Friday, May 06, 2011

Vintage Headlines: But the Commercials!

"But the commercials!  They're enough to drive you nuts."

So said well known newspaper columnist and future Walt Disney biographer Bob Thomas in an article published on December 3, 1955.  Thomas was discussing the tremendous success of the The Mickey Mouse Club television show that had debuted just a few months earlier, but was at the same time lamenting the glut of commercials that accompanied the program.  Here in the 21st century, the average television viewer can expect anywhere from 20-30 commercials during a typical hour's worth of network television.

How much was too much back in 1955?  Let's see:

"Not only are there three in every 15 minutes.  The station sneaks in three more every fifteen minutes at the station break."


Among the media, Thomas was one of Disney's more passionate cheerleaders and it was unusual for him to be so critical.  Indeed, he quickly qualified the rant by adding, "The Disney people are just as upset as the public.  Walt apparently didn't foresee the excesses of the network; he vows that next year he'll have some control over such matters."

Before launching into his anti-commercials diatribe, Thomas did speak to the phenomenon that The Mickey Mouse Club had become in just a very short time:
"Mickey never had it so good.  His outsize ears are popping up on the heads of kids all over the land:  they're buying the mouse hats (29 to 98 cents) at the rate of 24,000 a day.  (Whatever happened to coonskins?)  Two hundred other pieces of merchandise connected with the club are being sold, and more are added daily."

"The mouse has captured the daytime rating honors, snowing under his major opponents, veterans Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee.  A recent survey gave the club a 76 per cent advantage over the opposition in the East."


Charles Kenny said...

Coincidentally, I'm in the middle of reading a book that mentions this very show and the commercials that ran during it.

As it turns out, The Mickey Mouse Show was the first TV program broadcast that featured advertisements aimed specifically at children, namely Mattel toys.