Joe Lavin

August 31, 2004

This Advertising Rant is Sponsored by ...


About every month, I learn of another crazy marketing scheme, and I wonder whether there will ever come a day when advertisers simply run out of space on which to advertise. Already, I have mocked ads on cars, temporary tattoos of logos on foreheads, and baseball's ridiculous plan to put the "Spideman" logo on the bases. There has even been advertising in urinals, a subject I would rather not touch except to say that this is possibly the worst form of name recognition advertising ever.

The latest strange advertising scheme can be found on the walls of the Boston subway. SideTrack Technologies of Winnipeg, Manitoba created a 15-second "television-like" commercial for Royal Caribbean on the side of a Boston subway tunnel. The company placed 400 images between the Harvard and Central stops. As the train goes past, these images appear animated to make up a short slide show that looks practically like a video. As much as I wanted to hate this latest intrusion, I have to admit that it was kind of fun to watch a little movie on my way into town, though I hope that my commute of the future won't be completely plastered with video.

Of course, the advertising community loves this idea. Steve Moynihan of MPG makes it sound as if this is actually a favor to commuters. As he told the Boston Globe, "In the subway ... people stare at their feet to avoid staring at other people. You put a TV-style ad in a tunnel, you're giving them an alternative that's better than the status quo." Why, thank you, advertising community, for this wonderful new service. Judging from that quote, it will only be a matter of time before they put advertising on people's feet too.

Moynihan was interviewed in an article about future advertising methods. It turns out that many in the advertising community are worried about their future. As TV viewers watch fewer and fewer commercials and as Tivo becomes more popular, the 30-second TV spot may be in danger. All over advertisers are looking for new and innovative ways to get their messages across, and I humbly would like to offer my assistance. They might want to listen. Every other time I have joked about the future of advertising, my jokes soon became reality. With my bad luck, these may become reality too.

Place those products. Was that a sitcom star in my Diet Coke commercial or was that a Diet Coke commercial in my sitcom? Increasingly, it will be tougher to tell. In ten years, the new model might not be product placement in sitcoms but sitcom placement in commercials. I'm thinking wall-to-wall television commercials with the occasional 22-minute sitcom mixed in. You won't even know when the sitcom starts, so you'll have no choice but to watch the commercials.

Remember that anything in life can be sponsored, even another company. Don't just call your bank The Bank of America. Call it Michelob presents The Bank of America. Don't just sell Starbucks espressos. Have your staff tell customers, "This Starbucks espresso is brought to you in part by Jiffy Lube." See, there are plenty of advertising opportunities if you just know where to look.

Go negative. Attack all your competitors with commercials that have little basis in fact, and be sure to do so in such blatant a way that your commercial becomes a major news story. The more ludicrous your claims are, the more coverage you'll get until eventually most of the people will sort of believe your lies anyway. See "Truth, Swift Boat Veterans For." See also "Orwell, George."

Bad TV might be better than good TV. Encourage the creation of television programs so bad that the commercials are far more entertaining than the programs, thus ensuring that viewers will pay more attention to the commercials. Oh, never mind. That's already been done.

Get on the dollar bill. Mark my words. By the year 2020, there will be advertising on our money itself. Think how much a company would pay to put their ad in the corner of a fifty-dollar bill. It's the ideal form of targeted advertising. "Sorry, honey, I bought Krispy Kreme instead of paying the electric bill. My last twenty-dollar bill had a donut ad on it, and I just couldn't help myself."

This isn't even as far-fetched as it seems. After all, that L.L. Bean credit card you carry in your wallet isn't just a credit card. It's also a clever little commercial to make you buy more moccasins. Ever since I started getting points from my Amazon.com credit card, for example, I have been buying way too many books there, no matter how measly the points might be. If our credit cards can become commercials, why not cash?

Already, advertising is all about money. One day, money may be all about advertising as well.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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