Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Getting Bugged

Once upon a time when you watched a TV show all you saw was the show. A number of years ago that changed with the introduction of bugs. Bugs are those little station icons that are typically displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the screen when a show is on. Television stations claim that they are a necessity in this modern world of a hundren-plus channels to watch.

Personally, I don't mind bugs, so much, as long as they don't obscure any text that's being shown. When they get in the way of subtitles it's annoying but, in generally, they are small enough and far enough to the right that that doesn't tend to happen. It also helps when they are semi-transparent.

Several years ago, however, some stations decided that bug technology was ideal for advertising upcomming shows. These new bugs were programmed to pop up in the middle of a show. Unlike the logo bugs, which just function as station identifiers, these new bugs were intended to attract attention. As such, they tended to be large, opaque, and animated. The worst of the lot actually make noises. They remind me of nothing so much as the pop-up ads that as the scourge of the web.

I have, over time, grudgingly accustomed myself to those bugs but, last night, I saw a new breed of bug. It happened while I was watching a history channel show on the technology of the old west. The show's host mentioned something about headaches or sore muscles (I don't recall quite what) and a bug appeared on the screen with an advertisement for Advil. Later that night, while watching American Idol (sorry, it's a deservedly guilty pleasure) one of the contestants was making a cell phone call and a bug popped up advertising Cingular's cellular service.

Yes, folks, we've entered the age of the product placement bug. I suspect that this is a direct reaction to TiVO and other DVR technologies that allow people to zip past commercials. If advertisers can't grab your attentions during breaks in the show, they're clearly going to do it during the show. I doubt that there's anything that can be done about it so, once again, we're just going to have to grit our teeth and put up with the addition of yet another small nuisance in our lives. I suppose that there are more important things in this world to worry about but it does, never the less, bug me. I suppose that's the point.

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