Reality Cracking: Commercial TV
(cracking easy advertisement protection schemes)
(27 January 1997, slightly edited by fravia+)
(With a small addition by Bob, 29 January 1997)
Courtesy of fravia's page
of reverse engineering
Well, this is the letter I received by MrWho
I forwarded the following essay on commercial TV to +ORC before
submitting it to you, because I wanted to know if he found it of
any value; well, first of all I was surprised of his answering me
at all (you know, not being me a +cracker nor a member of the +HCU),
and then by his positive comments and his encouragment to go on on
Well, here it goes my piece, I hope you'll like it too.
And indeed I had already received the funny 'Cigarettes' essay by +ORC on this
subject, and I'm very happy that our 'reality cracking' is taking momentum.
Reality Cracking: Commercial TV
There are some patterns in commercial TV, and in the TV
Commercials, that are well determined and common, two characteristics
that make it worth trying to crack; this is not a complete list, I'm
sure there is plenty more, but I guess it's a good start, others may
want to add their own findings to this.
Sound level change
I'm sure that some of you have noticed a strange happening: when
the movie you're watching is suspended in order to broadcast the
commercials, the loudness comes up, sometimes quite a lot.
Despite the fact that in Europe this behaviour is forbidden by law
(Yes, impressively enough there is still someone fighting a lost battle
to make our life better) still many commercial channels do it, in a
more subtle way: they lower the loudness, but the effect is exactly
the same, if you were distracted, or your attention was lowered, it
will be redirected again towards your TV.
Removal of "negative" images and colors
Commercials are made to make you like something, whatever that
something may be, and there are some studies that correlate a product
with a color that's known to be particularly liked for that category
There is an extensive literature on the subject, but just to mention
Washing powders: white, blue, bright red are the colors that
give positive images related to washing powders. To avoid: brown,
black and generally colors that remind of dirt (or worse);
Food: there are many categories in food colors, consider brown,
oranges and yellows as the perfect ones for breakfast related
items; gold, silver, dark browns and black for coffee, teas
and tea-like products; green, yellow, red for canned products,
definitely no gray there;
Cars: grays and metallic grays (mostly used because they are
widely accepted with positive images), bright red and black.
A "no-no" color for cars, in commercials, is white.
Consider, in the chapter "colors to avoid", the example of sanitary
napkins: when they show their absorbent powers the liquid they'll
use will be as far as possible from red and yellow, in some cases
they'll use a blue liquid, the most daring companies will use
neon-oranges and neon-purples.
At a certain point commercial producers noticed that, due to the
overload people were receiving from the TV, people just stopped
listening and entered a "braindead" self-defence mode, not the
perfect state to have people slurping your ads if you want them
to remember your brand propaganda when they later stroll and tramp
inside the shops to perform their consumistic duties...
Commercial producers had, I have to admit, a bright idea: instead
of a 'regular' 30 seconds straight film, they would divide this time
into -say- a 25 seconds main part, placing later, after a while, a
5 seconds segment recalling the previous, longer one.
In this way the viewer is forced out of his hypnotic cathartic
commercial-skipping state in order to reconnect the two pieces,
and he is forced to remember the advertisement.
This is not a new idea, not at all, since for instance writers
use it a lot, inserting references to previous pieces of the book to
have the reader perform some mind gymnastics; yet in books that serves
definitely a better purpose than having you buy something you don't
All the rest
I don't have time at the moment to write in detail about other
techniques that are a bit more obvious, like the "want to be - media
to be", where a positive image of some kind of person everyone would
like to be is associated to the product as a media to get there
(if you drink this you get lots of girls, rich people, cowboys and
pilots smoke these cigarettes).
Sincere channels perverted
It is interesting to notice that, again the guys making commercials
are not completely stupid, when someone relized people were not
that dumb a whole set of new commercials started popping out where
the principle was subverted, sending a message like: "Trust us, we
are not lying to you as other do, we don't want you to buy our
product because you'll be a better man, but because our products is
really good". Don't underestimate this tecnique, since it's quite
powerful: they open a "sincere" channel of communication, stating that
their product won't do any good in a social scale to you, and then
use this channel to send the -obviously bogus- message that their
product is good. This is a real masterpiece of social engineering
and social beguiling and deceiving.
Repetition patterns to hypnotize
Repetition patterns are also common in commercials, mostly used
on the "shopping channels", where they can have long patterns
running: this is an "hypnosis" kind of sending over and over again
the same message, that is repeated so many times that it becomes
"true", just like the old magician pattern: "you feel tired, you
feel like you have to close you eyes" used in all hypnotic sessions.
The similarity goes much further: if you ever cracked an
hypno session (and there is a lot cracking material there,n oh boy!)
you'll notice that in the sentences pronounced and repeated to have
a person fall in an hypnotic state there is always a mix of truths and
suggestions: eventually, if the person has been staring at something
for some time, his eyes will really feel tired, then he will conclude
that if the hypnotiser is "right" about his eyes being tired he MUST
be right about him wanting to close them, and he gets baloney.
If it is true that you tried many products and they really didn't work,
then this product, that states that the other products do not work,
MUST be good. Get the point?
Another one, before closing this small essay: when someone is right
about something and he's trying to convince you about it, and you
don't believe him, won't he usually start getting excited about it,
and eventually shout at you? Do you see it coming? Wanna bet? :)
Unrespected EU-laws, our kids and a mission for crackers
I want to say something positive about the European Union: I feel
sometimes like it's something really good when it comes to protect
some categories of people, unfortunately they are costantly hampered
by commercial lobbyes and commercial interests, delaying all the
consumer laws in name of the 'free marketing' (read enslaving) society.
Anyway one of the EU-laws I like more is the one that forbids breaking
up cartoons and programs for kids in order to insert commercials inside
them. Think about that... good cracking material: advertisement TARGETED
for small 5-10 year old kids... in order to have them crying loud for
some awfully stupid and useless plastic toy... that they will use three
minutes flat before asking for another... or in order to have them
whine for some unhealthy chemical-pumped chocolate bars: little minds
turned into consumistic slaves, their wishes (and tears) used for the
well-being of this commercial society.
Unluckily the EU law still awaits to be seriously taken in consideration,
since satellite channels like "Cartoon Network", and many others, are
completely ignoring it, and noone seems to have the guts to nuke them
for this, may be we should start ourselves to develop our own, more sound,
counter measures, hitting them where it hurts: those satellite channels
rely on PAID DECRYPTION SOFTWARE to make their money don't they?
And, if I'm not wrong, crackers are not so bad at software decryption, are
(c) 1998MrWho All rights reversed
A small addition,
by Bob, 29 January 1997
I just read MrWho's text on TV advertisements, and
I must comment on it.
While I do not create such ads, I work in a TV
station, and I am in charge of putting them on
the air - transfering from the original format
to the one we use for broadcasting (D2, a digital
Many people complain about the average sound level
being much higher for the commercials than it is
for the program itself. Even my wife tells me it's
my fault.. :-) It is true in a sense, but in
reality, it's the program that's broadcasted too
When we transfer a commercial received from the
distributor, we ensure that the peak level never
goes over +8dBm (a standard test tone signal
comes in at 0dBm). Of course, if the contents of
the commercial is compressed, the volume will
appear to be much higher, but then there is no
dynamic at all.
About the "split" commercials - they are becoming
more and more common indeed, in the last two
years, we've been airing more 15-seconds
commercials than ever, and pairs of 8 and 7-second
commercials are coming in... This is horrible,
but I guess it's the price we have to pay for
free tv watching... :-(
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