Everyone is a cord cutter anymore. Being more selective about what you watch and how, or even paying a premium, means one can avoid television advertising a lot easier than before. Commercials, once a ubiquitous fixture for most people and likely the closest modern society got to a shared popular culture, are now skippable before they can even hook you or entirely absent if you’ve got a few dollars (or a generous friend) for subscriptions. A few avenues of media still remain on the failing model (it’s proven catastrophic for journalism in regards to papers and magazines) but if you want to watch sports or most news, you’ll be subjected to commercials trying to capture your attention.
Just as the collective labor of enduring through commercial breaks and the shared experience of watching all of the same marketing firms meticulously craft spots built a kind of pop culture in the age of audio/visual mass media, it also lends insight into what the firms have determined is most grabbing: an algorithm that’s determined where and what the largest portion of its target population is experiencing in the given epoch in an effort to meet that population’s “needs,” consumerist whims, or fleeting, impulsive desires with a more-than-likely ephemeral product. This kind of glimpse is something that’s lost when you’ve atomized and alienated yourself from the sales specters into a curated cycle of King of the Hill reruns and HBO releases, until you’re wolfing down half of a DiGiorno’s Rising Crust™ pizza 45 minutes before work, boot up the YouTube TV app you got from a colleague’s family plan for sports and the brain hemlock of cable news, and turn on Jumanji on AMC to avoid silence in your living room like I did yesterday evening. The lost art of settling during channel surfing uncovered in the unkempt jungle beard of the late Robin Williams while freeze-dried pepperoni burns the roof of your mouth.
Somewhere between the introduction of David Alan Grier’s policeman character and the small boy viewer-surrogate character gaining ape features, during the ad breaks I noticed a phenomenon that’s been remarked upon enough towards my age bracket. No less than three spots aired advertising premium dog food in a single flight of commercials. One even flaunted that it was food “tested on humans” as it featured a small boxer leaping in ecstatic joy as its “dog dad” carried a full dish of honestly delicious looking food to its designated spot on the kitchen floor.
Living in a city, I’ve observed far too many people and their dogs. Even under quarantine, they lap past my house while I smoke on the porch and shit in my little patch of grass before scooping it into a specialized, dog-shit-sized bag. I’m no monster: I say hello to the dogs and greet the people. I don’t see a lot of strollers, just as on the television, I didn’t see any diaper commercials or Gerber food advertisements. Ostensibly, Jumanji is a movie that was marketed to children like me when it came out, and the advertising could reflect that maybe it’s shared viewing between millennial parents and their offspring. Instead, there were ads seemingly targeted to my age group, but whose main concerns regarding any dependents were geared towards dogs. Continue reading →