Follow TV Tropes


Laser-Guided Broadcast

Go To

A character has been having a really bad day. They see a commercial advertising a service that can fix their troubles. The ad is infomercial style, asking the viewer questions before presenting their product, and the questions are all specific to the character as if the ad was meant to be seen by them and no one else.

The broadcast doesn't need to be an ad, so long as it seems aware of the viewer's identity or situation.

Sub-trope of Strange Minds Think Alike and Super-Trope to Suspiciously Specific Sermon. Compare Your Television Hates You and Mocking Music. May overlap with Do Not Adjust Your Set. If a plot-relevant broadcast happens conveniently when the characters turn on the TV but doesn't seem specifically directed at them, see Coincidental Broadcast. If they have a full on conversation with the ad, see The Tape Knew You Would Say That.

Not to be confused with broadcasts by laser.


    open/close all folders 

  • The old, pre-email, marketing strategy, used to convince the recipient that the letter from the Readers Digest was "Especially For You." This involved extracting information from the electoral roll and other sources, and mechanically inserting it into a fill-in-the-blanks form letter to get you to believe you had a chance of winning the million pounds in their Prize Draw. What stopped it looking like an authentic personalised letter was the primitive, bug-ridden state of mail merge technology. Mr Fred Smith of 23b Acacia Avenue, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, might get a letter beginning Dear Mr 23b Acacia Avenue, resident at Smith, and so on.... Also, in some cases, the font of the form letter and the personal information was noticably different.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note: L's televised challenge to Kira was already specifically targeted at the Kira killer, but what makes it this is that it was touted as being world-wide, but actually only broadcast in the area where L suspected Kira lived. When Light falls for the bait and kills the false L, he narrows down the search considerably.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In the comic books as well as in most of the media, when the Joker takes control of TV channels and makes one of his threats to menace and/or destroy Gotham City, a good part of his message goes directly to Batman by tempting him to stop his plans. Destroying the city is usually just a secondary plan, his real main plan being to trap/kill Batman.
    • In the Detective Comics storyline "The Seven", the Riddler does the same thing on his podcast, which starts off as a philosophical spiel about the strange murders that are happening, and quickly moves towards mocking Batman for not having figured things out yet.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, the appliances are thrown in the trash and sent to a dump named Ernie's Disposal. The TV set, who saw the whole thing, then starts playing ads for Ernie's Disposal, each more desperate than the last, until the Master takes the hint.
  • Chicken Run has a magazine variant of the trope. When Mrs. Tweedy sees her chicken farm is losing money, she complains that she's sick and tired of making minuscule profits; then her gaze turns towards the top of a magazine that reads, "Sick and Tired of making Minuscule Profits?"

    Film — Live-Action 
  • This sets off the plot of Total Recall (1990). Douglas Quaid, who's been dreaming (literally) of visiting Mars but whose wife doesn't want to go, sees an advertisement for Rekall which can implant Fake Memories of a vacation. Later, after being told that he has to get his ass to Mars for real, Quaid sees another advertisement for genuine and affordable vacations on Mars.
  • In Superman: The Movie, Lex Luthor takes Metropolis hostage by broadcasting an ultrasonic threat to release nerve gas throughout the city unless Superman comes to him. Due to the frequency used, only Superman with his Super-Hearing and some very annoyed dogs can hear it.
  • Bruce Almighty:
    • When Bruce finally calls the number which has been paging him constantly, he gets a recording which sounds fairly general, except for the last part.
      "Denied that promotion at work? Is life unfair? Is there someone less talented than you reaping all the benefits? Is your name Bruce?"
    • Later on, after Grace leaves him, Bruce uses his powers to get her back, including a TV broadcast full of Bruce-themed love songs, and this radio broadcast:
      "Good morning, Buffalo, it's 70 and sunny, and the perfect day to forgive Bruce."
  • In Minority Report, street ads do retinal scans on passers-by and play holographic ads targeted at them. When John gets a double-eye transplant, he gets ads for the eyes' donor.
  • Baseketball features a scene where the main character is depressed and driving down the road listening to the radio. At first the lyrics are vaguely inspirational, then become progressively more specific:
    "Even though some guy's trying to blackmail you
    And your girlfriend thinks you suck
    All you have to do is let 'em know
    That it's all part of some rich guy's evil plan!
    Look out ahead, there's a truck changing lanes
    You've got some yellow crumbs on your upper lip
    And those warts on your dick will never go away
    Unless you start using topical cream every day!"
  • In the live-action movie adaptation of Cutey Honey, Panther Claw broadcasts a similar message on both the TV and the laptop directly aimed towards the Power Trio (Honey, Natsuko and Seiji). The message is probably only watchable from Seiji's apartment.
  • In Serenity, the Operative embeds a coded signal in a Fruity Oaty Bar commercial in order to trigger River Tam so that he can discover her location.
    Mr. Universe: Oh, Mal, you're very smart. Someone is talking to her.
    Wash: The oaty bar?
    Mal: Subliminal. It's a subliminal message broadwaved to trigger her.
  • In Get Smart, after his Mook–Face Turn, Dalip phones in to American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest (established earlier as a mutual favorite) to send a covert message to Max that KAOS is planning to nuke Los Angeles.
    Ryan: Here's a sweet dedication from a little lady named Dalip. It's to her boyfriend, Max. "Meet me in L.A. Things will be very hot. Nuclear hot." I don't know, if I were Max, I would get myself to L.A.
  • The Zero Theorem features advertisements playing on a constant loop on screens lining the street. As Qohen leaves his house and heads to work, one ad follows him as he walks and calls to him by name.

