But there is no denying the results. The image of advertising has vastly improved over the past 12 years. Or, to be more precise, the negative attitudes that viewers harbor toward commercials has eased more than 10%, from 27.5% in 1984 to 21.7% in a survey just completed by Video Storyboard Tests.
Ask Lee Clow, chief creative officer of TBWA Chiat/Day, who got the trend rolling in 1984 with the icon-making and icon-breaking spot (entitled, appropriately "1984") that launched Apple's Macintosh.
"The television generation got smarter, so advertisers had to become smarter. You can't get viewer attention by insulting them. [For the surfer] the medium is no longer the message-it's the message, provokingly presented, that matters."
The drop in viewer perception of commercials as "insulting to intelligence" is, in fact, the most dramatic of the survey's findings-21% compared with 32.5% in 1984.
Equally impressive has been the ability of commercials to entertain while at the same time explain. This is a combination of steep declines in the perceptions about "commercials are boring," "in poor taste" and "don't give any facts, just create an image."
Indeed, the only worsening negative associated with the medium reflects as much on the product suppliers as image makers. "Products don't perform as well as their commercials claim" has not gone down.
Dave Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests.