Two dozen District Liners have already responded to my comments about loud commercials.
All but one of the responses told me I was wrong in saying that the purpose of a commercial should be to get the listner or viewer to remember the brand name favorably.
Each of these letters said that "what we were taught in an advertising course I took" was that the purpose of a commercial is to get the listner or viewer to remember the brand name -- period. Whether the potential customer remembers the brand name favorably is not important, just so he or she remembers it, they say.
The rationale for this is found in two principles that some advertising experts consider sound:
People are more likely to accept a known name than an unknown name, whether in merchandising or in politics. Politicians sometimes say to reporters, "Write anything you want about me, just so you spell my name right." You may think the line is meant as a joke, but some advertising people regard it as a practical viewpoint. They believe that when Smith runs against Jones for the job of dogcatcher and a voter has seen Smith's name in the papers many times but has never seen Jones's, he is more likely to vote for Smith than for Jones (even if the news stories were about charges that Smith hates dogs).
The second principle is that most voters and potential customers are inattentive, unsophisticated or forgetful, and are therefore not likely to remember who or how a name became fixed in their memories. The theory is that even if a brand name became familiar to you because of an irksome commercial, by the time you get to the store you will remember only the brand name, not the reason it became familiar to you or the attendant circumstances.
Never having taken a course in advertising, I can judge this issue only by my own reactions. I know that my mind is filled with millions of bits of information, most of them of minor importance, and that I am frequently unable to recall pertinent details of this jumble of information. When I vote for school board candidates, for example, I must bring along a list I make out while pondering last-minute information I saw in a voter's guide. Otherwise I wouldn't know Smith from Jones.
However, I resent the suggestion that I would vote for Smith and reject Jones merely because I recall seeing Smith's name in the papers but not Jones's. I may be inattentive, unsophisticated and forgetful, but I am not dimwitted. And I don't think most Americans are.
I am a great believer in advertising that presents a product, person, program, institution or concept in a positive way. You may have found a way to build a better mousetrap, but the world will not begin to beat a path to your door until it learns about your accomplishment. If you wait for word-of-mouth advertising to make your product or service known, you may be evicted for nonpayment of rent before you get the chance to demonstrate your superiority.
So you must get word of your great achievement to the world, and commercial advertising is an extremely effective way to do that.
However, as a believer in the effectiveness of positive advertising, I cannot at the same time believe that negative advertising will fail to have a negative effect. If the information that is being disseminated is unfavorable to a person or product, or if the manner in which it is presented generates ill will, I don't see how its ultimate can be positive.
Perhaps I should sign up for a course in advertising and let myself be taught that I really am a dimwit who must be shouted at before he remembers anything.
Incidently, the one letter that did not tell me what the writer was taught in an advertising class was from Marion Holland of Chevy Chase who supplied a perfectly logical explanation for loud commercials.
When there's a break in a TV program for a string of commercials, many in the audience scatter to other parts of the house to get a cold beer, fix a sandwich, make a phone call or ascertain whether the rinse cycel on the dishwasher is finished.
"The peddlers of hair spray, foot spray, fly spray and floor spray know this," says Marion, "but they are determined to deliver their messages to every member of this scattered audience, even if they have to Shout at the TOPS OF THEIR VOICES."