I love old-time radio, when a recording couldnâ€™t just re-record or â€œdo that in post,â€ and I listen with undivided interest when I hear the tiniest slip-up of an actorâ€™s lines because I know itâ€™s live and, honestly, I canâ€™t imagine the faces they get from their fellow actors in the studio. My favorite aspect, however, is the shameless promotion of the sponsors that finance the show, those corporate benefactors that bring you your favorite program week after week. The sponsors themselves may change, but the shilling of their product remains earnest in its cheesiness.
Early on in radio, sponsors got their own plug during the show with the voice actors, sometimes in-character. Other times, the product was placed by name into a scene, even if it was a stretch for the setting or somewhat clunky and unrealistic in its delivery. Iâ€™ll often stop what Iâ€™m doing when listening to these programs just to enjoy the bygone nature of these mini-commercials that are seemingly thrown into a scene to keep the show rolling. (I mean, I used to smoke, but I never took time to extol the virtues of my brand of cigarette like a curator of a museum explaining the various works of art in the gallery.)
The same happens in either subtler or more overt methods now, since most sponsors are either in a visual medium or take up time in dedicated commercial chunks. The first Transformers movie, for instance, was one long General Motors commercial, and the Geico Insurance company has effectively co-opted an entire reptile species to shill itâ€™s products. Radio commercials are often annoying audio cues that, hey, this show doesnâ€™t pay for itself, and internet pop-up ads are like a garishly dressed lunatic running up to you and screaming a product name.
Listeners of my Shadowrun games will already know that I love throwing in fictional product tie-ins, with Jack Stallyon Whiskey and Snicketts Snack Bars being the top fake brands that feature with our fake personas. These items span the gamut of our collective games, from the far future to the Hollow Earth. We here at Fandible even have actual sponsors, though, in the form of Patreon donors, and we plug a very specific kind of product that they create: Character names! These name-checks of people created by the minds of others are our way of both thanking our sponsors and subtly incorporating their personal brand. They may be villains, friends or anything in-between, but they help us keep the lights on.
So what about you? Are there brands at your gaming table that traverse world’s, or are there real-life advertisements that, despite your best efforts, have really grown on you?
Better yet: Write a short voice over that would be featured in a commercial for your character’s TV show.
Whatever you choose, leave it in the comments below!
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2 comments on “Let’s Cut to Commercial”
Have you heard the audio program, Dark Adventure Radio Theater? It adapts H.P. Lovecraft stories in the style of old radio dramas. Anyway, they did the same thing with fake commercials, like for Fleur De Lis cigarettes.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast has a similar shtick: old time radio style comedy. One segment, “Jefferson Reid, Ace American” was sponsored by Patriot Brand Cigarettes (Their Good For Your Constitution!)
Closest I’ve got is an DnD Eberron Airship named Melf’s Other Arrow.