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Are commercials on the way out?

In the future, commercials may disappear from television and radio, according to James H. Snider, a consumer-education expert who made a study of the impact of new technologies on shopping for the World Future Society. He believes that advertising-financed media will fade as people switch to interactive media, which enable consumers to separate promotional material from the information or entertainment portion of broadcasts. Already, he notes, TV viewers are using their VCRs to record shows and then skip the ads during playback.

New technologies emerging during the 1990s and early 21st century will empower individuals to make more informed shopping decisions because they will be able to access far better, unbiased data concerning products and no longer will be forced to look at promotional materials. Fostering this change will be two developments--automatic billing and the convergence of media.

A prime advantage of promotional information today is that its cost is bound in with that of the item being promoted, so the consumer does not have to engage in a separate transaction to get information about the item. With automatic billing, for instance, it is possible to purchase many information services when paying the telephone bill.

Information technology experts are predicting that a single portable telecomputer will serve as a book, TV, telephone, and newspaper. "It follows that the media used to convey product information by both promoters and impartial sources will also tend to converge. Under such circumstances, most consumers would likely prefer to consult impartial information sources." Future consumers will not have to sort out conflicting assertions made by merchants, all claiming their products are the best, but will rely on trusted independent sources.

Information-age consumers will buy more items from their homes and fewer from retail stores, Snider believes. Manufacturers will gain at the expense of the retailers, reversing the trend of recent years that has seen chains like Kmart and Wal-Mart gain market power over manufacturers. "Brand names will lose their appeal. Poorly informed consumers often reach for brand-name products, regardless of their quality. With better information, consumers will have much less need to rely on brand names."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:television and radio commercials
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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