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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Stop the annoying pop-up ads!

October 19, 2005

The latest trend in television isn’t aliens, sea monsters, or desperate suburban housewives, although, it’s just as frightening. I’m talking about those irritating pop-up advertisements during our favorite shows.

I bring up this subject for two solid journalistic reasons:
-I’m concerned about the future artistic integrity of television.
-It annoys me.

Those irksome pop-up ads are slowly driving me mad. They pop up during pivotal scenes and cover the lower quarter of the screen. They distract from the plot, change the mood and at times, can block a piece of information vital to understanding the story.

And what fundamental information do they have for us that just can’t wait until the commercial break? Well, they tell us that we’re watching NBC in high-definition format. Or just in case we’ve gotten a recent case of amnesia, they like to remind us that we’re watching Joey. They also tell us what’s coming up next, or that we don’t want to miss Everwood on its day and time.

NBC and The WB are the worst offenders of this newest advertising device. Not only do they boldly stamp their network logos on the right corner of the screen during an entire show, now the bottom left corner is a constant pop-up advertising area. The top left corner of the screen is used to display the rating block, so we know if the show is for mature audiences. The left corner is also used to tell us if the show is broadcast in high definition.

If this keeps up, pretty soon the entire screen will be inundated with network information and advertisements, and that show you’re trying to enjoy, well, you’ll just have to read about it in Tube Talk.

I understand why the networks are trying out this advertising device. We, the television viewers, have disrespected commercials. We’ve used them to take bathroom breaks, make phone calls, or raid the refrigerator. We’ve ignored them, and we’ve skipped through them with our VCR, DVR, and TiVo fast-forward buttons.

Now, the networks are getting revenge. To pay us back for our wavering attention span, they are forcing us to watch spiders crawl across Danny McCoy’s pants during Las Vegas to tell us that we shouldn’t miss Fear Factor. It has to stop, people.

As much as I love My Name is Earl, I really don’t want to see his mug shot, with the disheveled hair and unruly mustache, when I’m trying to watch The West Wing. Is there no place sacred?

I fear it may get worse. Where will networks draw the line with this invasive marketing strategy? When bald Lex Luthor appears on Smallville, will we see a pop-up ad for Rogaine? When George of Grey’s Anatomy opens his bag lunch to enjoy his peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, will we see a pop-up ad for Jif? When plus-sized Hurley makes his way awkwardly down the beach on Lost, will we see an ad for Weight Watchers?

On the computer, at least we can install pop-up blockers or hit the big X on the pop-up ad window to close it. Television viewers don’t have that luxury.

As for the artistic integrity of television, I worry that these ads may start showing up in characters’ dialogue. I’m not joking. It’s already happening on daytime television, where I saw one character go on and on about her craving for Pringles potato chips and another character who had to run out and get some Nice ‘n Easy hair color to cover her grays before a big date. It’s awkward product placement and completely disrupts the storyline.

Just imagine UPN’s teen-detective Veronica Mars lobbying for her network by telling a prospective client she can’t go on a stakeout because she has to be home in time to watch Everybody Hates Chris. Actually, that’s kind of funny. I can see her saying that. But, you get the point. If television programs have to start incorporating ads within their writing, then we can kiss creativity goodbye.

One job of a television critic is to point out flaws within the genre and make it strive to be better. I’m sounding the warning bells. These pop-ads are a dangerous precursor to where we may be headed. The day Denny Crane of Boston Legal starts going on about how he can’t live without his Viagra, is the day I hang up my remote. Trust me, if that happens, you will hear my wrath.

The irony of the situation is that there is one place you can escape the pop-up ads: the commercials. That’s right. You don’t have to worry about the network logo or the promo for upcoming shows covering up part of the Neutrogena face-wash bottle or the gigantic Butterfinger bar. Nope. The networks reserve the pop-up ad torture for your favorite shows. The commercials are pop-up free.

I understand that networks must make money to survive. And convincing us to head to McDonalds or to reduce our fine lines with Oil of Olay is paramount to their success. But they must also realize that television is the stage for escapism and divine storytelling. Interjecting commercial information within the bodies of work disrupts the creative flow and threatens to undermine the very reason we watch in the first place.

Imagine reading a newspaper column where every few lines the name of the publication was written or there was a reminder of what was coming up for the week. It would be distracting, right? Did I mention you’re reading Tube Talk? It runs every Wednesday in The Exponent Telegram?

See, annoying isn’t it? I’m begging the networks; stop the pop-ups, for the sanity of television viewers and critics everywhere.

Originally published 10/19/05 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


Eric Vaterlaus said...

I whole heartedly agree. Pop-up ads will kill television. It this continues, I will start getting my shows off of the Internet or only watching DVD's. TNT is one of the worst for Pop-up ads.

tube talk girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tube talk girl said...

TNT? Really? I've been ready to hurl my TV out the window during the NBC and WB endless pop-ups.

Anonymous said...

The pop ups are annoying. Not surehow to stop it.

Kate IL said...

I always thought FOX was bad.

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