Recently I watched a television show that I normally don’t. It was quite an eye opener. The words graphic, explicit and foul come to mind. It was only a half-hour show, which means about 21 minutes of content. By the time I really focused on what it contained, most of the advertisements were over and I couldn’t remember who was actually paying for this drivel.
Once I took note of what was going on, I started keeping a list of sponsors. Later I decided to email them and let them know I didn’t approve of their choice to support the program.
It was nearly impossible to find out where to send such an email.
It reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago when I was in school. I was friends with a fellow student whose father was an assistant producer in Hollywood. The student asked me to watch his father’s new (at that time) sitcom, “The Archie Bunker Show,” and let him know what I thought about it. I remember my friend saying that one of the things they were trying to do was “really push the boundaries” with it. You know, language, subject matter and sexual innuendo. By today’s standards, it was pretty mild. By the standards of the day, it was revolutionary. Of course, it went on to be a big hit and won many awards.
How many times have you heard some actor being interviewed on a talk show about their new TV show or movie say exactly the same thing as my friend. One of their bragging points is that they were “really pushing the boundaries.” And it always seems that the pushing is in the same direction. It’s as if there is some contest or prize for being more violent, more salacious, more suggestive or using swear words more times.
Well, back to my attempted emails.
What I wish I could have found was a website dedicated to giving me a voice with which to push back a little. All it would have to do is give me a list of the TV shows at any time or station along with the businesses that advertised during each show. And for each business that chose to support that show, an email address where I can send a review or comment. I don’t want a dead-end mailbox that nobody will ever find, but a real one with someone at the other end in the business who might find it useful.
Many of the products that appear in the commercials are brand names, manufactured by large corporations or even conglomerates that make dozens or hundreds of products. It would be good to know who is behind the product name and what other products come from the same place.
I don’t intend to say nasty things in my emails, although some fools might. I don’t intend to threaten to boycott them, at least not right away. I want to let them know that I believe they will make better choices in the future. I want them to know that their advertising money is having a negative effect.
I can’t imagine any sensible corporate advertising executive would long ignore such feedback. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for 30 seconds of exposure to customers is meant for one purpose only: to sell more of something. If they thought the money was having the opposite effect, they would do something else.
And the envelope pushers would find themselves needing unemployment checks. Maybe they could join the Post Office and push real envelopes.
But wouldn’t such a website be abused? Of course. There are always trolls under the bridge. And anything they did would be ignored. But thoughtful messages from real consumers would get through and have their effect.
It might give some of us the opportunity to actually push “boundaries” rather than suffer from others who think it is their life goal to “push the boundaries.” Wouldn’t that be a novel turn for our country?
Here’s my modest proposal — let’s develop a website identifying TV advertisers and the shows they support so we can contact them and let them know what we think of their choices.