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Why Do Commercials Suck?

Updated on July 15, 2011

Yes, TV Commercials Suck - but they work!

This is a brief insight into the world of advertising, psychology, and what makes you purchase products for ridiculous amounts of money.

Why do we hate TV commercials? Well, other than they interrupt something we were really getting into, they are pathetic, overdone, blatant attempts to manipulate us, stupid, boring, and otherwise worthless.

Ahhhh, that's what YOU think!

Why Ads Work

People are funny

We are funny. To fully understand how funny people in general are, you have to understand a bit of psychology...well, philosophy actually. The concept of Self.

Ok, I'm not philosopher. If any philosophers are reading this, I'm sure it will become evident very quickly. For the rest of you, consider this:

What is the concept of self? It is what makes us different than animals. We have a perception of ourselves. That perception is definable a million ways. We are smart, attractive, funny, can do anything, can't do anything, stupid, ugly, whatever. It's our concept of self that makes us do what we do. It's how we appear to ourselves that controls our behavior.

Take this a bit further....You make decisions based on what you feel you should do. You make decisions based on who you think you are. You make these decision based, not on reality, but on your perception of reality. You may be a jerk, but if your perception of yourself is that you're a great person and everyone loves you, you'll probably go on doing the things that make others call you a jerk. In your mind, you're great. In your mind, you're doing fine. Is that reality? Well it's your reality. In the end, that's all the really matters, isn't it?

Now take that a step further, what about other people's perception of you? If they feel you're a jerk, they're probably going to treat you like a jerk. This is true whether you're a jerk or not. People will act based on their perception of things, not based on what could be called reality (if there is such a thing, but that's a bit deep for this article!)

So if you truly understand the above, that perception is reality whether its based in fact or fantasy, you're ready to continue.

AIDA type of commercial

Brainwashing at it's finest

Ok, I'm no marketing expert either. If any marketing experts are reading this, that should become evident soon enough. For the rest of you, consider this:

I break commercials down into 2 types: AIDA and Flood. Basically AIDA stands for Attention, Information, Desire, and Action. It's the model businesses use to market things to you. You see this in almost every TV commercial.

Man and woman talking about something serious (Get viewers attention - use serious words, humor, confusion, whatever)

Woman tells man something he didn't know that sounds great (Provide Information - don't have male tell woman, it's perceived as biased)

Man says we need to do that immediately (Get Desire: provide feeling of urgency)

But we have to call NOW before the special is over (Provoke viewer into Action)

And you thought some smart "idea team" just came up with the commercial at some business meeting? HA!

Flood type of Commercial

Basic, but still brainwashing

How many times you see that annoying ad on TV for ......whatever. Cars, food, mortgage, whatever. It's those 15 second spots that really say nothing but force the name of the product down your throat that really irk many people.

But they work.

Brand recognition is probably the absolute biggest reason we buy the things we buy. I prefer Peter Pan peanut butter because my family used it when I was growing up. When I go to the store and look at peanut butter, I rarely ever consider Jiff, or.... geez, what other kinds of peanut butter are there? I don't even know because I buy what I'm familiar with. It's normal to me. Remember the concept of self above? Here's where it comes into play. Force the smiling hot chick holding the XYZ drink in her hand to be ingrained in the viewers mind. Make it familiar to him. The smiling chick is there to give you feelings of serenity, happiness, comfort, whatever. See it enough times and you will, whether you like it or not, feel familiar with the product and feel comfortable and happy about it. Remember Pavlov's dogs? You've just been conditioned!

For some advertisers, it doesn't matter how annoying the commercials are. They know that the commercials work, and work well. Otherwise they wouldn't be on TV for years at a time. Personally, I find the commercials for Mentos, Old Navy, and Orbitz to be especially annoying. But I'll be honest, last time I was checking flight prices, I checked Orbitz. I have never had the urge to buy mentos but I know what they are. I know that Old Navy sells clothes. I'm familiar with the products, whether I like it or not.

There's a car dealership in my area that blasted TV, newspapers, sides of busses, everything they could possibly hit with ad after ad after ad with the owner and his stupid catchphrase. Everyone, for years now, has been talking about how annoying the commercials are. Yet ask anyone where to buy a Chevy around here and they'll mention his place. It worked, he made every singler person aware of his dealership and where it is. As much as we may despise his marketing technique, it works. He flooded it.

