Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So much for the benefits of reading. A combination of political ads and depressing news programming has pretty much done for the tiny bit of television I still watched. PBS is no help, what with having the most depressing news and a spate of very noir crime on Mystery.

So I read in bed and make my back stiff.

The sole comedy on the political front comes from the New Hampshire political ads on Boston-area TV. There is a measurement in advertising known as wasted impressions. They come in two flavours. First are the ads that you present to someone who has already seen your ad ten times, or who may already be a customer. After a few times, a little switch goes off in their heads, and you ad goes black. Or else, they may become really, really annoyed with you for repeating the message they've already bought, to the point where they take their business elsewhere. I'll be back to that in a moment.

The other flavour is created by presenting a product to audiences who will never, under any circumstances, wish to buy your product. This gets tricky. Sometimes, advertisers take a calculated risk and present their product in a market where they know perhaps half the audience doesn't buy the product and may even be grossed out by the product. (Think, ads for feminine sanitary supplies during football games.)

This second item, deliberately wasting impressions, explains why the few spaces of Massachusetts TV and radio ad time not consumed by Massachusetts attack ads is filled with New Hampshire attack ads, for and against people you never heard of. The Granite State has a pitiful handful of its own TV stations, and only one has statewide coverage. The most populous parts of the state have relied on Boston media since the invention of the telegraph.

This year's deluge takes the idea to extremes. For one thing, Massachusetts' population is four or five times larger than New Hampshire's. For another, the day is long gone when someone making an ad buy like this could assume their audience in Massachusetts had only a degree or two of separation from someone in New Hampshire. I'd bet that there are tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents who don't even know where the place is. And now the ones who can vote are all stoked to write in John Lynch for Massachusetts governor, Paul Hodes for Congress from whatever district...fill in the name of your choice.

But that first type of wasted impression may carry the day. It seems possible that we're on the verge of a time when all political advertising creates wasted impressions: because the percentage of the electorate who can be swayed by advertising is vanishingly small, and because the percentage who simply shut the stuff off is becoming huge. Past a certain point, saturation does not sell, it bores, and I think we're there.

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