The Scam of the Interactive Commercial

Interactive Commercial

Every time I lie down on the couch and put on Hulu to watch Bob’s Burgers, I get that screen asking me if I would like to have a very quick interactive commercial or a much longer string of normal commercials. It’s really annoying for a number of reasons. But the main reason I do nothing is that it would require that get up every five minutes to interact with the computer. I’m relaxing, watching Bob’s Burger’s for Christ’s sake. I can put up with the commercials. I don’t want to jump up all the time just so I don’t have to watch a few extra commercials.

But there is more to it than that. I’ve done the interactive commercial in the past. And it has been a nightmare each time. For one thing, they make it very confusing. It isn’t a thing where they ask you if you’d if you like golfing and then tell you to buy a particular putter. Now, it is, for example, a film trailer. There is a 30 second countdown. But there’s also a “close” button. If you use it, it starts the whole thing over with a new 30 second clock. But once you figure out that you shouldn’t do that, I guess it is okay.

The whole thing is meant to confuse you, however. There isn’t really much in the way of interaction, other than the fact that you do have to interact with it. If you just let it go on, it will never stop. At the end, you are in a loop like in a DVD menu. And you are left in that state, you may think you can click “close” because that’s the only thing that makes sense. Instead, you have to click something on the screen. The “close” button doesn’t go away after the 30 seconds transpire. You have to click something and only then will the button appear that allows you to get back to Bob’s Burgers.

Another interesting thing about it is that the “normal commercial break” is never the two minutes they claim. On average, it is about 1:15. And sometimes, it is less. Sometimes there is no commercial break at all — it just goes right back to the show. So over all, the best the interactive commercial does is cut your commercial time in half.

It’s worse though! It takes time for the interactive commercial to load. And then, it takes time to “interact” and click the button to return to the show. But even more frustrating is that the interactive commercial has crashed on me twice, causing me to have to start the entire show over again. So in addition to not getting such a great benefit, the interactive commercial offers the potential for television viewing catastrophe.

There is something else about the whole process: the choice screen itself. You have to wait for 15 second to make your choice. Those who want the interactive commercial, can just click and get rid of it. So I suppose that works in its favor. Hulu is willing to slow down normal viewers just for the opportunity to get people to use their interactive commercial. This annoys me even more. But on top of this, we have a man’s voice that is distinctly louder than the show telling us that we have this great opportunity to “interact” and get “right back” to the show.

This is the kind of short-term profit thinking that defines the modern world. And it makes me just want to wait until the whole season is available on Netflix. But I do continue to watch it, because it is Bob’s Burgers. But that’s all I watch; I don’t stick around for The Simpsons anymore.

Morning Music: Negativland’s Points

Negativland - PointsNegativland’s second album, Points, goes more in the direction of pure sound collage. It’s really remarkable stuff. Listening to it, I try to remember what technology was available. It was 1981, so it was mostly tape recorders and analog synthesizers. I’m on record as being against synthesizers from the early 1980s, but this is because it was when the digital ones came out. And so you got a lot of stuff that all sounded the same. But analog ones had been around for a long time and people did different things with them. Negativland did a lot of interesting stuff on Points.

The song I want to highlight is quite odd for the album, “The Answer Is…” It sounds like they discovered their grandmother’s electric organ. And, in fact, I’m sure that’s exactly what they did. But it just goes to show that you can do great work with any tool at all. But in addition to sounding like a little concert in your grandmother’s living room, there is a little bit of Ronald Reagan saying, “The problem isn’t being poor, the problem is, um, the answer is…” They cut it there. It’s perfect because that was generally the answer that Reagan had.

Remember, this album came out in 1981. It was probably recorded shortly after Reagan was elected. What a great way to come into adulthood! Looking back, it’s so embarrassing. Reagan really was a mediocrity in all ways. This song is a great tribute to him. Anyway, check this out. It’s probably unlike anything else you will hear this week, month, year.

Anniversary Post: the Spanish Speaking Wars

Mexican–American WarToday, we get a twofer. On this day in 1846, the Mexican–American War started. And also on this day but in 1898, the Spanish–American War started. Okay, that’s not exactly true. In 1846, the first battle of the Mexican-American War — the Thornton Affair — took place. Effectively, Mexico had declared war two days before. The US Congress didn’t declare war until 13 May. The US Congress actually did declared war against Spain on 25 April 1898. Spain had declared war two days before.

What I think is interesting about these wars is that growing up, I didn’t really know what the difference was between them. They were just these minor wars fought against Spain in different countries. Well, that’s not exactly true. Mexico was independent from Spain by that time. But it was close enough. And more important, these wars weren’t minor. Tens of thousands died in both.

Spanish-American WarThe Mexican-American War started after years of tension following the Texas Revolution in 1836. And specifically, there was a dispute over where exactly the border was. The war became much broader than this, and Mexico ended up losing almost all of what is today the western United States. Just the same, I think this would have happened regardless. The history of Texas shows this: the Texas Revolution really wasn’t a revolution. It was more Americans flooding into the territory, staging an armed revolt, and eventually becoming a state.

The Spanish-American War was pretty much just the end of the Cuban War of Independence. It is definitely a war that we shouldn’t have fought. Basically, the Democrats and various business interests pushed President McKinley into it. The sinking of the USS Maine certainly added fuel to the fire. No one knows for sure the cause, but one thing is for sure: Spain didn’t want the United States entering that war. So I suspect that it was just an accident that was used — just like today — as an excuse for those who thought they would profit — politically and economically — from the war.

Both of the Mexican-American War and the Spanish-American War could have been avoided. But the push for war is strong. There is something about humans that makes us want to lash out rather than reflect. And one thing is very true: it is a lot easier to whip up people into a frenzy of anger and fear than it is to calm them. And the ultimate geopolitical outcomes are more or less what all parties knew they would be — bigger, better equipped armies almost always beat smaller, less equipped armies. But in the process, people die. Lots of people.

We mark the anniversaries of these two unfortunate wars.