I always thought the one thing missing from the whole experience of traveling by bus was the opportunity to watch mind-numbingly dull commercials on TV. Simply enduring repeated umbrella blows to the thorax from combative old ladies is not enough these days. As if by a miracle my fantasies have been fulfilled by the advent of Bus TV. Apparently this miracle occurred some time ago but I haven’t been on a bus for a while, or at least sober on a bus for a while, so the revelation has been late in coming to Polandian.
This kind of thing
Bus TV, in case you’re finding the name confusing, is TV on a bus. I don’t mean in the sense of those people who try to carry 72-inch plasma screens home on the bus because they’re too cheap to pay for delivery, I mean actual TV you can watch on an actual screen actually on the bus. If anybody had told me when I was ten that in the future I would be able to watch TV on the bus I probably would have gawped stupidly at them so fantastically exciting would the idea have seemed. Like most things in the future it turns out not to be that great.
First of all there aren’t any programs. Even Polsat has the decency to show the occasional five-minute snippet of programming between its advertising marathons, but not on Bus TV. It’s just adverts. At the meeting where Bus TV was invented the following conversation almost certainly took place:
Evil ad exec: How about putting TVs on buses and running adverts on them.
Naive young ad exec: Ooh cool, we could show them between screenings of classic Simpsons episodes!
EAE: No, just adverts.
NYAE: Won’t people get bored and change the channel?
EAE: They’re on a bus, there are no channels.
NYAE: Okay, but won’t they just stop watching?
EAE: It’s a bus. People hate sitting on buses because they’re forced to make eye contact with strangers they don’t like the look of. Put something with bright moving colours in there and every eye will gratefully embrace it.
NYAE: But won’t they eventually realize they’re being manipulated and grow to hate us?
The second problem with Bus TV is that there are only five adverts in a continuous loop. After approximately two and a half minutes you’ve watching the same ad again. Even in a country where posters covering entire multi-storey buildings count as classy advertising this is a trifle infuriating. At least on Polsat you’re unlikely to see the same ad for ultra-soft flu tablets lovingly cooked by grandmothers more than twice in the same session. During a 35-minute close watching of Bus TV I saw the same five adverts approximately 9 billion times.
Average Bus TV fare
The third and not most insignificant problem with Bus TV is the depressing nature of the ads. I’ve become acclimatized to the mainstream world of Polish TV advertising in which all men are inept (or sick), all children are adorable (or sick and adorable), and all women stand in sunlight doorways fondling vitamins or soup packets. Not so on Bus TV. The first feature was an unpleasant public service announcement about the dangers of smoking featuring lots of close-ups of cancerous lips, the second was some kind of cartoon about electricians being electrocuted in bathrooms, and the third was a bizarre and inexplicable drama about babies crawling around on grass littered with dog feces. Somewhere in there was an invitation to visit the opera that did little to lift the mood. By the time I got off the bus I felt like I’d just attended an all-night showing of the world’s most disturbing cinema.
I took a close look at the Bus TV website and discovered that it costs just 120 zl to place a 30-second advert in one bus for one month. The next time I plan to catch a bus I’m going to phone up the day before and buy myself 500 zeds worth of Simpsons highlights on infinite loop.