  • In The Giver, the announcements given in the community are phrased as general reminders (e.g. about how one's clothing should be kept neat), but are clearly addressed at very specific individuals (i.e. at someone who doesn't keep their shirt tucked).
  • In The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, the horoscope writer on the local paper is an old friend of Dirk's who targets his horoscopes specifically at him, with very specific comments such as "You are very fat and stupid and persistently wear a ridiculous hat which you should be ashamed of."
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is such a scene at the beginning. Justified, since the televisions there are fitted with cameras and are openly used to watch people.
  • Temps spoofs the "personalised" form letters mentioned above under Advertising, with a letter from the Department of Paranormal Resources to Mrs Sandra Beeney, 6, The Cuttings, Seedlecombe, which has her name and address in bold every time they casually mention it, presumably indicating that the original letter didn't even match the font correctly. And even though it's aiming for a personal affect, it's always "Mrs Sandra Beeney", in full.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Young Ones, when Helen the serial killer is hanging around the lads' house, a radio report comes on the air about her escape from prison. None of the lads listen, or notice when Helen starts attacking Mike. Vyvyan and Rick remain caught up in their own argument, even as the radio announcer gets fed up and starts yelling at them to please pay attention to him: that girl who's grappling Mike by the ears is a murderer! Vyvyan grabs the radio and throws it at Rick, the announcer still hollering: "Not him, you twit, her!"
  • Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Tim and Eric air and star in an advertisement that they intend for Jim Booney, who they really, really badly want to give a free house to.
  • Parodied in I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Does a TV Commercial". At the start of the episode, Lucy attempts to sell her husband Ricky on the idea of her starring in a commercial by gutting his TV and putting on a show inside of it as if she is on air. Ricky and his friend Fred mock the performance, and when they act as if they’re going to turn off the set, Lucy breaks script to demand them to sit down, creating this effect.

  • Welcome to Night Vale's episode "A Story About You" would fall into this. The entire episode is narrating the actions of a mysterious "You" with the clear intent that "You" is listening.
    ""This is a story about you," said the man on the radio. And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio."

    Standup Comedy 
  • Ron White plays with this in one of his routines.
    Yesterday I sitting in a beanbag chair, naked, eating Cheetos. I was flipping through the television and I saw Robert Tilton. He's a televangelist from Dallas. He was starin' at me, which I thought was rude.
    And he says this, he says, "Are you... lonely?"
    [shrugs] Yeah.
    "Have you wasted half your life in bars, pursuing sins of the flesh?"
    This guy's good.
    He says, "Are you sitting in a beanbag chair, naked, eating Cheetos?"
    [scared] Yes sir!
    "Do you feel the urge to get up and send me a thousand dollars?"
    Close! Thought he was talking about me there for a second. Apparently I ain't the only cat on the block who eats Cheetos.
  • Andy Hamilton has a routine about hearing a train announcement repeat "Could passengers please keep luggage clear of the doors" several times with increasing urgency, before finally saying "Put down the pie, four-eyes, and shift your golf clubs before I come down there and shove them up your arse."

