The Great Unethical Advertising Beast

A few years back, we were subjected to one of the most horrific displays of immoral advertising I’ve ever seen. I’m, of course, speaking about the Coca-Cola and Nike advertisements that were thrust upon theatre-goers across the nation. Remember? You’d go pay your eights-bucks-a-head to see the most recent blockbuster and the first thing you’d see, even before the previews, was a commercial. Yes, a commercial.

If my memory serves me right, there was some public outcry about this absolutely immoral and unethical form of advertising. Consumers weren’t going to the theatres, and paying money, to be subjected to something that most people despise. And we haven’t really seen much action in this arena since.

But the Great Unethical Advertising Beast has arisen again. This time in the form of advertisements placed in front of video rentals. This weekend, I was taking a much-needed mini-vacation at my brother’s house, the snow falling silently outdoors, the computers warming up for a very long game of networked Diablo and the VCR standing by for a movie break when we got tired of computer games or were killed by King Leoric or the Butcher.

And that’s when the Unethical Advertising Beast struck, right between some preview and the main attraction, “Lethal Weapon 4.” A [long] commercial for Microsoft Windows98 masquerading as a plug for DVD. I was so angry. I didn’t pay $3.50 to watch some stupid Windows98 commercial. Damn, how immoral. How much more unethical can Microsoft get? Worse, how long before the rest of the corporate monoliths follow Microsoft’s lead and we start seeing shoe commercials, long-distance ads, and psychic network plugs in front of every movie we rent?

The movie rental industry is huge, no doubt. Just look at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Are Warner Bros., Viacom, Fox Home Video, Paramount and the rest of the movie distributors so hard up for money that they’re forcing unwanted advertising and commercials onto their unsuspecting consumers? Has corporate greed gotten so bad that we’ve come to this?

Shame on Microsoft for throwing their money around and convincing Warner Bros. (the distributor) to let them put their commercial on their tapes. Shame on Warner Bros. for being so crass and uncaring towards their consumers.

I urge you to send negative feedback to Warner Bros. Let them know how unethical they’re being. Tell them we don’t want to see pre-movie advertising to become the norm. Tell them that it’s wrong to subject their paying viewers to this type of advertising.

Now, I know that some of you are going to say, “Just hit that Fast-Forward button if you don’t like it.” Well, I think you’d be missing the point. People rent movies for one reason and one reason only: to be entertained. Do you really think that Microsoft is sitting around in their conference rooms thinking about how to entertain us with their commercials? No, I don’t think so. They’re simply playing the repetition game they know so well. Their goal is to get people to associate the name “Microsoft” with DVD technology. While it’s true that most new Microsoft-enabled PCs are capable of playing DVD movies, I very much doubt that the family is going to crowd around their PC to watch a two-hour movie. Before long, we’re going to hear reports from the field (usually Best Buy employees) saying that customers are asking for those new “Microsoft DVD” computers.

Note: I watched another movie this weekend, “The Negotiator.” It too had the same Windows98/DVD commercial in front of the feature presentation. This movie is distributed by New Regency, for whom I can find no email address anywhere on their web site:

Posted by Cameron Barrett at December 30, 1998 11:59 PM