Commercial World

Lily Tomlin said, "I worry that the man who invented Muzak might be thinking of inventing something else."

Unfortunately, that's a worry come true, for instead of the mild annoyance of Muzak in elevators, a company with the somewhat threatening name of Captivate Network Inc. has come up with a way to make your elevator ride much more annoying than a Muzak moment. Thanks to exciting advances in the science of wireless technology, it is now possible for outfits like Captivate to fill your 30-second ride with: Advertising videos. Yes, as your glide up to put in another day's work in your cubicle, you can be blessed by a yammering pitch for Right Guard, Starbucks, or Rolaids.

Captivate Inc's elevator ads are merely the tip of the commercialization iceberg for a Brave New World of Advertising that calls itself the "outernet industry." It sees all space outside the home as potential places for capturing consumer's ears and eyeballs for advertisers. This merciless industry is targeting doctors offices, movie lobbies, commuter trains, convenience stores -- even ski lifts! Already Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and 7-Eleven are putting out-of-home advertising screens in their stores.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "The industry operates on a simple principle: Find out where consumers are gathering and put a screen in their faces." The possibilities are boundless -- taxicabs, restrooms, bank drive-throughs, bus stops, golf tees, public parks, and along the boardwalks at the seashore. They literally can install this technology in tree trunks or on neighborhood fences, so we need never be more than a few seconds from the next product pitch.

The head of one of these outernet firm claims they're doing us a favor: "If you're standing in line waiting for a Big Mac and fries, you've got nothing else to do." Yes we do! We could think beautiful thoughts, hear some music, take tiny Yoga breaks ... or plot revenge against the crass commercializers of our world.


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