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There's a reason people want to TIVO the shows and skip the advertisements. The ads are annoying. They are often insipid and even insulting to the intellect of the viewer. They suck. And yet, agencies are paid multi millions of dollars to conceptualize, design, and put together these little bundles of nuisance. Are they incompetent? No, just insidious.

First consider this: most ads are not aimed at you. Doesn't matter who "you" are, the fact is there are dozens of "niches" that the ad makers are looking to hit -- middle-aged middle-income housewives, African American tween girls, elderly retired men, opera fans, creationists, NASCAR fans.... but in any case not at you. Ads directed at children are especially annoying, since their goal is not to get children to spend money that they don't earn and don't have, but to get children to harangue adults into spending.... and, well naturally an ad aimed at convincing an eleven-year-old that they must have some toy or treat will be signaling the urgency of this need with sounds and images that drive everyone else to distraction. On the other hand an outfit angling to insure the elderly will churn out messages that play on rational late-life fears that come across as absurd to those still in their "immortal" youth.

But there's an even worse end to it. Advertising is not meant to be good, its goal is effectiveness. Fast food commercials may grate on your soul, but they also plant that seed in your mind that, hours or days later as you drive by the slop shop, inveigles you to pop in for a dollop of self-gratification. A sufficiently annoying commercial will get your attention and nest in your brain, a function better served by an awful screed than a ho-hum intelligent plea for your patronage. So even that relative handful of ads that are aimed squarely at you will probably be stupid and annoying by design.

I will throw in two caveats -- locally made ads and recut ads. You know your local car dealer is a cheap sonofagun, and beset with low production values. He does not make suck commercials because some high-end ad agency focus-grouped their effectiveness, but because he can't afford to have that done in the first place. But even he knows how to get your attention, which is what he is looking to do. So local ads are usually poorly put together garbage, instead of slickly put together garbage, which is at least a bit endearing. The other thing is, sometimes the extremely rare commercial that is professionally made and actually even enjoyable to watch gets recut for time. There's maybe a 60-second version and a 30-second version, but some enterprising TV station wants to squeeze in more ads for the minute and makes their own 20-second version. They presume you've seen the whole ad before, so they want to remind you that you liked it without keeping intact the reasons you did.

But the bottom line (and really "the bottom line" is all these people are thinking of, isn't it?) is that the ads in general just suck. On purpose. Because we, as a society, let them.

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