Commentary

Life After Death In Ad Land

A man's body was found in his home in Southampton, New York more than a year after his death, with the television still on and his features preserved by dry conditions in the house. Vincenzo Ricardo was discovered in a chair in front of the television set, as though he were watching it, media reports said. The event set off a frenzy of claims and counterclaims by various media organizations.

"This basically challenges the perception out there that people are abandoning television or going to the Internet or doing other things that take away from television viewing activity," said David Poltrack, executive vice president for research and planning at CBS. "The pervasiveness of the medium is not being eroded."

The National Association of Broadcasters, a lobby for more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and the broadcast networks, issued a release that read in part: "Media buyers and planners might want to note that police confirmed Ricardo's set was tuned to a broadcast network, not a cable station or a satellite provider. Nor was he playing a video game. In an entire year, he watched free TV and only free TV. If anyone wants an example of the stickiness of free TV programming, they need only look to Southampton."

The Television Bureau of Advertising, a not-for-profit trade association that promotes the benefits of local broadcast television to the advertising community, said via a spokesman: "Not only was Mr. Ricardo an avid consumer of TV programming, he clearly stayed in his local DMA, so was the perfect target for marketers determined to impact retail sales at the local level."

The American Society of Magazine Editors, the professional organization for editors of consumer magazines and business publications, noted on its Web site that "Mr. Ricardo's mailbox was jammed with magazines, giving solid proof that Americans indeed have a 'wantedness' relationship with their periodicals. Like so many readers, he saved his back issues (not just National Geographic or Playboy). Who is to say that a curious neighbor didn't stop by the overflowing box and glance though an issue or two? There you have a great example of pass-along readership. And it didn't involve a doctor's waiting room--where the last person who picked up that magazine probably had something highly contagious and incurable."

The American Advertising Federation, which protects and promotes the well-being of advertising, issued a statement that called Ricardo "an ideal audience for ad messages. This was a guy who didn't use TiVo to skip over commercials or use his remote to avoid them. He didn't even leave the room for trips to the kitchen or the bathroom. It just shows that at the end of the day (so to speak) consumers enjoy watching TV commercials."

A spokesperson for the NCTA, the principal trade association for the U.S. cable industry, said that since Ricardo's cable service had been suspended for nonpayment, saying he liked free TV was "a misconstruction of the facts." And that: "Perhaps there is a direct link between Mr. Ricardo's death and what he might have been watching."

The Syndicated Network Television Association, which represents television program syndicators whose programs air nationwide, issued a statement calling the spokesperson for the NCTA "a moron, who ought to be taken out and caned with a stick of bamboo."

The LCD TV Association, a global, nonprofit trade association formed to help the entire LCD supply chain and retail channel through to the end consumer, said in an interview with a 12-year-old blogger in Sweden that "watching a digital LCD rather than 'an outdated' analog set would have made Mr. Ricardo's final days a bit more enjoyable."

The Electronic Retailing Association, the trade association for companies who use the power of direct response to sell goods and services to the public on television, online, and on radio, posted this statement on its Web site: "Although Mr. Ricardo hadn't directly responded to any form of media in the past 12 months, he is probably in a better place now," and reassured advertisers, "But we can still reach him."



The story you have just read is an attempt to blend fact and fiction in a manner that provokes thought, and on a good day, merriment. It would be ill-advised to take any of it literally. Take it, rather, with the same humor with which it is intended. Cut and paste or link to it at your own peril.

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