising and programming were inseparable responsibilities. It also resolved to gather, through the renewal application forms, more information on chIldren’s programming, including the amount of advertising. Throughout these struggles, industry moves seemed de- signed to save, rather than correct, the situation spotlighted by ACT. As in other disputes, the NAB tried to head off the issue with a Roper study. In 1971 Roper interviewers asked 1993 people: Q. How do you feel—that there should be no commercials on any children’s programs or that it is all right to have them if they don’t take unfair advantage of children? The sociology magazine Transaction commented: “The saving grace of that last clause! A poll—taker’s masterpiece—to insert as a given that which is in dispute.” With the stated proviso, 74 per cent of the 1993 people felt—quite predictably—that It was “all right to have them." The NAB, reporting the poll result, headlined its release: “ROPER FINDS THREE OUT OF FOUR AMERICANS APPROVE PRIN- CIPLE OF COMMERCIAL SPONSORSHIP FOR CHILDREN’S TELEVISION PROGRAMS.”15 The achievements of the ACT campaigns gave heart to many, but also tended to defuse the problem. They left the situation largely unchanged. Hosts on most children’s programs were no longer plugging products but were replaced by other selling heroes, real and mythical. Sugaer vitamins were gone from these programs, but sugared foods and candies remained in pro- fusion, sharing the spotlight at Christmas time with mechanical toys. Most stations reduced the minutes allotted to commercials, but sold them at a slightly higher rate. Advertisers adjusted to the situation by concentrating on shorter commercials, some— times selling several items in one 30—second spot. The total num— ber of commercials remained approximately the same, though HUM/UN 0‘. taking less time. Network revenues from cotmnert'tal'. on t In! dren’s programming actually increased in I975 under the new limits, setting an all—time high of $90,805,400. 'l'hus. elnhlim'~. programming remained a lucrative advertising bait. In. ran 1 had its own irresistible momentum. The FTC decision that child audiences required sclmlalt' policies, as being “unqualified” to evaluate advertising, was (‘Ull‘althl'k'tl by some to be an important breakthrough. lint the Iinplieation that adult audiences were qualified for such evalua lion is hardly borne out by the record. Numerous (‘aw hintoru-u of drug advertising illustrate the point, as does the lll'.ltil\‘ ol cigarette advertising. III 1920, at the dawn of bromleautmp, Ir\\‘ women smoked; it was not considered a “lenunme” .a twat Realizing that the cigarette market (‘Hllltl be doubled ll the. idea were overcome, cigarette. manul‘aeturer‘. began to the l‘).’l)'s to direct advertising toward women. Many of the radio and tele— vision campaigns of later years pursued this strategy—appar— ently with staggering success, creating a worldwide market of feminine addicts. Reports linking cigarettes with cancer began to circulate at mid—century, but massive television advertising— generally linking cigarette smoking with health, romance, social poise—continued successfully for two more decades. Audience response scarcely involved an “evaluation” process. Television advertising has been successful to an extent that may pose dangers for itself as well as society. Few major cor— porations now dare to be absent from the tube, and the pressure has made virtually every hour salable—at rising prices. Regard— less of price, many major corporations make time purchases far in advance. The constant price rise has tended to favor the most powerful enterprises and eliminate the marginal. It has posed huge obstacles to new enterprise except by the powerful. The absorption of smaller companies into conglomerates—usually multinational~has been one of the consequences. The trend to concentration, while hailed by some, is increasingly deplored and attacked by others. The preemption of the schedule for commercial ends has put lethal pressure on other values and interests. The rising and in— 96 THE SPONSOR creasingly indignant demand on the networks for “access” is one result. The effect on politics has been devastating. Except for .the minimal coverage provided in news programming—including, on rare occasions, debates—candidates for office w1n access to the medium only by accepting the role of sponsor, buying time at commercial rates. For broadcast purposes the candidate for major office—President, Governor, Senator—no longer”plans campaign speeches; he plans and produces “commercrals. The; cost squeeze has made 30-second and (SO—second “commerc1als the principal campaign vehicles. The time frame has almost eliminated issues in favor of the kind of dramaturgy that sells products; the same advertising agencies, directors, and script writers are recruited for this. The cost factor favors wealthy candidates and those who are adept in attracting campaign con- tributions—a basic element in political corruption. I Television’s success in squeezing the political process into the framework of commerce is primarily an American achievement. No major European country permits sale of time for political purposes. The prevailing pattern in Europe 15 allocation of free time on the basis of a mathematical formula—such as votes in a previous election, or party representation in a legislative body. The candidate who merchandises his candidacy with “commer— cials” in paid—for time is an American contribution to the electoral process. This may well be one of the most dangerous effects of the success of brOadcast advertising.16 The sales effectiveness