With just days to go before the election, the number of political ads appearing on TV screens throughout this swingin' state is unprecedented, as is the vileness of all too many spots. But Channel 7, Denver's ABC affiliate, is offering an intermittent respite from the ugliness: so-called political ad breaks that feature a bucolic scene (the samples below include a quiet ski slope and a fluttering hummingbird) and a countdown clock that allows viewers to take a breath and then steel themselves for the next onslaught.
The ads began airing on October 21, two weeks before election day. Marvin Gill, the senior production specialist who came up with this very good idea, wasn't sure if anyone would even notice them amid all the sound and fury. Then he heard a story told by a staffer with the station's investigative department. "He was working out on a treadmill at a health club he goes to, and when one of the ads ran on all the TVs, everyone broke into applause," Gill says. "I was like, you've got to be kidding me."
Gill, a thirty-year veteran of the station, doesn't claim to have invented the ad-break notion. And indeed, YouTube features several variations on this concept, albeit ones that lean toward cutesiness: a baby playing with pasta, a dog surfing the Internet. Gill opted for a less flashy approach inspired by footage already on hand. "We had just come off of our high-definition launch at the station, and when we did that, I'd done some visual spots that had music underneath -- just some beautiful scenics I'd shot in high-def around the area," he notes. "And then I added the countdown. It's very simple. But it seems to have hit a nerve" -- in part because of the way the spots have been scheduled. A station staffer has been assigned to look at commercial blocks loaded with political spots and is dropping Gill's breaks in the middle of them.
For Gill, the response has been overwhelming; for samples, check out the e-mails that follow these two video clips. "It's been a fun ride," he says. After all, "this can be a thankless business."
Not in this case. Allow this viewer to add his thanks, too. -- Michael Roberts
A sampling of political-ad-break e-mails received by Channel 7:
Your 10 second break from political ads was hilarious and very much appreciated. However, as a fed up viewer of political trash on both sides you should have extended the break to 10 minutes or more!
I would just like to commend you on your "politician free" ad I have seen the past 2 nights.Your babbling brook/audio-free spot is SUCH a welcome relief from all the muckraking we have been subjected to on all the channels for the past year! Kudos to the braintrust who came up with this and I hope you continue it, not only during this election year, but in the future!! Thank you.
Thanks for the political ad breaks, they are certainly refreshing instead of all the bashing of opponents.
My husband and I got a really big kick out of your political-ad-free moment shown last night. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I really like the "political ad break" ads. They are beautiful and give a lightness to the political season. Thank you!
I just wanted to compliment your station for placing 15 second "political ad breaks" in between the massive onslaught of political ads this week. It brought a huge smile to my face just to see some beautiful nature scenes for a few seconds. What a great gift. Thank you so much!
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THANK YOU!! THANK YOU! for your 15-second commercial for a brake from the political ads. That was awesome!!
I just want to say how much we enjoy the political ad breaks that you have been running!! It is so nice that we find ourselves sitting there for those few seconds breathing a sigh of relief! Thanks again!