Sunday, July 6, 2008

Things I Hate: Commercials

I was thinking about this yesterday. Today I was privy to the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. I was thinking about the effectiveness of commercials in my consumer decisions. I decided that at least half the time the outcome of a commercial elicits the opposite as to their intended purpose. I don't pretend to be the only person who dislikes commercials, but I doubt people really think about it. What is their purpose? Fundamentally, it is to inform the consumer as to the availability of a product or service. The next step in advertising sophistication is to inform the consumer as to the benefit of said product or service by either positively presenting their product or service, or negatively presenting the competition. The later is the first crux. Finally, they must make the commercial memorable in a favorable way by being provocative when smearing the competition or "pop" or "edgy" when trying to promote their own positive characteristics. This is the second crux.

By smearing the competition as inferior we are ultimately deteriorating society by pushing the bounds of ethics. This is common and obvious in the realm of politics. Also, they fail to present a proper persuasive argument by all too often dwelling on a one sided bias. This sort of mentality slights fair trade and ethical competition by forcing the common consumer to make choices without complete knowledge of the product and its alternatives. Inevitably if no company takes the high road, then the consumer must choose between the least of all evils. Complete negative reinforcement will only create lower consumer moral.

The second, and most damnable characteristic of ad campaigns, is the exploitation of consumer through a blunt force trauma use of unsophisticated suggestions. Miracle cleaners and car salesmen are two good examples. A local car commercial was going to have some guy on a motorcycle jump 14 cars. So. I wondered if anybody would even show up to see it. They use an unnaturally annoying high pressure salesman with a fake persona and sales pitch poorly riding a wheelie on camera as he spouts out some crap about this motorcycle jump. What does that have to do with the product? It's simply annoying. It's exploiting people that are unsophisticated enough get excited about gimmicks. The miracle cleaner guy is the same way. He talks quickly and excitably in order to be memorable. His statements are reinforced by a questionable "right before your eyes" demonstration. Any moron should be appalled by the obvious use of rudimentary manipulation techniques.

Either way, these are primitive tactics, brutal like the prom night fumbling in the back seat of your father's car. A conscience stance against these exploitations will align with the spirit of capitalism and the best products will shine through. I will not dance to their tune. An online consumer rating system could effectively weed out the less worthy. Maybe Angie's List is making an attempt at that. I'm not sure if it handles consumer goods or not. If it doesn't then it should.

This paragraph is my acceptance as to the inevitability of commercials. Remember the old Gillette commercials? "Gillette, the best a man can get." They were sophisticated and affective because they employed attractive people in a "normal" yet modern setting. Consider them further. They always depicted a ruggedly handsome man shaving; hence, an attractive person in a normal situation. They were selling razors so they used sharp lines and harsh shadows to define edges. They also used deep, rich color schemes that appealed to the sophisticated side of the consumer. Is this manipulation of emotions? Definitely, but they appealed to complex, evolved emotions. They were void of flashy, trendy gimmicks.

I have to say, sex sells. Damn, I love the most recent Edge shave gel commercials with the hot girls shooting each other with shaving cream. I am a corporate pawn. But let's consider that further though. Sex is as primitive as it gets but sexuality is as sophisticated as it gets. Sexuality and sensuality are equally affective on men and women because sexual, mysterious people are desired and admired. Even purely sexual women such as in the Edge commercials bring positive reinforcement while remaining essentially neutral in a capitalistic way. They are pushing the envelope as to what is exploitation of consumers. I acknowledge that.

My last thought pertains to the "straw" I referred to in the first sentence. I was watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on ABC Family. After I started counting and before I lost my patience it was averaging 5-10 minutes of movie before airing 4-7 minutes of commercials. The total run time is 3.5 hours. The DVD runtime is 2.5 hours. If we adjust for the "edited to fit in the allotted runtime" clause, I'd bet we're talking about a 2 hour runtime without commercials. This is unreasonable. The same thing happened with Batman Begins on FX (I think). Just like poor commercials forcing away my business, I quit watching! Furthermore, it's likely I will not watch your station again because of it. I take things to the extreme, but ask yourself my dear reader…why don't you?

And now a deep thought…

The achievement of mankind cannot be measured by its tangible creations. It can only be assessed by marveling at the great expanse of knowledge learned through its generations.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rule of 9

Do you remember when you were in grade school and someone offered to show you this magic trick? It goes something like this – pick a number between 1 and 10, then add *something* to it, then subtract, then multiply …blah blah blah, then multiply by 9 and add the sum of the digits. The person would promptly shout out the number you ended up with. Wow! Hopefully you realized it wasn't magic and there was a mathematical trick to it.

It's actually quite a strange phenomenon that I've dubbed the "Rule of 9." Basically if you multiply any number 1-10 by 9, then add the two digits, the result is always 9. So all the adding and subtracting in the trick is pointless; only the last two steps where you multiply a single digit number by 9 and add the digits is fruitful. I think there is some mathematical principle here, but I really don't know it. I haven't researched the topic thoroughly mostly because I have no idea what the principle is called so I can search for it. I implore the reader to enlighten me if they know more about it than I do.

I messed around with this and created the following table.

It shows that there is significant structure beyond the single digit numbers. Notice that at 11 the sum of the digits is 18. At 21 and 22 the sum is 18, and so on. The pattern follows in that manner until all 10 numbers give 18 as the sum of the digits. Then it starts over with 27 being the number that shows up rather than 18. I'm sure I could express it in some mathematical fashion, but I've never been that good at this sort of random mathematics, and frankly I don't feel like trying at the moment. I suspect this pattern will continue forever and the digits of every number that appears always add to 9. I'm not sure what the significance of this is, if there is any. It's an interesting observation I decided to write about because it reinforces my feeling that these things are the way they are because universe is highly structured and the universe is highly structured because these things are the way they are. It follows the chicken or the egg conundrum. Some physicists have posed that we exist because the universe is the way it is, but the universe is the way it is because we exist. It's along those same lines.

And now a deep thought…

Hmm... What if the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (by measuring (observing) something we ultimately change it) has a limit? Could the structure in the universe have appeared because our influence has forced us beyond the transient state?