Tagged: advertising

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Back in the days before Obamacare and mandatory health insurance coverage, underemployed “young invincibles” justified buying a health policy, which many of them would likely rarely use, to insure against an unforeseen catastrophe such as getting hit by a car. The prospect of mounting hospital bills, caused by such a calamity, alarmed a lot of people into getting covered.

But having been hit by a car while riding my bike, I can tell you that your personal health coverage does not normally cover you should you be hit by a car.1 The primary responsibility falls on an auto insurance carrier. If you get hit by a car while walking or riding a bicycle, the driver’s auto insurance is supposed to cover your bills and lost wages. At least that’s the case in a no-fault state like New York.

Here I am in California and, on TV, I see a spot for the state-run insurance exchange, Covered California.

The ad consists of a single shot, craning to follow an ambulance rushing to the scene of a injured bicyclist. On the right, there is an automobile that presumably collided with the bicycle and caused the rider to fall to the ground. The voiceover announces, “it’s more than just health care, it’s life care.”

But unless this was something changed in the Affordable Care Act since I was hit by car in 2006 and 2008 or something is different in California, I’m pretty certain that most health insurance policies would not cover the bicyclist, unless something is amiss with the driver’s auto insurance.

Or maybe it does now… Thanks, Obama.

  1. Your health insurance will cover you should the driver flee the scene, but you’ll have to file paperwork proving that. 

The Following Film Has Been Modified to Fit

Joe Flint, writing for the Wall Street Journal‘s Digital microsite, exposes cable TV networks that compress programming content, such as when TBS broadcast The Wizard of Oz last November, to fit in more advertisements in the same block of time.

Tinkering with shows to squeeze more advertising dollars out of them has been done before. Cable networks have long made room for ads by shortening the opening credits. Reruns of “Law & Order” on TNT have a 24-second opening, in contrast to the original 1 minute, 45-second opening when it aired on NBC.

But speeding up the actual content is a more subtle tactic TV networks use to achieve a higher volume of ads. TBS also has sped up sitcom reruns of “Seinfeld” and other shows, and sister network TNT has also employed the approach as well. Viacom Inc.’s TV Land has done the same with “Friends” reruns.

A colleague, who forwarded the article earlier today, called the apparently unprecedented practice “scary.”

But is it, really?

First, is this even new? I thought this was already standard practice, especially for movies broadcast on television. I remember watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) on Comedy Central in the 1990s with my roommate Rick. It was a movie we knew well, having seen it dozens of times between the two of us. We had even seen it on 35mm film, paired with Election (1999), at a double-feature at the New Beverly Cinema, in Los Angeles at the end of the Clinton Administration. But with this Comedy Central screening, we could tell something was off.

To confirm our suspicions, Rick fetched his VHS copy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to screen it and compare it to the broadcast version. Going back and forth between the cable net’s feed and the VHS deck, we verified that Comedy Central had indeed sped up the movie. It was most evident when Edward R. Rooney proclaims that, because of kids like Ferris, he “weeps for the future.” The voice of Jeffrey Jones, who played Rooney, was easily an octave higher on the broadcast than it was on the VHS version.1

Jeffrey Jones, playing Edward R. Rooney, in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Edward R. Rooney weeps for the future.

From then on, we noticed this practice on countless other Comedy Central movie broadcasts, too. I guess once you see something like that, you can never unsee it.

Second, I’m guilty of having sped up screenings in class. In a few cases, after a lengthy lecture and class discussion, it was clear that we were going to go over time. To fit the screening, I have played a H.264 file from my Mac using VLC, which has a playback-speed control. I’ve gone as high as 104% but usually keep it at 102% or so. When I’ve sped up a screening, I’ve previewed it to ensure the playback doesn’t appear off, and I’ve only used it on films where pacing or tempo is not a significant element of the filmmaking. I’ve done it for films like Flaming Creatures and Sins of the Fleshapoids, where a viewer would be too preoccupied with horror or laughter, respectively, to notice a 2% increase in speed. However, I would never speed up a screening of a film by Alfred Hitchcock, Stan Brakhage, or Maya Deren. In those cases, the pacing and rhythm are really important dimensions of their filmmaking.

