Yesterday evening at the grocery store, Josiah was helping us shop. We told him that we needed raisins and pointed him to the raisin shelf. He glanced at the various options, selected a Sun-Maid raisins package to put in the cart, and said almost to himself, "Sun-Maid is proud to sponsor PBS Kids."
Aaauggghhh! Even supposedly non-commercial PBS is indoctrinating our five-year-old into corporate brand recognition and identity. He already makes a consumer choice to prefer Sun-Maid over other brands simply because they sponsor shows on PBS Kids. Sigh. Well, at least it's a healthy choice. Could be worse, I guess. At least he's not saying, "Budweiser is a proud sponsor of Sesame Street."
Ellen and I don't watch much TV, and one reason is that we don't want to put up with the commercials. If we follow a show, like Lost or Alias, we prefer to get the DVDs and watch them straight through, without commercial interruption. The only exception is Heroes. Sometimes we watch it live and mute the commercials; other times we tape it and watch it later, fast-forwarding through the commercials. It's disturbing how the ads tout their products as essential to human happiness and fulfillment - like anyone really needs a cell phone MP3 player or a luxury car that parks itself.
And sadly, product placement within the shows themselves makes advertising even more unavoidable. On Heroes, Claire's new car happened to be a Nissan, with the logo prominently visible (and was promptly followed up at the break with a Nissan commercial to reinforce it, in case you missed it in the show). New character Elle (played by Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars fame) holds her cell phone in such a way that the Sprint logo is clearly seen.
Cynical Gen Xers that we are, sometimes we will bust out laughing at the absurdity of the commercial messages. Like the one saying that you can get exclusive preview clips of Heroes sent to your phone - it's a commercial to get you to download more commercials! Or the Target ad that talks about how a percentage of your purchases goes back to community philanthropy - it's pitching shopping as virtuous and charitable. Help the community by buying more stuff! Feel good about your consumerism, because some tiny percentage is being donated to help people! Sad, really. Commercial messaging is so much the air we breathe in our consumer culture. We can do our best to unplug and avoid it all, but it's everywhere.