    Video Games 
  • Invoked in Borderlands 2. Handsome Jack hears Axton moping about how bounty hunting is too easy, and arranges to have a Vault Hunter recruitment advertisement played on the radio so Axton will hear it.
  • In Portal 2 GLaDOS promises to surprise Chell with her birth parents (as she's supposedly adopted), but reveals that the true surprise was that she lied about the whole thing. GLaDOS claims to feel bad about lying and offers to call them for her. The phone company's generic "number out of service" recording actually tells Chell her parents don't love her. GLaDOS lampshades this, speculating that her parents may have worked at the phone company.
    GLaDOS: I feel awful about that surprise. Tell you what, let's give your parents a call right now.
    [phone dialing and ringing]
    Recording: The birth parents you are trying to reach do not love you. Please hang up. [Dial tone]
    GLaDOS: Oh, that's sad. But impressive. Maybe they worked at the phone company.
  • In Fallout 3, the radio DJ Three Dog often broadcasts the latest news, which often feature the protagonist and his/her exploits. Every second time you do something outstanding (or horrible), Three Dog talks to you on the radio and says congrats or what the hell respectively.
  • In Mass Effect 2, its DLC character Kasumi attracts Shepard's attention this way in the Citadel during her recruitment mission. If you stand around ignoring the advertising long enough, she starts commenting on being ignored.

  • Freefall: "Are you a genetically engineered wolf looking for a temporary reactor to transport to the asteroid belt? Try Kinetic Chemicals for all your spacefaring needs."
    Florence: Even though this is exactly what I'm after, targeted ads this specific make me want to change the privacy settings on my browser.
  • In the "Barsoom Command" arc of Schlock Mercenary Sergeant Schlock gets a targeted ad that whispers that he's being followed and should hide in the storm drain. Of course it turns out that the "ad" was hijacked by an AI who wanted his help.

    Western Animation 
  • When Spongebob and Patrick destroy Squidward's house in Spongebob Squarepants, Squidward reaches the peak of his hate of them. He sees a commercial advertising a city just for squids, which sounds perfect for him.
    Squidward: This is the final straw. I am going to move so far away that I will be able to brag about it. I would rather tear out my brain stem, carry it to the middle of the nearest four-way intersection, and skip rope with it than go on living where I do now.
    Commercial: Is this the final straw? Do you want to move so far away that you can brag about it? Would you rather tear out your brain stem, walk out in the middle of the nearest three way—
    Squidward: Four way.
    Commercial:four way intersection and skip rope with it than continue living where you do now?
  • In an episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko is upset about the mess in his house and the fact that his old POS vacuum cleaner isn't working. Heffer persuades him to take a break, and Rocko reluctantly agrees, saying, "Sometimes, I believe I was destined to exist in an endless world of filth." The TV then plays a commercial with those Exact Words.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "Funeral For A Fiend", the family watches a commercial for the grand opening of a steakhouse that seems to cater to their every like, including serving tofu (for Lisa) and having the world's easiest placemat maze (for Bart). It all turned out be be a trap by Sideshow Bob to lure them into his latest deathtrap.
    • In "Grift Of The Magi", Springfield Elementary puts on a play to get Mr. Burns to donate money to keep them open.
      Mr. Burns: This play really speaks to me!
    • "Homer vs. Patty and Selma" had Homer short on money and needing a second job. An advert for a limousine driver job immediately plays on TV. It's lampshaded when Homer and Lisa realise neither of them switched on the TV (and it isn't even plugged in...), which is just Played for Laughs and never comes up again.
  • Played with in an episode of Robot Chicken that parodies the Superman movie example, in which Metropolis's animal population is acutely aware of what's being said and are taking the opportunity to get the heck out of Dodge.
  • The Public Domain Li'l Audrey cartoon Tarts and Flowers has Audrey listen to a radio broadcast of a cooking show, attempting to make her own gingerbread cookies. At one point, the radio calls for "a pinch of salt." Audrey is poised to throw in a fistful of salt, when the radio blares, "Just a pinch!" Audrey adjusts her measure accordingly.
  • In Gravity Falls Mabel is looking for a way to carry Waddles, her pig, around, when an ad comes on TV for a baby sling. The ad then continues "And yes, it works for pigs, too! It works for PIIIIGGGSS!"
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Leave the Busting to Us!", Candace is having a particularly grating day, commenting on how nothing ever changes and how her life is like a bad sitcom. On cue, a TV commercial for a new show called "Bust'Em!" comes on, explaining how people like her who want to bust their brothers can do it on live TV. She's immediately convinced.
  • Star Wars Rebels episode "Rise of the Old Masters": Kanan is questioning his ability to train Ezra since Kanan himself never completed his training. Then there's a pirate broadcast stating Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is alive and in the Empire's custody, so Kanan leads the Ghost crew in rescuing her in hopes that she will take on Ezra as a student. This is very much not a coincidence as the broadcast was designed as a trap and Luminara has actually been dead for years.

Are you done reading this trope page? Well, head over to to read some more!