Look, we know the feeling too well. We watch a deep, personal story on Hulu wearing the pizza stained jammies we put on two days ago. Our protagonist is hanging on a cliff of despair. Before he falls, everything goes black. Fade in: The interior of a hospital lobby is covered in ventilators and face masks. A woman stands solitary in front of the counter facing us. She addresses the audience directly. She’s the head of the hospital. In her first sentence, we hear her mention something about “these uncertain times.” Oh, we think, right. The world is terrible right now.
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The many thank-you ads and abundance of fundraising is daunting right now, and ad after ad swings at us like a silver hammer. If the advertising industry thinks audiences are fragile, their catering abilities are deeply flawed. Pandemic is not a misnomer, as COVID-19 has seeped its way into even the most sanitary areas of our lives. Searching for “viral” content is like trying to find hay in a haystack; and this is just for the content we seek out. Seeking an escape – not so easy! Constant worry over such an all-consuming event creates chronic stress we deserve a break from. Sometimes I just want to watch my nearly twenty-year-old teen drama in peace.
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Media nerds weigh in: What we watch for when we watch TV.
This year, all Television Academy sponsored “For Your Consideration” (FYC) events are canceled. If advertisers and Emmy contenders are taking an audience-centric approach, as The Hollywood Reporter seems to suggest, then we should actually consider the audience. To say that people are too fragile for FYC campaigns right now seems like a bit of a cop-out. Should we seriously be taking the blame for Emmy season being put on the back-burner?
Mass media research suggests that the many reasons we consume content can be broken down into five main groups. Information, diversion, relation, socialization, and relaxation generally characterize our consumption desires. Advertisements provide a desire for audiences, built into the ad. Now, if we look at a self-promoting, in-your-face “For Your Consideration” ad, it appeals to a few of these media uses. It informs us that there is a popular, important television program. We know what the show is, often who stars in the show, and maybe even a hint at what the show is about. An FYC ad also appeals to our social nature by suggesting a series’ popularity and critical success.
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This show is something we can talk about with our friends or family when we speak to them. Is it worthy of an Emmy? Does it live up to the hype? Conversation is built into something considered to be critically acclaimed. Most importantly, in the age of COVID-19, any ad that does not mention the coronavirus serves as a diversion. Whether the show is the talk of the town or a year old, escape media is more welcome and accepted than ever with our lives in such a negative state. If we see an FYC billboard on a drive around town, it excites us. We get to go home and throw ourselves into a different reality.
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For some viewers, diversion from the deadly pandemic is impossible.
The countless COVID-19 ads are anything but sensitive to audiences. So few of them have been informative, yet they directly interfere with the escapist viewer – the viewer most affected by the coronavirus. If viewers are too sensitive to see in-your-face ads, then they have always been that way. Deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States have reached over125,000. What do viewers who lost loved ones care about commercials or billboards? Sure, this is a massive, fragile group of people, but not fragile in any way toward Emmy season or ads about car insurance. Humans are stronger than we get credit for.
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However, it is important to note that loved ones left behind are sensitive and hurting. People are haunted by thoughts like if one person stayed home or if everyone just knew how important masks are. These are the fragile thoughts that deserve to be catered to. Recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the “Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest.” The goal is to have a great public service announcement demonstrating the proper way to wear a face mask in public. If advertisers wanted to be sensitive to those who have lost someone due to COVID-19, everyone would already know how to wear a mask in public. Instead of awkward attempts at pulling heartstrings, we would have instructional videos telling us how selfish it is not to wear a mask. Everyone would be socialized to wear a mask over their mouth and their nose at all times in a public place. Anything short of these expectations falls flat. At this point, just drop the act and give me the promotional ads. Those, I can stand.
Written by Dan Considine
To read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform – click here.
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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