Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tracking TV's 'Clever' Commercials

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tracking TV's 'Clever' Commercials

Article excerpt

LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM, THEY'RE ALL GRIST FOR AD CRITIC'S MILL

Whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying that TV commercials are a major part of American life. They not only influence our speech ("Where's the beef?"), but they also provide a mythology- starved society with a whole new pantheon of characters for use in metaphors.

Call someone an "Energizer Bunny," and everyone knows exactly what you're talking about. Make reference to the "Budweiser Frogs," and people can't help but smile. And, as we enter a new political year, we're likely to see campaigning politicians again be especially quick to latch onto lines and images from TV advertisements as they craft their barbs for each other.

We are, after all, a media-oriented society, bombarded with daily sounds and images that make for clever jokes and jabs. The problem is that the working press sometimes is a little slow to understand the punch lines. That's because many newspaper reporters and editors are among the last to know about the hot commercials to which their readers may be reacting.

The reason is quite mundane: It's just that the schedules worked in most newsrooms can put in a crimp in prime-time TV viewing. And those who use their VCRs to tape favorite shows for later viewing often zip right by the commercials with their fast-forward buttons. So, if you're covering the city council meeting, you may not get it when the mayor comments that her colleagues think they have more moves than Tiger Woods. You understand the reference to the young golfer, of course, but miss the significance in light of his latest commercial appearance. Everyone laughs, except the clueless you.

How do you find out what's so clever about that remark? A site called Ad Critic can get you back in the game. It is becoming the Web's watch post for televised advertising.

To use it, visit the site at http:// www.adcritic.com. In our example, you then could click on the data-entry box on the introductory screen, type "Tiger Woods," and press either the "Enter" key (on a Wintel machine) or the "Return" key (on an Apple Macintosh). Within a moment, the site lists a commercial aired by Nike, the sports shoe maker. Click on the hyperlinked entry and the site opens a video-display box. You then sit back and watch the actual commercial on your computer screen, showing Tiger seeming to magically juggle the golf ball on the head of his club for 15 seconds before hitting it, all the while swaying to a smooth up-tempo soundtrack. …

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