Combining The Two Types of Commercials

Optimal technique

Optimally, what works best seems to be a combination of the two above techniques. Make sure everyone is aware of your product/service and use AIDA to provoke them to call. Late night infomercials do this perfectly. They are on during low cost hours and use AIDA over and over again to provoke people to call. Think it's stupid? You know what a Ginsu knife is, you know what Sham Wow is, you know what Oxy Clean is, you know what Girls Gone Wild is.

Ok, so you know what it is but you've never bought the stuff? Someone has, or they wouldn't keep spending money putting the stuff on the air.

The tricks advertisers use can also backfire. In Flood type commercials where the product isn't as memorable as the humorous or stupid commercial, people tend to not remember the product at all. I know there's one for a type of gum that irks me every time I see it. I have no idea which gum it is though. I remember commercials about dogs, people, racing cars, flying planes...but for the life of me I have no idea what products they were advertising. Can you really say they worked then?

Got a certain commercial that irks you?

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    • profile image

      Tony 2 years ago

      I find it very surprising that there isn't a study or field of study that examines how repetitive commercials, thrown at people 5 times in 30 minutes can backfire! I'm not talking about the necessities of life, food, shelter...etc... I may need to go to that grocery store. I'm talking about the luxuries, like buying a Toyota over a Honda. I personally have made decisions never to buy a product just for spite because they over advertised and subjected me to this over and over and over... out of spite I will not purchase that product, or go into that dealership.. My view of that company has been tarnished and I no longer like them. No studies on this at all?

    • profile image

      anonymous 2 years ago

      You say advertising works? I disagree completely. I will purposely avoid buying products or services that spend ungodly amounts of money on advertising. By the way, those millions of dollars that companies spend on sheety advertising turns into higher cost of products for us, the consumers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Haha! I googled commercials suck as well.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The posted "rationale" must apply to brain dead boob tube zombies who have access to no remote control for their television, the only possible explanation. After all, mute button & fast forward were invented to avoid tv commercials, which are generally guaranteed to cause most viewers to do anything else but listen to them. I personally avoid any business that is trying to sell me on fast food, insurance, clothing, soap, etc. Again, MUTE & FAST FORWARD ARE YOUR FRIENDS.

    • ryurek lm profile image
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      ryurek lm 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I agree. Good news for people like us, Dish Network and the networks are battling. How does that affect commercial watchers? Dish network is introducing a feature called AdHop that will let DVR watchers skip over commercials on recordings that are over 10 hours old I think. You might remember TiVO did this a while ago and was slammed by the networks in court. Now Dish network says its going to fight the battle to give us this feature.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Every commercial irks me. It's incredible that I typed in Google "commercials suck" expecting a whole new world of friends that agree. Instead I got lots of commercial analyzing and no commercial hating. Totally surprised!

      I mute or click to the next channel for every single commercial, always.

      I shop on foot and online for everything I ever buy.

      I'm very sure there is an internet niche for me here. Just wish I had the time to rally real commercial haters like myself.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Most of the non-national commercials (those produced and run only locally) are really not good at all. (that's being nice). lol

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 6 years ago

      We never watch TV adverts. My kids are trained to yell 'adverts' so we can fast-forward if we ever record anything with ads. I get all my advertising online now.

    • ryurek lm profile image
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      ryurek lm 6 years ago

      @anonymous: LOL @ HeadOn < Apply to forhead, headache's GONE!

      Yeah I hear ya. But even though you didn't remember the name, I bet if you saw it in a store you'd recognize it. I guess that's the whole idea...but sometimes I just wish they'd have a bland "Buy our product, this is why....." rather than them trying to get into my head.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This was a very interesting read! I think the commercial that annoyed me the most was the one where they repeated the name of the product over and over and that was the whole commercial - something about applying a product on your head to relieve a headache? Ironically, now I can't remember the name! I think the more repetitive commercials are, the more annoying I find them. I agree with you about Old Navy commercials - so irritating!

    • ryurek lm profile image
      Author

      ryurek lm 6 years ago

      @delia-delia: I agree. But think about that TP one, when you're searching for something "soft" you'll stop and look at Quilted Northern, as you will Charmin and anything else you see advertised. Those will be "familiar" to you based on those commercials only, even if you've never known anyone to use them. How many of us actually read the description, check size of roll vs number of sheets, etc? I've seen brands I've never heard of and unless it's ridiculously cheap, I won't even consider it. I know, I'm brainwashed!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      Oh boy, there are many commercials that bug me...I mean do you base your type of toilet paper that a cartoon character Bear uses? I am very critical of commercials because I have worked in commercial art illustration and marketing, honestly some of the stupid things people come up with. Commercials can come across with a message using comic characters, especially to the youth.