31 January 2013

John Updike In Praise of the Art of Advertising (preparing for the Super Bowl)

Media is fragmenting into smaller, niche audiences. People have netflix and tivo and don't have to watch ads in order to watch their favorite programs. So advertisers are paying nearly $4 million for one 30 second Super Bowl ad this Sunday. This is an event that needs to be watched in real time and that garners huge swaths of the American public. And once corporate America has our attention, it treats it as something valuable. Worth, well, in excess of $7 million per minute.

With that in mind, here's the late John Updike in praise of TV commercials in his novel Terrorists.

Bush complains about Putin turning into Stalin, but we’re worse than the poor old clunky Kremlin ever was. The Commies just wanted to brainwash you. The new powers that be, the international corporations, want to wash your brains away, period. They want to turn you into machines for consuming – the chicken-coop society. All this entertainment – Madam, it’s crap, the same crap that kept the masses zombified in the Depression, only then you stood in line and paid a quarter for the movie, where today they hand it to you free, with the advertisers paying a million a minute for the chance to mess with your heads. ...
[the programming – sports and comedies and talk shows] It’s slop. And Leno and Letterman, more slop. But the commercials, they are fantastic. They’re like Faberge eggs. When somebody in this country wants to sell you something, they really buckle down. They get intense. You watch the same commercial twenty times, you see how every second has been weighed out in gold. They’re full of what physicists call information.

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