As I near the end of my membership to the key 18-to-34 demographic for advertisers, I realize what an awful member I was. Throughout most of those precious years, I carelessly fast-forwarded through commercial breaks, installed ad blockers on my Web browsers, flipped past magazine ads without a second glance, even openly mocked the particularly egregious ads I did happen to see to friends and family.
And I doubt I was really unique in that respect.
I, like many others, have become pretty disaffected with advertising and grown to be passively resistant to the heartless corporate pandering that occurs every waking moment of our lives. In my late teens and twenties, I angrily defied the ad inundation and took on a furious, Bill Hicks-level contempt toward anyone who perpetuated the scheming capitalist machine that spent billions upon billions of dollars for catchy jingles, memorable slogans, and overpaid celebrity pitchmen.
At 33, I just really don't care. Although I still find the majority of advertising to still be a despicably strident form of media, I can't work up the energy to continually decry an industry that will never, ever go away. My defense has become to just tune out, divert my attention, and the commercials become invisible.
Which is why the latest rumor for Apple's
(NASDAQ:AAPL) supposed HDTV set left me numb.
Former Wall Street Journal
reporter Jessica Lessin recently said that Apple's upcoming TV service will allegedly have ad-skipping technology that will automatically omit commercials from programming that was recorded live. Rather than having to fast-forward through the ad breaks, the content will be viewable ad-free. The service will reportedly be part of a premium membership that viewers will pay Apple for, and in turn, Apple will compensate the sponsors whose ads were skipped.
Right off the bat, it's a pretty boring rumor that fails to drum up much excitement. Aside from our Pavlovian response of tuning out or pressing fast-forward when prompted with a commercial, ad-skipping technology -- like the kind found in Dish Network's
(NASDAQ:DISH) Hopper DVR -- has been around for years in one form or another. In fact, paying to avoid commercials is essentially the point of buying online content from Google
(NASDAQ:AMZN), and Apple -- again, something we've been doing for years. And given the popularity of those existing services, live TV viewership has plummeted precipitously, leaving its commercials to be as impotent and ephemeral as if they never existed at all.
Granted, it's just one rumor for a product that's only purported to exist, but it's one of many defanged features that has left the smart TV and streaming media center industry serviceable yet utterly boring
. Sure, we can access countless hours of content on demand, but presentation and management still leaves much to be desired.
And because of that, I propose a radical idea that I believe would make the elusive Apple TV a surefire hit or, at the very least, shake up an industry that has become just as dull and predictable as the industry it's trying to upset. An idea that flies in the face of Apple TV's most recent rumor.
The idea: putting commercials back in.
Now wait, hear me out.
Imagine watching an episode of All in the Family
on a streaming service and having the episode broken up by the very same commercials from when it originally aired. You'd get a vintage Coca-Cola
(NYSE:KO) ad, an old Gillette
(NYSE:PG) spot, maybe something from Shell
(NYSE:RDSA) -- all evoking the feeling of watching TV back in the mid-'70s with ads people would actually enjoy watching.
It may sound crazy, but there definitely is a market.
YouTube hosts millions of classic television commercials -- even entire blocks of commercials from certain eras -- that hit visitors right in the nostalgia bone. Retro-era commercials are the bread and butter for sites like Retro Junk, Best Old Commercials, and Cracked. There's also a huge movement on BitTorrent to upload episodes "WOC," which means "with original commercials." Apple would have no problem finding a demographic who would pay for the "pure classic television package" if it were to implement it.
But what about the advertisers themselves? Wouldn't they grouse at the idea of ads promoting products that very well might not exist anymore? Well, if sponsors are reportedly agreeing to accept funds so that viewers can skip commercials, would they really mind if viewers actively wanted to watch them? And given the number of corporations that still exist from classic eras -- or were bought out by ones that still exist today -- it's even more commercials (and attention-grabbing ones, at that) for companies that could still reap the benefits of today's consumers.
Heck, they might actually pay
Apple for the service.
Admittedly, this is a pretty nutty concept and really only applies to programming that aired at least 10-20 years ago. Consumers aren't in the market to pay a fee to watch modern-day TV commercials.
But it doesn't have to apply to television programming across the board, just the lot you'd find on Nick at Nite, TV Land, or Antenna TV. It would marry the nostalgic era of appointment TV with the instant, on-demand freedom of today. For those willing to pay for the service, it's a win for viewers, Apple, and the advertisers.
And jeez, it would actually be something newer, more exciting, and far more novel than ad-skipping.
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