of the medium has not only altered values and customs; it has evolved its own cosmography. In the world of the commercial, the work of Creation has been largely a disaster, functionally and aesthetically. Almost everything done in the making of man and his env1ronment was a mistake; fortunately, man himself has invented products to correct the errors. Hair, for example, grows where it shouldn’t (“unsightly hair”) and fails to grow Where it should, leading to socxal and business disaster. Fortunately, man has evolved a host of prod— ucts for both problems. When hair does grow in the right DOMAIN 97 places, it tends to grow wrongly. Many women, for example, are mortified by “skinny eyelashes.” Again—fortunately—a whole industry has been developed to make them look thicker and longer. Additional industries take care of other problems. For the unfortunate races on whom Nature has bestowed curly hair, man has developed straightening products; for those with the humiliating heritage of straight hair, curling products. Hair is almost always wrongly colored: dark hair must be bleached, white hair darkened; fortunately, products are available for both problems. There are also products to give oily hair “the dry look” and dry hair “brilliant highlights.” Skin involves similar aesthetic failures, which man has succeeded in remedying. Women need no longer be disadvantaged by “pale eyelids”; products that correct the condition are available. Products are also available for “moisturizing” dry skin and drying oily skin. The insufferable pallor of normal lips can be remedied by vari— ous products, which can also add orange, lemon, raspberry, or other flavors. Man has been especially inventive about odors; he has identified and named special odors for almost every zone of the body from “bad breath” to “foot odor.” All require special products and commercials for them, including vaginal sprays. It used to be thought that the smell of a clean body had an aphro- disiac effect, involving natural secretions, but these are now obliterated by man—made products, with secretions and odors borrowed from other animals or from plants or minerals. Some of these irritate human tissues, but man has developed a host of products to soothe and counteract the irritations. The foods provided by Nature have, like the human body, proved to be failures. They include coarse ingredients that man has learned to remove, thus providing bread that is delightful to squeeze. The removed ingredients can later be processed into products to be sold as diet supplements. If the refined foods cause c0n~ stipation, obesity, anemia, or other disruptions, a host of prod- ucts is available for corrective purposes. The innumerable prod- ucts needed to correct the failures of Nature are made by huge companies employing hosts of people in production, promotion, and distribution. They work under much pressure to keep 98 THE SPONSOR things going. The human apparatus designed by Nature is noto— riously prone to waver under pressures of this sort; fortunately, man has invented liquids and pills by which people can stimu- late themselves or calm themselves as needed. Televised mes- sages for beers and wines were produced and exhibited in the United States in 1975 at a cost of around $140 million; for stom— ach settlers and other digestive aids, $50 million; for pain re— lievers and sleeping pills, $100 million. One of eight commercials was for a drug product. Three drug companies were among the ten largest network advertisers. For decades self-medication mer— chants have been among the leading sponsors—in network and local broadcasting. Commercials have worked—with success—toward revision of many traditional tenets of our society. As we have seen, rever- ence for nature has been replaced by a determination to process it. Thrift has been replaced by the duty to buy. The work ethic has been replaced by the consumption ethic. “Conspicuous con— sumption,” once considered an unworthy tendency of leisure classes, has been sanctified and democratized, and is right for everybody. Modesty has been exorcized with help from the sexual sell. Restraint of ego has lost standing. If one does not proclaim oneself “the greatest,” one is suspected of not being much good. The reluctant candidate, willing to serve, is passé; a candidate must repeatedly extol his capacities for leadership. Self—love is consecrated ritual. The woman caressing her body in shower or bathtub has become a standard feature of com— mercials. A woman applying perfume says: “It’s expensive, but I think I’m worth it!” The chorus of claims and promises involves endless repetition. If you can’t afford “frequency,” advises an advertising leader, don’t bother advertising. Don’t worry if a commercial irritates some people. If they “like” it too much, there may be some— thing wrong with it. Commercials challenge each other on in— numerable points (e.g. the battle of roll—0n vs. spray vs. cream deodorants), but never on the basic principle: you must buy. So far the collective message is successful. It apparently holds its audience in thrall. But sponsors are well aware that this might In HI \IW "" not be so if the message were llmlm‘nnm'tl In umImm-lmp pu- grainmlng. A degree of sponsor control over the summmlm“ II IIIIII|\ most of which is categorized as “entertaimm-nl” In Iln u lull considered crucial to the success of the message. \Ve Iurn nmv to those outer defenses. ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/01/2011 for the course COM FT 303 taught by Professor Jaramillo during the Spring '11 term at BU.

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