Is bigger better? Maybe not

Is your commercial fit to be supersized? It had better be.

The thought comes to mind in reading a USA Today story about the Consumer Electronics Show, going on this week in Las Vegas. Noting that electronics retailers were pushing 42-inch and 52-inch sets during the holidays, the article says exhibitors at CES "have much bigger sets in mind"—including a 65-incher by Panasonic, a 71-inch model from LG Electronics and a 102-inch set from Samsung.

Think of what this portends for some of television advertising’s standard visual imagery. In a spot for bathroom cleanser, the display of mildew that’s just a few square inches on most current TV sets will soon be a larger-than-bacterial-life horror for many home viewers. (Let’s not even think about acne-cream commercials.) Likewise, overbearing commercial pitchmen will loom dismayingly large on the massive screens in our living rooms. As for fast-food spots, even the most gluttonous viewer may flinch at the big-screen image of a burger that’s larger than his dog. Of course, broadcast and cable programmers face their own challenges as TVs improve. A viewer who was content to watch a moronic show on his $100 set may feel more demanding once he’s gone into debt to buy the $3,000 model. The ratio of hardware quality to programming quality was relatively stable for years (i.e., neither improved much), but it’s now shifting in ways that will be quite unflattering to the shows.

One safe prediction: The mainstreaming of pricey TV sets will accelerate the trend in which people use the hardware to view movies and other material of their own choosing rather than the offerings of network programmers.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver