Are Commercials Actually More Than Obtrusive Interruptions From Television Watching?

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There are a number of people that confuse Public Relations with Advertising.  Often times, people think that we pay to have articles written about our clients (and I’m sure that that’s happened before, but for above-board firms like AMP3, every placement is earned).

When I try to explain to people the key differences between Advertising and PR, it comes down to paying for a guaranteed placement v. paying someone (usually substantially less) to try and get someone to cover your story/campaign/product for free.

PR becomes an investment, whereas advertising is guaranteed.

Now, commercials can obviously be classified as advertising (save for PSAs; Chris Brown doing a PSA about domestic violence would totally be a PR move, should that ever happen….).  Because of that, there’s a hyper-awareness that any time a commercial comes on, someone is spending money to try getting you to spend money.

That’s why, when I came across the Time article, “Do TV Commercials Make You Happier?” I was intrigued.

My gut reaction is, “no, they don’t make me happy. They interrupt my preferred viewing and often hock things I have no interest in.”

But the Time article makes some interesting point: the longer you sit and watch what you want, the less you actually enjoy it.  Commercials, the 2-3 minute interlude, gives your brain time to “miss” the show you’re watching, therefore making the program more enjoyable once it comes back on.

Now, I have to take that notion with a grain of salt, as I don’t particularly like cliffhangers or being pulled from an emotionally involved episode of “House” just to catch commercials for “Burn Notice” or, heaven forbid, “Monk.” 

And if commercials were truly these happiness-inducing recess, why aren’t they in movies (and NO, I am not advocating that commercials be put into movies.  The obvious product placement is more than enough for my liking)?  Granted that’s really a rhetorical question, wouldn’t the same theory prevail—that we’d like a movie more after a brief break?

I, for one, don’t like watching commercials.  I would rather turn on a different program, one I enjoy less than my initial show, and follow a plot than become embroiled in 3-4 30-40 second clips of advertisements.  Then, by the time I realize my program is probably back on, I miss an integral 30 seconds of dialogue or meaningful stares that I’ll never get back.  I’m angry at the commercial break that forced me to miss part of my beloved program.

Also, take into consideration the advent of DVR; if we really had a true desire to have a break from our televisions shows or made-for-TV movies, why would we want to rush through the commercials that are meant to bring us joy?

The only time commercials are of interest are during the Super Bowl, and that’s because most of the commercials are brand new and over the top.  If we knew that we were going to be watching the same schlock we get on a daily basis, we’d probably pay less attention to the commercial and more attention to re-filling the cooler with imported beer.

Regardless of what the research shows (it shows that for some types of programs shown to some types of audiences, some of the people were happy that their show was back on.  Really ground-breaking research…. Glad we got that cleared up before, oh, say… Cancer?), I still personally believe that commercials are obvious intrusions into what is supposed to be my mindless enjoyment of… something. 

Regardless of what purpose commercials serve, it’s obvious that they serve one (whether that purpose is proactive or destructive is another matter for another time…)

Jackie for




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