TV Ads — A Window Into Just How Far We Have Fallen

Written by John DeGroff on September 22, 2017

This is going to be a bit different than my usual offering/article, and/or rant. And while I’ve used that opening line before, this time around it’s truly justified.

Like most folks, I know I watch more television than I should. I’m of that generation that grew up with TV so in a way it just seems natural to have it on in the background. Although those times when I do get annoyed enough to turn it off, read a book and listen to some good jazz or prog rock are true bliss…

Anyway, having said that, I really think that those of us who are the “TV generation” have probably noticed somewhat of a trend over the years. Advertising reflects what’s going on in society at any given point in time. It’s not just the particular products being sold; it’s the attitude regarding having those products and the mindset that sometime seems to be intrinsic to the very products themselves.

So what the heck am I talking about? Well, here are two examples taken from insurance company commercials.

The first one has a mother and son standing together. The mother says something like: “I’m glad the company was able to help when this guy had a flat tire one night”.

Next scene shows two young guys, stuck alongside of the road with a flat. The one kid is calling his dad and saying he really does know what a lug wrench is, while holding up something else. Okay, here’s my issue with this. These are two young men, of driving age, and probably old enough to serve in the military, but they have no idea how to change a flat tire.

At the risk of sounding like my dad, when I was in school, learning how to change a tire was something taught in driver’s ed. Even the girls ended up knowing how. How the heck can you be of driving age and not know how to change a tire?

The next example is from an insurance company that offers a bonus for safe driving. We see a father with his family in the car with him. Mom is up front while the two kids are in the back seat, and all three of them are on their phones with ear buds in. Dad looks at the camera and says he doesn’t mind that his family doesn’t pay attention to him. He just got a bonus check…and a new putter. Sometimes he even leaves the seat up.

Has technology taken us to the point where we can be confined in a small space with our immediate family, yet still not pay attention to each other? Practically any iPhone, Internet/TV package commercial makes it seem that way.

Speaking of family, that brings me to the next example. This is for what is practically the best known fast food company in the world. We see this young man showing up and handing his crew chief a letter, that turns out to be the letter from the college he’s applied to. His boss opens it, reads aloud that the kid has been accepted and… ta-da…happy ending. Everyone at work is happy for this young man.

Okay, at first glance, this is pretty cool. The kid obviously has a good relationship with everyone at work and they all wish him success. Also equally obvious is the fact the kid must be a hard worker.

So, what’s my issue with this? Well, where’s this kid’s family in all this? Getting in to the school of your choice is a big deal…for anyone, at any age. But especially when you’re young. Why didn’t this kid share this moment with family instead of his boss and co-workers? Maybe I’m personally reading too much into this, but I think this commercial is actually a very sad commentary on the state of the family (in many instances) in our country.

Another commercial I find to be more ridiculous than annoying is one of the first vaping commercials I ever saw.

Here’s this guy walking along a beach, talking about how we’re all adults and we need to take our freedom back. Okay, so the “freedom” in question is the choice of whether or not to indulge in smoking. Without going into the obvious health issues surrounding smoking, let’s just look at the weirdness of this scenario. Instead of freely making the choice to smoke a tobacco product (such as cigarettes, cigars or a pipe like I do), the product here is a mechanical vaping device that basically amounts to a very expensive toy cigarette. Yeah, that’s a real adult compromise/choice…. follow a trend that’s hip at the moment, but doesn’t really address the issue of taking your “freedom” back.

Look, I’ve been a smoker for a long time. Pipe tobacco, and the occasional cigar. I know it’s not that healthy, but it’s MY choice. My wife won’t let me smoke in our house and I respect that. But I’m not planning on quitting. Once again, MY choice here. I don’t follow trends or feel compelled to be coerced in any way to do so. Besides, I’m a 64-year-old adult male and SMOKING EFFING CALMS ME DOWN!

The last type of commercial I’ve noticed lately probably could be more directed towards family time, but it does give insight into the trend of outsourcing even the simplest of tasks. What’s in question here are the pre-packaged meal choices you can order and have sent to your home. I’m not talking about takeout pizza, TV dinners, or grabbing KFC on the way home. No, I mean entire meals, including everything you’ll need, plus the cooking instructions.

So what’s the issue here? Well, first off, doesn’t anyone want to take the time to shop, learn exactly how to cook and then develop that skill? Doesn’t anyone care about doing even the basic things for themselves anymore?

My entire point here is that we have lost the ability to be self-reliant, even in small things. We no longer want to communicate via old fashioned conversations with each other. No…no, now it takes a plan with 4G of data to do so. We’re no longer focused on family as family. We no longer teach even basic skills that actually are part of basic responsibility. Our idea of “freedom of choice” seems to come from whatever is the trend du jour.

Perhaps it’s because of my age that I’ve noticed this, but I really feel we now have an entire generation that has been manipulated into compliant sheep status, and they don’t even know it.

But, it can be changed. With a lot of work, though.

In closing, there are probably an entire array of scriptural references that would be applicable here. But, here is what came to mind:

Prov. 14:12: There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end there are the ways of death.

I. Cor. 12:8-9: Wisdom, knowledge and faith (as the first three of the gifts of the spirit…wisdom is the proper use of knowledge, along with the faith needed to be self-reliant).

Exodus 20:12: Honor they father and mother.

Of course your mileage may vary, but when we start to exercise our God-given freedom of choice, we don’t have to be followers of the world. We have the knowledge; may God grant us all the faith to find the wisdom to use it.

Image: Excerpted from:

Share if you agree TV advertising can offer a troubling insight into the state of modern society.

John DeGroff
John DeGroff is the original bass player for the Christian rock band Petra. He currently plays for the band GHF which is comprised of other original members from Petra. DeGroff has extensive experience as a freelance music journalist and newspaper reporter as well as an on-line music reviewer. He is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and lives in Warsaw, Indiana where he is employed as a care giver for mentally challenged adults.