Has this ever happened to you?

Your commercial for Romano’s Macaroni Grill Dinner Kits is running on a cable tv network like Food Network. Everything is going well, happy people cooking food at home that’s every bit as good as it would be at the restaurant.

“Just add your chicken and cook for 20 minutes. Romano’s Macaroni Grill Dinner Kits… the restaurant favorites that…”

and then, suddenly,

“How rough are your dry cracked feet? Now there’s Heeltastic”… as a woman takes a sandblaster to her bare feet.

Mmmm…that’s tasty.

You’ve just joined the ranks of thousands of advertisers who suffer from Commercialus Interruptus, a tragic, embarrassing affliction that is, sad to say, occurring with increasing frequency among anyone who advertises on cable television.

Why does it happen? More importantly, why does it seem to be spreading? I first noticed it on the Food Network, but now I’ve seen it on Comedy Central, TNT, TBS, USA, CNN and many other stations too traumatized to allow themselves to be mentioned in public.

Uninformed theories abound, some of them no better than old wives tales. Some say the advertiser couldn’t afford the full slot and is willing to settle for less. Some say it’s because the advertiser didn’t pay the bill. I’ve even seen someone post that they think it happens when the person running the commercials at the station is in training and screws it up.

Commercialus Interruptus can happen to anyone, no matter how famous or successul. Whether you’re Billy Mays or Bob the Enzyte Guy, you too can have your pitch prematurely pre-empted by a puzzling 2-second snippet of a mop in bed banging against a radio alarm clock.

The most promising theory I’ve found suggests that the problem arises from scheduling or programming conflicts between commercials that are running nationally at the same time as ones that are just running in local markets.

But there have always been national stations and local affiliates, and there have always been national media buys and local. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember this happening as frequently even a few years ago as it does now. (I refuse to believe it has anything to do with getting older.)

I know what you’re thinking: this could never happen to your commercials. Your commercials run their full 30 seconds and never, ever end prematurely.

But how can you really know? Do you get full playbacks of every single commercial you run? Do you believe the networks would tell you the truth knowing that it would hurt your feelings and, perhaps, damage your self-confidence?

I thought so.

There must be an answer out there. We do not have to simply roll over and allow ourselves to be stigmatized. We do not have to be victims.

So can someone please explain to me what really causes Commercialus Interruptus , and more importantly, what we can do to stop it?

Comments
  1. Dev S says:

    1) Some systems are automated and run local commercials when an encoded signal in the feed is sent, sometimes the signal is delayed, and whatever was playing in the place of the commercial is cut off and the proper commercial is layed over it. 2) Commercial breaks are a certain length based on increments of thirty seconds. So, a 2:30 break has 5-thirty second slots. Sometimes a commercial is :30.25 or even :31, thus, sliding into the next commercial’s slot. You have to give priority to the programming, so even if the last commercial isn’t finished playing, you switch back to the program, and cut off the end of the commercial. 3) The person operating the control board didn’t time things properly and may have gone to commercial late, or came back to programming too soon. As was my experience, most of the cut off commercial were due to human error, or miscalculations. When you see it, you have seen a mistake, but it isn’t always on the network’s end. usually it is some poor shmuck who was sleeping at the switches at the local level.

    • jlsimons says:

      Eureka! Dev S, this is the perfect example of why I started this blog. Your explanation makes sense, and I can see exactly how it can happen. Do you happen to have any data or a percentage on how often this happens? Does it happen more now than it used to? Also, do the networks enforce lengths on the commercials submitted? It would seem to me that it’s in their best interests not to be chopping off parts of their larger advertisers’ spots.

  2. Dan Mcpeak says:

    It’s part of Madmen latest psy/sublm research. You’ll never experience “interruptus” during the launch and initial blitz. Once the spot has become recognizable (and viewer attention strays progressively earlier in the 15, 30 second + spot) , the abrupt, unsettling premature ending actually so stimulates the viewer’s attention and memorization response to a level much close to the original (when they first watched the ad).
    The shock of the “cut-off” makes a worn out spot much more effective… and profitable.

    The”cut-off”

  3. joe manning says:

    Its simple they sell the time slot twice and technically did run both ads ,beginning of one ad and the end of another. what i always notice is mediacom ads always do it to someones ad and these companies really dont say anything so they do it a little more each time which is fraud no matter what

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