Your Ad Could Be Here

If you thought advertising was hard to ignore before, look out. Or should I say don't look out, because just when you thought they'd found every possible place to slap an ad someone came up with a new one. It's like a Whack-a-Mole game except we're the ones being knocked in the head and they keep walking away with the prize, which not so coincidentally is our hard earned money.

We've become inured to seeing ads on TV, in magazines, and on Web sites, bus stop benches, trash cans, billboards, and just about anything that sits still for more than 20 seconds. Hell, they've even taken to imprinting ads in the sand at the beach in the morning, just in case you're one of those people who doesn't look up and see the airplanes beautifying the view by flying back and forth trailing huge advertising banners. Grocery stores are some of the worst offenders. There are ads on the edges of the shelves, the dividers between the groceries at the checkout line, on the shopping carts, and even printed on the floor. Now they'll be in the parking lot.

It's true. A company called Nusign Outdoor Media is replacing the concrete parking lot bumpers -- you know, those things you ram your front tires into, then look around sheepishly hoping no one noticed -- with hard plastic ones covered with ads. Their Web site proudly says you "cannot click them off, switch them away, toss them out or turn away from them while speeding past." Wow, it just doesn't get any better than this, does it?

Whether we like it or not, advertising is a part of life. An obnoxious part, but a part. I have to say, though, that I don't hold it against them personally. After all, they're just doing their job. And their job is to help the economy. Lord knows it needs all the help it can get at the moment.

The economics of advertising works like this: companies have to sell products in order to stay in business. Hopefully they're making something that we need, though all too often they're trying to sell completely useless items to people who have more money than sense. You know, like us. So they turn to an advertising agency. Their job is to convince us we need these things when we don't. Their main tactics are to tell us a product or service is better, cheaper, faster, easier, newer, hipper, or that it will improve our sex life. If they can convince us it will give us a better, cheaper, faster, easier, newer, hipper sex life we'll buy a six-pack. Every day. Three hundred sixty-five days a year. For the rest of our life.

The media runs advertisements because, like everyone else in this scenario, they're trying to stay in business. After all, someone has to help them cover expenses. If it wasn't for paid ads the morning newspaper would cost a couple of dollars, you'd have to take out a loan each time you wanted to listen to a radio station for more than two hours, and The Jerry Springer Show would be pay-per-view. The question is whether it would be pay-per-show-view or pay-per-product-view.

Yes, those products you see in movies and on TV are a sneaky form of advertising which has existed for years and is becoming increasingly more popular. With the movie studios and TV networks, not the consumer. Basically, companies pay to have their product appear on screen. It shifted into high gear when E.T. ate Reese's Pieces and sales skyrocketed. The next thing you knew Austin Powers was drinking Heineken and James Bond took to driving a BMW instead of an Aston Martin, whipping out his VISA card, enjoying Smirnoff martinis (shaken not stirred, of course), talking on an Ericcson cell phone, and wearing an Omega watch. And you thought it was just because Pierce Brosnan happened to like those things.

According to Variety, Dreamworks SKG set a record when they raked in a whopping $25 million for product placement in Minority Report. Apparently the minority part referred to the few seconds of the film that didn't show a paid product placement. Unfortunately they squandered all that money paying Tom Cruise an oddly coincidental $25 million salary so -- darn! -- they didn't have any left to give us even a teeny tiny little price break on the ridiculous $8.75 ticket cost.

Meanwhile on TV, Survivor blatantly rewards challenge winners with heavily plugged VISA cards, Doritos, Mountain Dew, and SUVs. Now it turns out that The Other Half, an NBC talk show modeled after The View only with Dick Clark, Danny Bonaduce, Dorian Gregory, and Mario Lopez playing the parts of Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Star Jones, and Meredith Vieira respectively, is selling sponsored segments. And -- whoops! -- forgetting to mention it except for a quick flash during the closing credits. In one segment Clorox paid so the hosts would play a housekeeping game with the audience. In another Hyundai forked over money so a company executive could offer -- wink! wink! -- car buying tips.

The lines are going to continue to blur since advertisers are complaining that people are ignoring commercials more than ever, flipping the channel, closing down pop-up windows at Web sites, and even spreading blankets over ads which are embossed in the sand at the beach. So don't be surprised if they get sneakier and you start seeing guests on Jerry Springer come on wearing Everlast boxing gloves, Samantha on Sex and the City asks guys, "You do have a Durex condom, don't you?", and Tony Soprano declares that if you don't hit someone with a Glock 9mm you can "Fuggedahboutit." Now if I could only get these manufacturers to start paying me to mention them in my columns ... hmmmmmm.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.

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