Prediction: Commercials overtake television in ‘06

Jim Lee: Local Columnist

Well, it seems like only yesterday it was last year, doesn’t it? Not only that, in a couple of months it will be three years since starting this column.

A lot has happened since that first column appeared on March 16, 2003. Since then, our country got itself into another undeclared war, we re-elected George W. Bush, and a former member of the Hitler Youth took over the Vatican.

So how can we say we’re not making the world a better place? After all, this column began during the centennial year of Harley Davidson. Golly-gosh, things don’t get any better than that.

All this sentimentality is too much for me, though. Not only does it put tears in my ears when my eyes are far apart, it makes me want to go buy a six-pack on a Sunday — which means a trip to the next county.

So, instead of wallowing in nostalgia over the past three years, I’ll just indulge in predicting future events. New Year’s Day seems a good time for that. Besides, I happen to be the Edgar Cayce of trivia. If something’s irrelevant, I’m probably an expert on it.

When I think of irrelevancy, I think of TV commercials.

Although networks and ad agencies certainly disagree, I do regard commercials as worthy of the highest awards in the category of things that don’t matter — with one exception: Intrusiveness. They nearly rise to the level of telemarketers in that respect.

I’m ashamed to confess that I used to work in radio and TV commercials as a performer and copywriter. On that end it was fun, especially when the check arrived from my agent. The sponsor paid the producer who paid a 15 percent kickback to the ad agency that paid the talent agent that paid me (after deducting a commission).

It took awhile to get paid, but I had fun doing the spots (especially when I got to play weird characters).

Now I’m subjected to commercials instead of making them, a bombarded consumer like everybody else. This bombardment is worse than when I worked in the industry, and this experience makes me see the escalation.

This, of course, brings up my thoughts on where commercials are headed. You didn’t think I’d get back to the topic, did you?

Commercial television will become exactly that. This includes broadcast, cable, and satellite. Every regularly scheduled program will be what we now call an infomercial or an extension of the product placement concept.

Of course we are all familiar with infomercials. Today’s product placement is the very visible placement of products (for a hefty fee) in scenes of TV shows and movies. This is incidental to the story being portrayed.

The placement and the story will trade places in the future, the story becoming incidental to the pitch. The story will center on the advertised product or service.

Of course both types of programs will feature interruptions for advertising other products and services. The new method will not include exclusion of intrusion.

The alternatives will be pay-per-view or the traditional movie “theater” at the mall with its gum-and-candy floor and 12-inch screen. Of course there will be commercial interruptions like present-day TV, but the shows won’t be entirely commercials.

Excluding those of us who are really fed up with the lack of quality television or who actually like commercials, this future may seem quite bleak and frustrating. But don’t despair. We can resort to books and family communication if we have to.