Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ad Madness

Visiting the UK (as we are) for a while, we're reminded of how lightly the residents of the UK get off in the TV commercial stakes. I suppose that we have to accept that TV commercials are a fact of life, however irritating it can be to have a programme interrupted just when you're getting really involved by someone telling you that they can throw thousands into your pocket in a trice if you're ever had an accident. Just call this number, NOW.

Umm, no, just give me my programme back please, NOW!

Actually, I am a bit of a hypocrite here. I mean I zone everything else out once a meerkat ad comes up (That won't mean anything to non-UK readers, sorry). They're just so cleverly done. They remind me for cleverness of the Aardman animations, like Creature Comforts and the marvellous Wallace and Gromit stuff. You have to look all over the screen for all the little extra touches, which are the things that make me want to watch them over and over again. Each time I do I see something else, marvellous.

But, as per usual, I digress. Just a few days before we packed up and locked up before leaving for the UK, we got a bit excited over a new quiz show which had been hyped up on one of the Greek channels. There isn't much worth watching on Greek TV, it has to be said. The Greek channels are clogged up with shows where people just sit around either on sofas or at tables and talk incessantly about trivia, or about other shows where people just sit around all the time talking about trivia. They show clips of other shows incessantly and repeat these over and over while the people on the show argue over every little aspect of the said clip for an eternity. Then the ads cut in.

In the UK, when the ads cut in, you usually get a quick visual of the show's name and then a top and tail of the ads telling you what channel you're watching, right? Not so in Greece. The picture will cut straight from some crucial moment in the drama you're watching to some mobile phone ad (of which there are far too many on Greek TV) without so much as a breath or a blink. Suddenly, just when you're waiting for the girl to drop a bombshell about why she can't stay with her fella 'cos she's his half-sister or something, you'll find yourself watching some bloke grinning stupidly at you to the soundtrack of some old 80's hit single from a British band like the Proclaimers or something (which, incidentally, is probably the ad's only saving grace) whilst the voice-over tells you why you need to switch to Vodafone if you want to stay cool in front of all your friends.

The way in which they cut to the ads is the least of your problems. The ads here (well, whilst I'm typing this in the UK, I ought to say "there") don't only cut in without any ceremony whatsoever, but they go on for about three years. During any one-hour period on Greek TV, you can easily reckon on 20 minutes being occupied by the ads. Once the ads begin, you can safely take a shower, go shopping, build an extension, go on holiday or take an Open University course (only I don't think they do them in Greece!) and still be back on the sofa in time for the next all-too-brief section of the show you-re watching. All right, I am exaggerating a little, but only a little.

What's worse is that on most of the channels a billed programme will never start anywhere near the time at which the schedule promises and thus I arrive at the experience which prompted this post (sound of readers heaving huge sighs of relief)…

I mentioned above about the new quiz show (well, it looked from the trailers like it was going to be a quiz show) which we thought we'd give a try. Advertised to be starting on a recent Thursday evening at 9.00pm, straight after the news and weather, we  switched on at around 8.55, settled down with a bar of Lidl's 70% dark chocolate (so we didn't have to feel too naughty) and a cup of peppermint tea and built up our expectations of firing at the telly our answers to a plethora of general knowledge questions, which we expected would be posed by Grigoris Arnaoutoglou (Γρηγόρης Αρναούτογλου) Who hosts just about every show of this type on this particular channel.

The News wound up at the stroke of nine and so began a series of TV ads. After five minutes of car ads, mobile phone-stroke-internet ads, some ads for a couple of Greek banks and stuff, my wife said: "The weather's supposed to come on first." There then followed a couple of trailers for upcoming programmes, most of which are imported from the USA; things like CSI Friday or suchlike - you know, the ones where they think you're just dying (quite an appropriate use of word perhaps) to see what happens inside a person when they're shot at point-blank range by some firearm or other. Hmm, still not even a weather forecast and it's now approaching ten past nine. Oh, no, wait, it's a filler where they show you the TV channel's logo and attempt to remind the viewer just why they need to watch this channel above all others - so maybe the weather'll be on next.

