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NEWSPAPER ADS HAVE CHARMS THAT ELUDE INVASIVE TV

You'll probably accuse me of flagrant bias in what I'm about to say, but I'm going to get it off my chest anyway: I like newspaper ads a lot better than I like TV commercials.

Sure, I know. You think I'm just trying to drum up a little ad revenue for my employer. Or maybe you think I'm just trying to get even with the local TV stations that hired an actor a while back to stand there and tell us how great an advertising medium television is and how newspapers are good only to line bird cages.Well, sure, I admit those newspaper-bashing commercials irritated me. But I also think they were dead wrong. After all, why do we sit there on the couch with our remote controls in hand? To zap the commercials, that's why. Commercials are annoying, everyone knows that. Newspaper ads, on the other hand, are enjoyable, and they aren't rammed down our throats.

With a newspaper, we can scan the ad headlines, decide if we want to know more, and then read on or move on as we choose. (And newspapers don't crank up the volume on their ads like they do on TV commercials.)

Besides, can you recall actually buying something because of a commercial you saw on TV? I can't. But when it's time to buy a car or start looking for a house or find a good deal on a new suit or the best price on a set of steel belted radials, where are you going to start looking? On TV? Get outta here.

Anyway, all this came to mind when I saw a news release last week from the World Future Society that says tomorrow's electronic advertising will be "more intensive and more invasive than ever."

According to Peter Eder of the National Association of Advertisers, in a report for The Futurist, a publication that, well, tries to figure out what will happen in the future, the soaring number of electronic media outlets is "spurring a war of wits between aggressive advertisers and evasive consumers."

With the average household able to view 27 television channels and more than 10,000 radio stations crowding the airwaves "a substantial portion of our time and probably an increase in our discretionary income will be required to selectively tune in and tune out," said Eder.

Since 1965, the number of network television commercials has tripled and is increasing 20 percent each year, said Eder. This means the odds are good that the only events left unsponsored will be presidential press conferences, Supreme Court hearings and celebrity funerals.

Eder said he expects consumers to increasingly tune out commercial appeals, noting a new home entertainment system, called SmarTV, that gives the user complete control over the television medium in program planning, viewing time and editing. (These folks won't have to manually zap the commercials, SmarTV will do it for them.)

Eder also wouldn't be surprised to see the government step in to limit commercials, noting recent attempts to ban all advertising and promotion of alcohol at colleges receiving federal funds. In addition, various state attorneys general have begun regulating car-rental and airline advertising.

But the best way to avoid the commercial onslaught will be to become more selective. "We, as message consumers, have powerful tools to use to our advantage," said Eder. "To a great extent, we can evade and avoid."

Sounds like Eder's a TV-mute-button commando like me.

For the record, the World Future Society is "a non-profit, scientific and educational association" based in Bethesda, Md.