Maya Deren in <em>At Land</em>

Maya Deren, in At Land, can take as much time as she needs in my class.

Finally, is this even a big deal? The whole screening experience—in a classroom or on television—is already compromised. We watch with cheap projectors and television monitors that produce rainbow and soap opera effects. We listen with low-fi sound systems that don’t reproduce a full range of sounds. And, for decades, we have watched films that have been panned, scanned and center-cut to fit the aspect ratio of our TV sets.

It’s not like I’m cutting out scenes.

  1. Disclaimer: I don’t actually know what an octave is. 

Stop Buying VALS

Earlier today, in my electronic media class, we discussed radio advertising. Specifically, we covered how radio stations develop formats to attract a segmented audience that specific advertisers are seeking. If you ever wondered why, in the blink of an eye, your favorite heavy metal station turned into a Spanish-language norteño station, it’s because the advertising market changed to accommodate one que habla español.

How advertisers segment audiences is something that I won’t pretend to have much expertise, mostly because I find it dull. I also don’t get excited about this because when I begin to talk about demographics, it seems familiar to most of my students. It doesn’t feel like I’m actually teaching. After all, who doesn’t know that age, ethnicity, gender, income and education level each determine what media you consume and how you spend your money?

Psychographics and VALS

In addition to demographics, there are psychographics. These measure less about what a listener is, such as a 38 year-old, non-white hispanic male, but instead what a listener believes. One proprietary psychographic methodology is VALS. Developed by SRI International, VALS is based on two very broad types of consumers: innovators and survivors. Within those categories are six other types related to ideals, achievement, and self-expression.


Looking at the chart of VALS, I would imagine that I would not want to be perceived at the bottom of these categories. For example, look at how they describe Survivors:

Survivors live narrowly focused lives. Because they have few resources with which to cope, they often believe that the world is changing too quickly. They are comfortable with the familiar and are primarily concerned with safety and security. Because they must focus on meeting needs rather than fulfilling desires, Survivors do not show a strong primary motivation.

When I began to review each of these, I was in a self-deprecating mood and kept comparing myself to the lower rungs of the VALS scale, such as Believers and Strivers, but those didn’t seem to fit me.

An Innovator and an Achiever?!?

To get a more precise picture of my VALS type, I took the VALS survey and had some students take it, too. Some of them shared their results with me, and now, I’d like to share my results with you.


Apparently, my primary VALS type is an Innovator. Accordingly, that means that I am a “successful, sophisticated, take-charge [person] with high self-esteem” and with “abundant resources.” I am also the type of person who is “among the established and emerging leaders in business and government” but “continue to seek challenges.” My life is “characterized by variety,” and my “possessions and recreation reflect a cultivated taste for the finer things in life.”

They can’t be talking about me, right? This sounds like a pretty important person, and I’m as surprised as anyone.

What about my secondary type? Apparently, I’m an Achiever.

Motivated by the desire for achievement, Achievers have goal-oriented lifestyles and a deep commitment to career and family. Their social lives reflect this focus and are structured around family, their place of worship, and work.

“Goal-oriented?” I have probably written that on resumés because it sounds good, but here’s some “science” to prove that, I guess. What about having “a deep commitment to career and family?” That could describe someone like me, but since I have neither of those things, I’m not sure how it could be me.

What about consumer behavior? How do we Achievers like to spend our money?

With many wants and needs, Achievers are active in the consumer marketplace. Image is important to Achievers; they favor established, prestige products and services that demonstrate success to their peers. Because of their busy lives, they are often interested in a variety of time-saving devices.

That kinda sounds like me.

And it’s better than my usual, disparaging characterization of over-educated, underachiever.

Take the VALS Survey