Bring back the car commercials!

Wonder why you're hearing so much about "male enhancement" lately? Blame the dearth of automotive advertising

Published July 14, 2009 5:59PM (EDT)

I would not have imagined that I would ever have longed for the days when automobile advertisements clogged the TV channels and radio stations with their incessant blather. But that's most likely because I never considered what would fill the void if all those car commercials vanished.

According to a study released by Sanford C. Bernstein & Company last month, automotive advertising is the linchpin of local media budgets. In 2008, 23 percent of TV station revenue came from auto ads. Local newspapers: 17 percent. Radio: 14 percent.

Bloomberg News reports today that in response to a 20 percent drop in automotive advertising, TV broadcasters "are turning to pawn shops, plastic surgeons and other nontraditional sources to fill airtime."

As a fairly frequent listener to sports radio in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can attest that some of those non-traditional sources include a proliferation of "male enhancement" product advertising. This has been going on for awhile, but in recent months there seems to have been an upsurge. (I say "seems" because it is awfully difficult to get hard numbers on penile enlargement advertising buys. Don't even think of trying to Google for an answer -- unless you're eager to see the Web at it's absolute dreckiest.)

I suppose one could make an argument that in times of great economic stress and high unemployment, male egos could be particularly fragile, and thus the potential market for penile enlargement is bigger than ever, thus justifying an aggressive advertising push for the enhancement industry. But after contemplating the collapse of auto advertising spending, the answer is apparently a lot simpler: radio and TV stations are desperate for revenue, and they'll take anything, no matter how sleazy and embarassing it might be to hear if you are trying to transport your 14-year-old daughter to her karate lesson while listening to a playoff basketball game.

So, instead of hearing or watching ads for a giant SUV or oversized pickup truck -- old school male enhancement -- we get barraged with the next best thing. Suddenly, I'm feeling awfully nostalgic for the Chevy Tahoe!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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