Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hear Today and Gone Tomorrow

On January 9 the front pages of most newspapers were filled with stories of the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, as were the lead stories on radio, television and in the major news magazines. The primary focus was on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the perpetrator.

Within a week, the shootings were relegated to shorter side stories on the other victims, the motivation for the killings, the funerals, and then coverage drifted to stories on gun control and Arizona’s Wild West persona. They were accompanied by editorials from the left and the right. Each screamed for attention and went to ludicrous lengths to offer something new and different. A syndicated columnist with a Spanish surname offered the following headline to his screed, “To Latinos’ relief, suspect was white.”

Please Step to the Rear

Slowly but steadily the stories moved away from the lead item on television’s evening news and the front page of newspapers. It found a resting place first on page A4, then A6, and then was pushed back to A8. On February 5, four weeks after the tragedy the story shifted to astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband and his decision to command the space shuttle Endeavor’s flight in April. That flight will be news again in two months, but will remain a dormant story until then.

But that’s the same with any news story whether it is the heinous shootings in Arizona, the revolutionary demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, or the suffocating snowstorms that closed much of the country from the Midwest to the east coast, at one time causing the cancellation of thirteen thousand flights.

News is news when it happens and just like the snow, when it melts away it is no longer news. It is easily replaced by the next grab-your-attention-for-the-moment story.

News vs. Unadulterated Hype

The annual Super Bull is the uncontested winner of the non-news hype award as its coverage in late January and early February pulsates on the pages of newspapers and magazines, resonates on the airwaves and even clouds the skies above. The latter takes place during the game when a commercial blimp flies overhead thumping its sales message while the broadcasters below marvel aloud on what a wonderful view they are bringing you. Like the game itself, the blimp is filled with hot air.

Locals Go Loco

Local retailers succumb every year to the hoopla and join the hype of the game trying to sell whatever they are pushing. Some advertisements intimate that to preserve lifelong relationships, you have to “score big with your friends” by having enough to eat and drink at your party. Other retailers offer “Super Deals” on everything from big-screen television sets to automobiles, and the consumer who buys one of their products are told that they will have their lives transformed for they “will be a winner.”

The Big One Is Coming

The February 5th edition, known as SB XLV, is a showcase for advertising and national advertisers who are willing to spend $3 million for thirty seconds of time; that comes to $100,000 per second. To many advertisers it’s well worth the price; of the twenty all-time most-watched television programs, sixteen have been the Super Bull, including those in first, third, fourth and fifth place in the years 2010, 2008, 2009, and 2007 respectively. Last year’s SB XLIV reached 51.7 million households with an average audience of 106.5 million viewers. In second place was the last episode of M*A*S*H which ran on February 28, 1983 and reached 50,150,000 households.

A Straight Beats a Flush

For many people, the commercials are the highlight of the game, but there’s a concomitant problem connected with them. During the 1956-57 television season “I Love Lucy” was the number one rated television program, as it had been three of the previous four seasons. The water department in White Plains, New York was puzzled as to why every Monday night at 8:10 PM and 8:20 PM, the level in the reservoir dropped dramatically. One astute worker finally figured out that was when the commercial breaks for the “Lucy” show occurred, most viewers hurried straight to their bathrooms so as to not miss any of the program, and then they all flushed at about the same time.

I’ll Drink to That

Among this year’s SB XLV advertisers are Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper and Anheuser-Busch and combined they are scheduled to run a minimum of nine commercials for one form of liquid refreshment or another.

With viewers being subliminally or overtly encouraged to quaff a drink or two or more during the game, when commercial time arrives, don’t be too surprised if the reservoir level in your town also goes down leaving advertisers high and dry.