Boring TV commercials loaded down with too much detail remind me of that poor donkey you always see in old Westerns.

You know the one — the sad beast way at the back of the wagon train.

With 200 pounds on its back: gold ore, sleeping bags, guns, clanking pans and bottles of liquor, pick axes, spare boots, and everything else the cowboys could throw on.

Once fully loaded, the skinny thing was slapped on its behind and forced to carry up a cliff what was basically the complete inventory of a Home Depot.

When I see a commercial being mistreated this way, I just look the other way. It’s too hard to look at. And don’t we all do this? Just sorta . . . look away?

We pay no attention to these burdened and broken little things because
. . . well, they bore us. These arthritic critters that hobble onto our TV
screens, their knees wobbling under the weight of the entire
product line-up, shots of the storefront, the showroom, and the top five items on sale — they’re boring. We avert our eyes and look away.

But how do these crimes, these abominations that happen right on prime-time television, how do they go so unnoticed? Especially when you consider how noisy they are.

The cruel “Voice-over Man” starts barking orders the instant the Thirty clanks onto the screen.  “Do this. Mention that. Tote that bale.” Why doesn’t anyone see it all happen? It’s as if it’s invisible.

Loaded high and wide with a clanking pile of product features and co-op logos, these insensate beasts lurch drunkenly onto our TV screens and are then flogged in public for a full thirty seconds. Lash after lash, they suffer the entirety of their short half-minute of life, bearing the full inventory of every showroom . . . and oh, how they suffer. Watching this, we suffer, too.

And as we suffer, we become bored and fall asleep.

Perhaps to shield us from this spine-snapping load of detail and dreck, the Sweet Chariot of Morpheus swings low and sweeps us away. Narcotized by the drone of the Constantly-Talking-Man, we ride off on gossamer wing to a sleepy, happy place where things are interesting and men do not read us brochures.

Yet, while we slumber, the poor beast lurches on. It begins to bleat for our attention. Sometimes it even walks up to the glass of the TV screen itself, its sad donkey eyes peering out into our warm and interesting living rooms. But we are not there to greet it. We are asleep on the couch, our mouths open and limbs akimbo, our bag of Chee-tos on our chests, rising and falling.

Twenty-eight long seconds pass. The wretched little commercial has
wobbled its iron load almost to the end, when the cowardly off-screen Voice-over Man does his most wicked work.

Onto the beast’s concave licorice-stick of a back he heaps additional weight: a localized price, two addresses, a phone number, and sometimes even a “violator.” In the worst case of abuse I’ve seen, three overweight salesmen piled onto the tail end of a Thirty and actually started waving at the camera.

Can we put an end this inhumanity? Yes.

First, we must insist on “cruelty-free” commercials. And second, we must vow not to buy products advertised on the bent backs of these suffering animals. And finally, we must agree not to let our good clients besmirch their own name by torturing any Thirty on their behalf.

Remember, a Thirty is capable of carrying a branding message and a retail message. But use restraint. Let your Thirty carry only what you need to get a client’s point across.

A final word: If you see an abused commercial, by all means put it out of its misery with quick mute button between the eyes.


This is an excerpt from my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. Sorry to be pulling stuff out of the archives, but am still recovering from knee surgery. Back soon.