Broadcast TV, including cable, has been seeing declines in viewers for several years now.

We have so many online options to choose from now, which certainly helps to explain the decline. But I think the commercials are at least partly responsible for the drop in viewers. Let’s start with prescription drug commercials.

These frightening messages are enough to make us take our pulse, blood pressure and an at home cholesterol test every day. From arthritis to psoriasis, there are all manner of diseases we’ve never imagined we might be prone to.

One thing about these commercials that drives me crazy are the settings in which they are shot. Why do the actors, supposedly suffering from these serious illnesses, always seem to be sailing, hiking or swimming with friends if not dancing in the moonlight? It almost makes me wish I could get my doctor to prescribe some of these pills even though I don’t have the disease. Almost! The warnings do tend to make me think twice.

Spoken softly by a speed reader, with Oreo cookies in his mouth, I strain to listen to the horrific things that can happen to me if I am crazy enough to take this medicine. Scares me straight every time.

Then there are the law firms, whose commercials have gotten more outrageous every year. Based on the smiling faces of the hyper people who have been in an auto accident, it seems like those of us who haven’t been in an accident are just plain unlucky. Most of these fine folks don’t have a scar, or a scratch on them. Naturally, there’s always a hard charging lawyer egging us on to sue the other party to the accident, because, obviously, the insurance companies will otherwise heartlessly deny our claims. Thanks to these tough-minded attorneys, satisfied customers would have us believe that we could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars, just for being in the wrong place at the right time.

Another popular commercial genre is the alternative to the traditional Medicare option. When I was a kid, Joe Namath was the New York Jets quarterback, also known as Broadway Joe. He was a true sports hero. Watching him now, teeth gleaming as if he’d never been sacked by a monstrous defensive end, is, to put it mildly, disheartening. Every time he pumps his fist to drive home a point, I cringe. He looks like he could be on an infomercial for rockin’ to the ’80s CDs. He’s practically dancing in delight over a Medicare commercial for goodness sake.

And how about the insurance commercials? Is there a worse commercial than the recent Geico commercials? Have you seen the one about the clogging problem? The one that shows clog dancers on the second floor? Does that commercial make me think about shopping for insurance? Not exactly, but I do reach for the remote.

Another category that baffles me is the commercials for gutters. I’m sure outfits that protect us from wayward leaves offer fine products. But after years of homeownership, without specially designed gutters, I’ve never had a problem. In spite of the earnest pitch, I am not convinced I need them. Truth? The fact that they want to give me zero interest payments and gift cards for replacing my gutters makes me suspicious.

I often wonder who actually writes and storyboards commercials. Are the writers under the impression that we all become glued to the TV set as soon as they appear? Even if a commercial has something going for it, once you’ve seen it 500 times, it loses its luster a little. I do occasionally enjoy watching a company CEO appears in a commercial. I imagine it isn’t terribly difficult to persuade the CEO of a small company to star in a commercial for his products and services. What executive with a healthy ego wouldn’t believe the advertising professional who he’s perfect for the job? “Mr. CEO, it gives potential customers more confidence when the owner and his wife or daughter personally endorse the offering.”

It is interesting to note that a study done by Ace Metrix found that ads featuring CEOs notched considerably higher scores for desire, relevance and information. A key factor in achieving success in ads with the company CEO is whether the CEO comes across as genuine.

And, some CEOs learn to act a little, which helps, but then, I’ve never seen one transition to appearing in a Geico commercial as a clog dancer.

Len is a local writer whose fiction work can be found at He is also available for speaking engagements.

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