Familiarity Fatigue

I have lost track of how many times I have watched Johnny Depp pointlessly drive into the desert, get a shovel out of the boot, and bury a piece of jewellery while his voice-over emotes in a language only understood by perfume advertisement copywriters. That ad has been running for years now and regretfully shows no signs of stopping. And yet despite being forced to watch it so many times, I have no recollection of which particular smell in a bottle he was trying to make me buy, and even if I did, I wouldn’t buy it because of the pretentiousness of the ad. Also, it is bound to be expensive to pay for all that advertising. So why do advertisers think it is effective to throw good money after bad and keep showing the same advert over and over again? Has anyone ever seen an advert for the 451st time and suddenly thought ‘hang on, I see it now – that piece of oak furniture is just what we need after all. Deidre, start the car’.

Some programmes are particularly prone to advert repetition. I always watch the Tour de France highlights on ITV4 every year, and you can guarantee that they will show you the same medley of adverts in almost every break, day after day, for three weeks. Do the advertisers think their audience are so dim that a form of Chinese water torture is the only way to hammer home the message? Has it not occurred to them that by forcing the poor viewer to repeatedly watch two sets of dishes being washed, one with a ‘leading competitor’ and one with new Gnomey Fluid, that it will not be long before we’ll be sick of the sight of their product? It is pretty obvious that the same audience will be tuning in every day.

The TV companies themselves are not much better. The BBC inserts trails for upcoming programmes with gay abandon, seemingly unable to comprehend that most people do not just watch once a week. So in the many weeks before RuPaul’s Drag Race, for example, the same trailer was played over and over and over again, at every available opportunity. Look at us, being so diverse and inclusive! Shout it from the rooftops! Then, they finally broadcast it. Hurray! No more trailers! Wrong. Now the programme is available on catchup, so what a great idea to resume playing the same trailer over and over and over again, but add a bit about catchup on at the end. It might be a great programme, but I refused to watch it on principle.

I do wonder whether the executives involved, when determining how to schedule adverts and trails whether on TV, radio or online (Grammarly on YouTube, anyone?) consider not just the ‘packages’, audience reach, demographics etc, but also put themselves in the viewers  and listeners’ shoes now and again and consider ‘saturation’ and ‘familiarity fatigue’. Me, I usually consider myself saturated after one viewing, especially if it is a perfume commercial.

Coming Up!

“Coming up….!” These are the two words I dread when watching any TV programme these days. Producers seem to think that every programme, whether it be drama, news, documentaries, car shows, holiday programmes, you name it , has to be prefaced with a summary of what you are about to watch so that you can see what you are going to see before you see it.

This never used to happen. You used to be able to settle down in front of the television secure in the knowledge that you could watch a programme from start to finish and enjoy what was to come without having already been told, against your will,  what was about to unfold. But now TV schedulers are so desperate to hang on to their short-attention, flick-switching, phone-fixated audience that they feel they have to lure them in and sprinkle little snippets of enticement into their eyes before the programme has even started. This ruins the surprise element that forms a major part of the enjoyment of most TV viewing. “Coming up, Jeff and Linda love the third house we show them and put in an offer”.  “Coming up, we talk to Mark and learn how his training helped him win the race we haven’t shown you yet”. “Coming up, will the ambulance crew rescue a man from a bridge?” (accompanied by a clip of the man being rescued). “Coming up, TV viewer smashes set in frustration at being told what is coming up”. You get the picture.

Cliff-hangers at the end of each drama series are also ruined when the programme ends with a ‘next week’ teaser segment which shows the heroine has clearly survived falling under the horse because there she is, right as rain, running after a handsome man.

The BBC News hasn’t helped the situation by giving a 5 minute news summary at the beginning of every 30 minute news bulletin, accompanied by the heartbeat theme tune for dramatic effect. But do you really need to hear lengthy preview extracts from interviews and correspondents that you then find yourself watching again almost immediately? Couldn’t the time be better spent with a more in depth news coverage later on?

My theory as to why this has evolved is that it is borne from greater choice. In those golden olden days when you had just three channels, you stuck with a programme without knowing what was ‘coming up’ because you knew that there was nothing better on the other two channels. Nowadays, if the first minute of something you are watching is not tickling your fancy and you have the attention span of a weevil, you have options. You can channel surf until you drown.  So programme makers feel they have to give you a carrot on a stick. The problem is that they have ended up feeding you most of the carrot almost before you have had time to sit down. 

Now, coming up later in this article there won’t be anything because I’ve finished now.