WHEN IS ENOUGH TOO MUCH? Well, I’ve got a few recent media-oversaturation-gone-rampant examples, bete noires, if you will, in the Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling” (a cool track, I readily admit) being used as outro theme music + imagery incessantly during NCAA March Madness college basketball coverage to the point where it’s now only infuriating noise to me (and really, truly, I like these guys!), and an annoying omnipresent promo bug (not Black Keys related) futzing up the stellar high-def images of Discovery Channel’s new Frozen Planet series about the arctic and antarctic—this lower-right-situated onscreen bug, complete with distracting motion, was for another one of the network’s shows they’re pushing, which I can’t even remember the name of and wouldn’t watch anyway as its promotion just about ruined the fantastic experience of Frozen Planet‘s two-hour premiere!
So yes, enough can quite often be too much and a downright counterproductive media buy or tool in a world where we are already overwhelmed with the ubiquity of advertising, from our can’t-be-without, continuing-to-multiply mobile devices to entertainment events where sideline billboards constantly morph to increase their shill factor, competing with the game, the very escapist nature of which we lose when Bud Light Platinum looms large again and again in cascading digital-display rotation as our proffered beverage of choice. More-is-better, beat-’em-to-submission media buyers, can we please please please just give it a rest, already?
In Philip K. Dick’s short story “Sales Pitch,” all the way back from the gray-flannel-suit era of 1954 but posited in the far-flung future, our weary, bettle-browed protagonist, Ed Morris, is assaulted by in-his-face advertising on his grueling commute home from Ganymede to Terra: “Ads waited on all sides,” Dick practically sneers, “he steered a careful course, dexterity born of animal desperation, but not all could be avoided. Despair seized him. The outline of a new audio-visual ad was already coming into being.”
Annoying ads and robot salesmen continue the onslaught once he’s at home, of course, and, you’d hope, where he’d finally be able to relax. Morris seeks an exit, literally out of our solar system, to a 100-years’-behind-the-present world: “We’ll have to get used to a simpler life,” he tells his wife. “The way our ancestors lived.” Lots more happens here, but suffice it to say, it does not end well and the story is a downer, depressing parable.
Back to the present. Yeah, there are real ways (as well as well-articulated movements) to “simplify” or avoid this aforementioned saturation bombing, but when you do want to imbibe, to interact with cultural “products” or artistically driven manifestations in the pop arena or learn something refreshingly new or even just chill out and watch some hoop (and who doesn’t, even if it’s not college basketball?), do you need to keep the remote, headphones or blinders handy?
Here’s where I think we, the end-users, tune things out (like talking aloud over those annoying in-movie-theater commercials—Hey, didn’t we just drop $12 apiece to be here for purely entertainment purposes?!*) and muck up the sought-after results, the ROI, if you will, of the media buyers and their clients’ sales pitches. Yep, enough is by far too much here, and unlike Dick’s character Ed Morris, there is no off-planet escape to Centaurus, no matter how doomed the move.
On the marketers’ side, it’s an appeal to think things thoroughly through, carefully consider the time and place for each buy, especially when pondering bunching things up to beat back the competition and win a war of attrition with the consumer. In the green space, where treading lightly is even more highly valued (or has the appearance to be), there’s even a greater danger of backfiring and really irking your intended target market.
Nevertheless, yes, I still enjoy the Black Keys (“Gold on the Ceiling” not so much, despite its killer organ plunking and all-around catchiness) and plan on continuing to watch Frozen Planet (but not whatever show they “bugged” it with). Careful, select navigation and the learned ability to “detune” come with the territory, and in direct regard to these sales pitches, we ultimately vote, that is, have our say, with our wallets and online clicks.
*Or as Geoff Dyer notes in his new book, Zona, on ADD-enabling, hyperbolic coming attractions, which, in essence, are Hollywood-industrial complex advertisements for its own (often dire) products: “[T]his has become some of the most debased wonder in the history of the earth. It means explosions, historical epics in which the outcome of the Battle of Hastings is reversed by the arcane CGI prowess of Merlin the Magician, it means five-year-old children turning suddenly into snarling devils, it means wrecking cars and reckless driving, it means lots of noise, it means that I have to time my arrival carefully (twenty minutes at least) after the advertised programme time if I am to avoid all this stuff which, if one were exposed to it for the full hour and a half, would cause one’s capacity for discernment to drop by fifty percent (or, conversely, one’s ability to tolerate stuff like this to increase a hundredfold). […] It means that there are more and more things on the street, in shops, on-screen and on telly from which one has to avert one’s ears and eyes.” [Emphasis added]