No Escape

Broadcast February 2, 2001

Recently I was putting gas in my car, minding my own business, enjoying my solitude there by the gas pump, when the gas pump suddenly comes alive with a commercial -- right there, on a little liquid-crystal screen mounted on the pump. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm in the middle of filling my tank with gas. I'm a captive audience to a loud talking head who s hawking a product at me.

The same thing happened the other day when I was in an elevator. The doors shut, the elevator starts to move, I m enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, and then suddenly another little screen up in the corner of the elevator starts up, with another loud commercial. I can't get out of the elevator until I reach my floor. I mean, I could have got off at the next floor and waited for another elevator, but the other one would have had a commercial, too.

Have you noticed -- it s happening all over. Little commercial messages on little screens which you can't escape from. You can't turn them off. Last week I'm sitting at an airport gate trying to read the paper and I look up and suddenly there's a screen blaring commercial at me.

Soon there are going to be little screens with commercials wherever we go, wherever we wait, wherever we stand, especially where we can't get away from them. Sit in a taxi, there'll be a little screen on the back of the driver's seat, with a commercial. You re at the dentist, your mouth filled with gauze and glue and gook, and right in front of you drops a screen with a commercial. Go to a restroom, sit on a toilet, and on the back of the stall door there'll be a little liquid-crystal screen with a commercial.

You see, most of us are so mobile these days -- we can channel surf and Web surf, and click and switch so quickly away from any commercial -- that advertisers want to get us where we have to watch and listen to their pitches. Where we can't click them off. As a captive audience, we re worth millions to them. So relish those few remaining places and times in your day which are still commercial free. Before long, they'll all be gone.

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