At last, it’s safe to turn on the television without the chilling fear that you’ll have to sit through 20 political commercials in a row. The only good thing anyone can say about them is that they drove the Snuggie and ShamWow ads off the air for a few months. Can there still be anyone out there who wants a Snuggie but doesn’t have one? They are like those wives and children and bank managers of dead African dictators who can’t seem to get their $100 million out of their Swiss bank without your help. Is there anyone left who still falls for that?
After watching an evening’s worth of campaign commercials, it was always shocking to wake up in the morning and find that the electricity was still on, that there weren’t tent villages of the homeless on the front lawn, that my bank machine still spits out cash, that there weren’t gangs of Molotov-cocktail-throwing thugs roaming the streets, and that people were still shopping at the mall, even though, according to the commercials, the country was falling apart. It may not be perfect, but it ain’t Haiti either.
And did the political ads do any good? They sure did. Not for you and me, and not for the politicians, but certainly for television stations. “Wheee-ha! Free money every two years,” your local stations must be screaming. One ad tracker says almost $3 billion was spent on political television ads this past election, beating the $2.4 billion spent in 2006 and the $2.7 billion spent in 2008. It explains why TV stations love close elections. Why would a candidate advertise, if he or she will win the election with 75 percent of the vote? But if the station can make you look bad and bring down those numbers, come to papa, my little dollar bills.
Worse than the quantity of political, campaign and issue ads, was the quality. Can you imagine a commercial for a laundry detergent that showed the president of the company with his wife and children sitting in the living room, talking about his family? How exactly will that get my underwear clean? How will seeing his family get me whiter whites and brighter brights? You have to wonder if the people running for office have ever seen a television commercial. They keep telling us how “in touch” they are, and then they make a TV ad that proves they haven’t got a clue. It’s like listening to someone who doesn’t use e-mail telling you what’s wrong with it.
Or maybe some political adviser thinks the politician with the best-looking family will win. Maybe they want you to know that the candidate is just like you or me. But I don’t want you or me running the country. I want someone smarter than the both of us put together. Politicians seem to think people care that they have kids who aren’t (at least during the filming of the commercial) in reform school.
“Look at that, Maude, his kids are just like our kids. Except they don’t have tattoos and nose rings and they’re not all dressed in black denim. Let’s vote for him, he understands us.”
Still, the good news is that it’s over. We won’t have to watch another political commercial until about 18 months before the next election. That means we have six whole months to enjoy the return of ED, arthritis, COPD, cholesterol, osteoporosis and allergy-medicine commercials that we love so much.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.