I have never had a television in my dorm room, nor have I ever had a desire to get one or even to watch TV while at school. It’s too easy to go online and find the shows I want to see (with limited commercials to boot). But when I am home for breaks, I turn into a television junkie, gorging on VH1 specials and “Anderson Cooper 360,” drowning in the joys of “Access Hollywood” and “Rock of Love.”

My family has never been at the forefront of technology; we only got cable four years ago, so my TV time is relatively primitive – no TiVo, no DVR. Because of this, I can’t avoid watching commercials, and I have actually come to enjoy television ads. They form a snapshot of our society, revealing what we value and desire. As a fervent “Mad Men” viewer, my interest in advertising has increased over the years, forcing me to notice details about the ads that pervade any TV viewing session.

Recently, and by that I mean post-recession, there has been a drastic increase in low-budget ads for mail-order gadgets like the ShamWow and the infamous Snuggie. Pre-bust, the cost of a prime-time 30-second advertisement spot would have been prohibitively expensive for a company with a small marketing budget, but, as people watch more television on their computers and big-name companies, such as automobile companies and banks, decrease their on-air ad presence, costs have fallen. In fact, one advertising company for infomercials reported a 50 percent increase in its ads’ prime-time presence between 2008 and 2009, according to The New York Times.

Now, corporate ads focus on necessity, not desire. The old Target commercials, blaring “Need, Want,” have fallen out of favor, and the old slogan, “Expect More, Pay Less,” is now commonplace. The commercials airing now sell the idea of frugality, not excess. The new chic types have become “recessionistas,” not “fashionistas.”

Another recent development, which my mother and I unscientifically noted during the summer, is the increase in ads selling products in an unusual setting: the home. Of course, there have always been ads for brooms, mops and window-cleaners during typical working hours, targeting housewives by portraying women in gray sweatshirts dancing with joy while dusting the living room and vacuuming the carpet. But the newer commercials depict professional women, presumably balancing family, work and chores, talking about trash bags and life insurance.

More interesting than these commercials’ retreat to the home – a familiar locale since advertising’s inception – is the prevalence of mismatched couples. A trend spurred by the popularity of Judd Apatow’s everyman hero – think Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” – husbands in many ads are presented as disheveled, chubby and incompetent. They stand in contrast to their wives, who are well dressed and beautiful, rolling their eyes at their spouse’s inability to successfully remove the trash or clean the dishes.

Bumbling and unequal to their women on the home-front, these “typical” dads probably spend most of their days being competent at work, smiling successfully for all the ads about package delivery and office supplies, while the moms have quasi-sexual relations with their new mops and smile peacefully while cleaning the bathroom. We are supposed to project ourselves onto the advertisements, see our lives mirrored in the mostly white, bourgeois couples living contentedly in their well-decorated but not too flashy homes. These ads flatter American women, essentially saying, “Yes, your husband is silly and doesn’t help you with the housework, but you are so beautiful and so good at cleaning the windows that you don’t even need his help.”

Insulting to both sexes, the Homer and Marge Simpson-esque relationships presented through these spots emphasize the idea that only women are able to successfully complete housework. It is obviously beyond the scope of a man to load a dishwasher, much less buy one without great assistance (like the scenario of a Sears ad in which men sent to buy appliances by their wives spend the afternoon playing ping-pong and watching football). I would be shocked to see an ad in which a woman comes home from work to find the husband wiping up a spill with a paper towel. How can our society handle that, when even the Brawny Man disappears after handing the product to a woman to use?

Whitney McAniff is a sophomore in the College. The 52 Percent appears every other Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.

I have never had a television in my dorm room, nor have I ever had a desire to get one or even to watch TV while at school. It’s too easy to go online and find the shows I want to see (with limited commercials to boot). But when I am home for breaks, I turn into a television junkie, gorging on VH1 specials and “Anderson Cooper 360,” drowning in the joys of “Access Hollywood” and “Rock of Love.”

My family has never been at the forefront of technology; we only got cable four years ago, so my TV time is relatively primitive – no TiVo, no DVR. Because of this, I can’t avoid watching commercials, and I have actually come to enjoy television ads. They form a snapshot of our society, revealing what we value and desire. As a fervent “Mad Men” viewer, my interest in advertising has increased over the years, forcing me to notice details about the ads that pervade any TV viewing session.

Recently, and by that I mean post-recession, there has been a drastic increase in low-budget ads for mail-order gadgets like the ShamWow and the infamous Snuggie. Pre-bust, the cost of a prime-time 30-second advertisement spot would have been prohibitively expensive for a company with a small marketing budget, but, as people watch more television on their computers and big-name companies, such as automobile companies and banks, decrease their on-air ad presence, costs have fallen. In fact, one advertising company for infomercials reported a 50 percent increase in its ads’ prime-time presence between 2008 and 2009, according to The New York Times.

Now, corporate ads focus on necessity, not desire. The old Target commercials, blaring “Need, Want,” have fallen out of favor, and the old slogan, “Expect More, Pay Less,” is now commonplace. The commercials airing now sell the idea of frugality, not excess. The new chic types have become “recessionistas,” not “fashionistas.”

Another recent development, which my mother and I unscientifically noted during the summer, is the increase in ads selling products in an unusual setting: the home. Of course, there have always been ads for brooms, mops and window-cleaners during typical working hours, targeting housewives by portraying women in gray sweatshirts dancing with joy while dusting the living room and vacuuming the carpet. But the newer commercials depict professional women, presumably balancing family, work and chores, talking about trash bags and life insurance.

More interesting than these commercials’ retreat to the home – a familiar locale since advertising’s inception – is the prevalence of mismatched couples. A trend spurred by the popularity of Judd Apatow’s everyman hero – think Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” – husbands in many ads are presented as disheveled, chubby and incompetent. They stand in contrast to their wives, who are well dressed and beautiful, rolling their eyes at their spouse’s inability to successfully remove the trash or clean the dishes.

Bumbling and unequal to their women on the home-front, these “typical” dads probably spend most of their days being competent at work, smiling successfully for all the ads about package delivery and office supplies, while the moms have quasi-sexual relations with their new mops and smile peacefully while cleaning the bathroom. We are supposed to project ourselves onto the advertisements, see our lives mirrored in the mostly white, bourgeois couples living contentedly in their well-decorated but not too flashy homes. These ads flatter American women, essentially saying, “Yes, your husband is silly and doesn’t help you with the housework, but you are so beautiful and so good at cleaning the windows that you don’t even need his help.”

Insulting to both sexes, the Homer and Marge Simpson-esque relationships presented through these spots emphasize the idea that only women are able to successfully complete housework. It is obviously beyond the scope of a man to load a dishwasher, much less buy one without great assistance (like the scenario of a Sears ad in which men sent to buy appliances by their wives spend the afternoon playing ping-pong and watching football). I would be shocked to see an ad in which a woman comes home from work to find the husband wiping up a spill with a paper towel. How can our society handle that, when even the Brawny Man disappears after handing the product to a woman to use?

Whitney McAniff is a sophomore in the College. The 52 Percent appears every other Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.