Sensationalist, populist and dumbed down ads
As a Brit living in Australia, the state of advertising in this country frequently appalls me. From the ubiquitous billboards looming over highways to the tedious commercial breaks that punctuate a TV programme every ten minutes, Australians are bombarded on a daily basis with sensationalist, populist and dumbed down ads.
I’ve learnt some coping mechanisms to deal with it, such as stubbornly closing my eyes on highways (thankfully, I’m not driving) or rarely watching TV. However, I really love tennis. At a time when British hope Andy Murray has an excellent shot at finally winning the Australian Open, I confess I’m currently glued to the box.
Sadly, nothing demonstrates the deplorable state of advertising in Australia better than its annual Grand Slam.
Rather than advertise during the game’s breaks (there is a 90 second break between every other game and a 2 minute break between every set which you’d think would be ideal), the Channel 7 network broadcasts commercials that often mean viewers miss substantial chunks of tennis.
Advertisements that take place during reviews of the match’s statistics are crudely executed. The commentator is clearly contractually obliged to recite the sponsor’s tagline which means viewers can’t learn about the players’ first serve or unforced errors stats without being treated to a horribly contrived “Let’s go Back to School with Officeworks” or “Let’s take a Woolworths Fresh View”.
Even the technology to visually track the tennis ball’s trajectory has been appropriated by advertisers; known elsewhere as Hawk-Eye, PR execs clearly deemed the opportunity to rechristen it “Birdseye” to plug frozen groceries too good to miss.
It isn’t just tennis viewers at home that have to put up with this nonsense. Loud advertising on the Australian Open centre court has attracted criticism in recent days from journalists and the general public for being “tacky” and “overbearing”.
In an era where blank space seems to have become an endangered species, I have to accept advertising as a commercial reality of the modern world. And as a concept, I don’t think advertising is inherently evil. It can serve a valuable purpose, such as informing public transport users of changes to the weekend service, reinforcing the terrible potential consequences of drink-driving, or reminding me to book tickets to see War Horse.
Wimbledon, the tournament I grew up watching, was certainly not without the presence of sponsors. Advertisers similarly pay for the privilege of having their brand present at the tournament to secure the public gaze. Every player dons their particular clothing label. The officials and ballboys are dressed in Ralph Lauren. Players hit Slazenger tennis balls and drink from Robinsons bottles. Rolex clocks are used on court.
The crucial difference between the approach used at Wimbledon and the Australian Open is that at the former, products are used for their intended purpose and appear exactly where consumers would expect to see them.
There is no contrived insertion of a stationary shop, supermarket or frozen food chain into unrelated aspects of an event. Commentators are not obligated to refer to them at three minute intervals. The brands are simply there, being used for their intended purpose.
The contrived, garish advertising that Australia seems to have so fervently embraced is tedious and tacky for audiences. Ironically, it seems overwhelmingly counterproductive, too. A friend and I concurred yesterday that we were so sick of hearing about what great cars Kia produces or what a great bank ANZ are that the idea of giving either of them our business makes us shudder a little. I doubt this is the outcome they were aiming for.
I sincerely hope that future generations will look back on Australia’s current state of advertising bombardment the way we today look back on ads that displayed appalling sexism or promoted unhealthy products like cigarettes.
We should be able to watch television, drive along highways and enjoy a tournament like the Australian Open without being subjected to the current level of advertising drivel.
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