Naah, false alarm. Now it's an interminably long trailer for some football tournament or other, Euro-Champions-Overpaid Prima Donnas in Shorts 2012 or something. Following that there begins yet another run of ads for soaps, shampoos, mobile phones, cars (like a common or garden Greek can afford a new car at the moment!!) and more mobile phones. Eventually, at just after 9.15, the weather forecast comes on, raising our hopes just a tad. As the brief forecast ends, we check the clock and sip our peppermint tea, then break off a chunk of choccy and note with dismay that it's now gone 9.17pm and there's still no sign of a programme which was billed to begin at 9.00pm.

There was nothing for it. We finished the choccy, drank up our tea and retreated to the bathroom to clean our teeth. Then we zipped into the bedroom to get undressed and don our dressing gowns. Re-emerging into the lounge and flopping back down on the sofa, the clock now reading 9.23pm, we were not altogether surprised to see that the ads had now given way to another round of programme trailers, followed by yet more previews of upcoming sporting events; probably basketball, that's huge in Greece. It's second only, by a very narrow margin, to football, which is a hair's breadth short of Greek Orthodox in the religious popularity stakes.

You may believe this or not, but the opening credits of the new show finally began at 9.28pm, for a show which was supposed to begin at 9 o'clock!! What was worse, once it got under way it turned out not to be a question-based show at all, but rather one of those where the contestants do stupid life-threatening things in the "I can be more daring than you" bracket in order to win some cash.

We both looked at each other with that "why didn't we just go to bed and read half an hour ago" look ...and went to bed to read.

So here I am sitting in my mum's lounge in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, UK, remarking ecstatically and far too often for my mum's taste on the fact the the TV ads are seemingly over before they begin on commercial TV in the UK. I mean, when the ads are this brief you do tend to hang around and watch them don't you? If you don't, you may never find out who committed the latest Midsomer Murder. And before you remark on that, Midsomer has nothing to do with Midsomer Norton. I know this because there are far too many people left alive here.

When are the Greek TV companies and advertisers going to catch on to the fact that, since they run the ads for such a long time, no one watches them? I've watched the occasional (very occasional I might add) football match in a cafe in Greece, mainly because if Greece are playing then the atmosphere's brill, and noted that, the instant that half-time begins, the bloke at the bar will reach for the remote and mute the sound, since they never show the punters discussing what's happened so far and who's played well or who's been useless. No, they simply show 15 minutes of ads, which no one watches at all. But the second the teams re-emerge from the tunnel, on goes the sound again and the crowd in the bar are instantly rapt.

So, whilst I miss many things about my home and life on Rhodes whilst in the UK, bring on the TV ads. With any luck I'll get my meerkat fix in a mo…


  1. Your SO right John ! Victoria & I sometimes forget what we are actually watching ! lol , with the amount of ads, the Greek TV companies must be richer than the Goverment ! LOL .Gareth . ( aka Dj Phillip ) .

  2. Mind you, it wouldn't take much to be richer than the Greek Govt. at the moment!! But you're probably right anyway Gar'. Hope the weather's OK there, not so good here now, after arriving last week to 23ºC.

  3. John, I would like to thank you for taking the time to 'post' while you are on vacation!! But...................why don't you get out and enjoy the bitterly cold Easter weekend, like the rest of us!


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Vicki, One long walk per day is quite enough in these temperatures! The rest of the time I'm in the house with me mum!! So it's not too difficult to find time to write a little. Mind you, I have also been gardening, staining a pergola, fixing things around the house... Vacation?

  4. In other words behaving just as a 5 star guest should!

  5. wish you had time to come visit us on the east coast but respect time with your mum is very precious. Enjoy your stay in the UK,and hope the sun soon shines for you, and most of all enjoy your real beers, there are several beer festivals around from now on ;)