TV proggramming and commercials in 1950

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In the 1950s television became a big influence in the lives of many Americans.

Television has been noted to be one of the phenomenons that shaped the life of Americans in this period that was popularly referred to as the golden age of television. By the end of the Second World War this gadget was only considered as an entertainment tool for the wealthy Americans but in less than a decade nearly seventy percent of all the Americans households were owners of this life changing entertainment tool. [1]This was a time when every member of the family tried very hard to get hold of a television set, the most sought out piece of entertainment in the American living room at the moment. According to the surveys that were conducted over time close to three million Americans enjoyed television programming in this golden age of television with more increasing over the as the decade progressed.

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Television was regarded as the one of the sources for the simpler and cheaper entertainment tool. (Wheatley, H 2007 34)With the tremendous growth in the use of television there was a transformation in the information industry as more people preferred to pass messages through television as opposed to other media. Advertising industry was one of the beneficiaries of this phenomenon growth. Different brands could be promoted using television, through such endeavours companies were in a position of reaching many potential consumers using a means that was appealing and popular at the moment.

Television became the most popular and sought after means of telecasting commercials in the 1950s.Different companies began to look at this entertainment tool as the most suitable medium to promote their products. These companies started to sponsor some of the most popular programs and shows in form of television advertising. This brought a lot of popularity to these companies and their products as they were able to get to many people during the popular shows that were watched by most of the Americans.

[2]With the majority of American families being owners of a television set, manufacturers had a great opportunity to popularize their products. This brought a new way of passing information regarding different products to the Americans giving way to the birth of the television commercial. More and more companies were buying television broadcast time for the sake of promoting their products. Most companies were leaving radio for television at a very high rate as it was by then the most preferred means of entertainment by most of the American consumers.

The sponsors ranged from the automobiles to tobacco products. Some of the popular products that had been sponsored by different companies included the “I Love Lucy which was sponsored by Philip Morris “Be Happy, Go Lucky which was sponsored by Lucky Strike among other popular television programs. (Marling, A 1996 187)Television commercial were the biggest sources of revenue for the TV companies at the time, they were able to generate a handsome amount of money from the adverts they aired during different slottings.The most popular time when the whole family was gathered around television sets to watch their favourites programs.

On the same note the most popular programs attracted commercials which gave the companies higher revenue. These were the so called prime time where commercials that fell on this time were charged highly compared to the other commercial in the low peak time. This was in relation to the number of people a given advert was going to reach at a given time. Majority of the Americans were glued on their television sets getting the best of entertainment as they took rest from their busy schedules.

The television companies took the opportunity to get higher revenue as they were helping the companies that were seeking to reach many people at a given time.[3]During the early days of the television, ad agencies and sponsors had the basic responsibility of packaging shows that were to be aired. They had the power to dictate what was to be show in a given program especially that that they sponsored. This power led to massive abuse especially on the areas of censorship.

For example a car manufacturing that was sponsoring a given program would not have allowed competitors cars to be shown anywhere in the program. This denied the viewers of given program a choice as they were only presented with a particular product without being given a chance to see what other variety might be available in the markets even in arena that today would be considered wrong places to show single company wares. On the same note cigarette companies which sponsored a given program would not allow scenes where the actors smoked cigars or pipes or any other brand that was in competition with the said product. This situation prevailed for some time in the decade coming to an end as the decade was closing.

This trend was sparked by the scandals that gaffed this sector in the late years of the decade. This is the time when the networks came to have a great say as far as the content of what was to be presented was concerned. The creation as well as production of new programs was put in the hands of packagers who did not have any connection with the companies which were sponsoring the programs or the networks in question. This made the advertising agencies to be reduced to buying airtime leading to very little control over the content to be aired.

(Sheumaker, H and Wadja, S 2004 114)[4]The advertisement at the moment represented the tremendous growth of the television industry. This period witnessed the animations and cartoons as the producers of different ads utilized the television ability to produce moving pictures which would attract viewers as they tried to understand what they presented. (Butler, J 2002 282)[5]As the decade progressed the America television served as the shopping mall where different advertisers made their way in to buying airtime in different networks. Most of the adverts in the early 1950s run for a long time, in some instances two minutes where they had mini stories in between and some detailed information concerning the product which was being promoted.

At times the viewers were having a difficult time distinguishing between the programs themselves and the adverts that were run in between. There was a very thin boundary between the contents of the program and commercials themselves. (Young, N 2004 43)The agencies control of the programs had reached a point where they were described as ridiculous, when the Federal Communication Commission lifted the ban on licensing in 1952 agencies were able to have full control as far as programming was concerned. During this period some of them were making very ridiculous demands.

One example was when Desoto asked one the contestants in a game show to adopt a different name other than Ford as the name that was being used promoted the competitor. Such a move meant that the sponsors wanted to have their products fully recognized in the programs which they sponsored. [6]The sponsorship generated revenues to the television network but on the other hand the demands by the sponsors to change the programs content to suit their needs would have made the programs to be unpopular as they would only be used as channels of advertising products while denying the viewers a chance to sample different settings and in this case the real ones where they would be in a position to learn new things which have not been censored to suit the sponsors need. In some programs it was almost difficult to draw a line between the program itself and the advertisement that appeared on it.

To the sponsors this was a boost as the actors were basically endorsing their products to the viewers but for the business it was a dangerous trend as a given television network will be associated with a sponsor risking losing business from other manufacturers. (Booker, M  2002 403)On overall there was a motivation to come up with quality, enjoyable and popular programs that earned enough respect and support from the American viewers. The sponsors and television networks worked hand in hand towards this end, their aim was to make the American viewers satisfied so that they can also gain from the expanded viewer ship of the program being promoted. The battle for sponsorship continued as the rival companies continued to fight over the popular programs with each quoting a higher price for the se programs so that the competitors can be pushed out.

The agencies on the other hand battled out with the networks over the control of the programming.[7]As the television viewership increased more and more people could be reached by different programs that were televised. This meant that the business was growing too as the sponsors of the given programs were in a position to reach out to a big number of people to whom they introduced and promoted their products. This was a golden chance for the television networks as they were present with an opportunity to double their earnings through increasing the sponsorship charges to be in line with the growth trends.

Many sponsors found themselves locked out due to the skyrocketing cost of sponsorship and advertising, those who remained in the business of commercials chose to use the hard to sell repetitive adverts so that they can get their messages across to the viewers. The viewers were not happy with this trend as they grew weary of the commercials which were described as outspoken sales pitches. They had to get a way of ridding their annoying sounds; they opted to invest in gadgets which muted off the sounds when these commercials appeared on their television sets. This limited the exposure of the adverts, this shows that the viewers had reached a point where they perceived some of the adverts being brought on their televisions during their favourite programs as a nuisance.

This made the television networks to do something before they lost out to their competitors. They introduced system where the programs to be aired on their channels were those that were controlled by the viewers rather giving the sponsors the full control. (Northup, C 2002 56)The scandals which involved a sponsor manipulating a quiz show to further the commercial interests led to agencies and sponsors to lose out in the control they have as far as television programming was concerned. Their control was brought to a check where stringent measures were taken to prevent such occurrences.

The television networks came up with a mechanism where the viewers were given a big role to play as far as program choice on television was concerned. This brought in a new system where rating which was purely based on the questionnaires filed by the viewers in each household were to be used in determining the programming content. (Morrow, R 20005 17)[8]The commercial in 1950s consumed a better part of the program as they tended to be long. On average a single commercial lasted one to two minutes as compared to the less than thirty seconds in today’s adverts.

This took most of the programs time, it was even worse when the cost of advertisements rose leaving only some players in the airwaves, these are the players who tended to repeat the commercial especially for the hard to sell products. This was not received positively by the viewers as they become weary of the repetitive commercials which interfered with their popular[9]The companies that were sponsoring different shows opted to put their names in titles; this was done to grab the viewers’ attention, they argued that they had made it possible for the audiences to watch their favourite shows. Some of the popular shows that had the sponsors titles on them include: The Ford Television theatre, Texaco Star theatre and Colgate comedy show among others. This was one of the ways through which the sponsoring companies grabbed the full attention of the viewers through extensive featuring of their products in between the shows.

Through including the name of a popular household item on a popular television program the companies were aimed at reaching recognition of their products to the wider viewership. (Castleman, H and Podrazik, W 2003 2)[10]Timing was and has always been a important factor when choosing the program. Different companies selected different times depending on the moment when most of their target audience will be glued to their sets. For example when the cooking shows began to appear on television most of the advertisers choose to bring related adverts during the hours when these programs were aired.

The cooking shows were mostly slotted during the mid day programs, at this time the sponsors new very well that housewives were at home watching. They popped up their adverts during such programs so as to reach these women who were most likely to use their products. (Sterling, C and Kittross, J 2002 402)The television programming during the golden age was much influenced by the advertising companies as they demanded to establish their empires through the new innovations of this period. The influence was on the content, timing and many other aspects that came to shape this industry.

As the number of program viewers raised the cost of sponsorship increased making the television commercial the single largest source of revenue for the television networks and hence the influence they had on the programming.BibliographyWheatley, H Reviewing Television History, IB Taurius Publishers (2007)Marling, A As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s, Cambridge, Harvard University PressSheumaker, H and Wadja, S Material Culture in America, Santa Barbara, ABC CLIO Publisher (2007)Young, N The 1950s, Greenwood Publishing Company (2004)Booker, M Strange TV, Westport Conn. Greenwood Publishing Group (2002)Northup, C The American Economy, Santa Barbara, ABC CLIO (2002)Morrow, R Sesame Street and the Reforms of Children’s Television, Baltimore, JHU PressCastleman, H and Podrazik, W Watching TV: Six Decade of American Television, New Yok, Syracuse University Press (2003)Butler, J Television; Critical Methods and Application, Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002)Sterling, C and Kittross, J Stay Tuned: A history of American Broadcasting, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002)      [1] Wheatley, H Reviewing Television History, IB Taurius Publishers (2007)[2] Marling, A As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s, Cambridge, Harvard University Press[3] Sheumaker, H and Wadja, S Material Culture in America, Santa Barbara, ABC CLIO Publisher (2007)[4] Butler, J Television; Critical Methods and Application, Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002)[5] Young, N The 1950s, Greenwood Publishing Company (2004)[6] Booker, M Strange TV, Westport Conn. Greenwood Publishing Group (2002)[7] Northup, C The American Economy, Santa Barbara, ABC CLIO (2002)[8] Morrow, R Sesame Street and the Reforms of Children’s Television, Baltimore, JHU Press(2005) [9] Castleman, H and Podrazik, W Watching TV SIX Decade of American Television, New York, Syracuse University Press (2003)[10] Sterling, C and Kittross, J Stay Tuned: A history of American Broadcasting, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002) 

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