Consumer Abuse

Look, I know the point of capitalism is to take all of my money using any method possible, and if you think economic health is the end-all and be-all of life and country, well then I guess you are in the apparent majority, but seriously, enough is enough.

This particular rant has nothing to do with my recent experience with DirecTV or the various cell phone companies.  No, today I am appalled at the encroachment of advertising into things that I already pay money for.

It’s a slippery slope, and it seems to be a full scale avalanche these days.  Remember when there were no advertisements in movie theaters?  I mean, why would I be subjected to ads at an experience I just paid money for?  Isn’t that the point of advertising?  To subsidize free or cheap entertainment?  And yet every time I go to the movies I am subjected to a barrage of advertisements both before and, increasingly, during the movie.

I know, I know, that’s not a new complaint.  People have been complaining about ads in theaters since they started doing it, to no avail.  Well, here’s a new complaint for you.  A company called SeamBI has figured out a way to insert current ads into reruns of television shows.  They have already started doing it with “How I Met Your Mother,” inserting ads for “Bad Teacher” into shows that first aired 4 or 5 years ago.  Here is a screen shot:

The thing about it is, not only was that ad obviously not in the original episode, but that flat screen television was never in the scene at all.  That coffee shop did not have a large TV on the wall, so not only have they messed with non-suckiness of the scene by adding an ad, but they have messed with the artistic integrity of the original product.  Perhaps when the set designer, director and producer set up that scene, there was a reason they didn’t put a large flat screen tv on the wall of the coffee shop.  Maybe they wanted to determine the ambiance of the scene themselves.  As an artist myself, this is nauseating.

And here’s the thing.  These ads are being added for the syndicated shows that are shown endlessly in repeats on various cable stations (and sometimes networks, true).  I am already paying for cable!  Cable is supposed to be premium content that I am paying a fee for.  Growing up, I would sit upstairs at my grandmother’s house and watch Nickelodeon and marvel that there were no commercials between shows.  I would go to a friend’s house that had Disney Channel and watch shows with no commercial interruptions.  They didn’t need commercials, because we were all PAYING THEM to watch their shows!  The only reason that network TV had commercials was to pay for the shows, because we were NOT paying for them, and nothing is free.

So to summarize this, I am paying for cable television, I am paying an extra premium fee for extra channels, I am paying for my DVR service, I am watching commercials during and between these shows that I am already paying thrice for, and now they are going back and adding more commercials into the actual show?  I’m sorry, but that is consumer abuse.

And as outraged as I am that companies are allowed to do whatever they want as long as it makes them more money, I am even more upset at the loss of artistic integrity represented by this threat.  SeamBI claims that inserting this kind of advertising is just the beginning.  They soon expect to be able to switch out the type of cell phone people are using, the hotels they are staying at, and even the type of drink they are drinking.  Personally, as a viewer, I would feel unsettled watching Sydney Bristow using an iPhone, or hearing George Costanza yell “That’s Gotta Hurt” at a screening of “Transformers,” but if I was one of those people who had actually worked on one of these tampered shows, I would already be on the phone with my lawyers.

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Posted in Advertising, Rant, Television.


  1. Wow, this is the first I heard of this SeamBI thing. Horrifying. Next you’re going to be changing the words of your operas to include subtle product placements yourself. Puccini for Pizzeria Uno!

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