Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Your ad here

Always ahead of its time, the Times also reports that advertising is now everywhere, including eggshells.
“We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere,” said Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive at the Kaplan Thaler Group, a New York ad agency. “Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.”

Well, I beg to differ. Unrestrained ubiquity is actually the new obliviousness, because we tune the ads out. Not only do we tune the ads out, we fucking loathe them and I at least will boycott any egg that has an ad on it. I refuse to be attacked by advertising like we're living in Brave New World. One thing I loved about Children of Men: no ads and no product placement, at least none I could surmise. Yay!
One of the wonders of visiting less economically fortunate countries is that you notice the absence of ads. Cuba is an extreme example. There is only state propaganda and it is mostly quaint, like the kind of irrelevant, inadequate and archaic communist sloganeering that makes absolutely no sense. Some of it is even perverse. Sayings by José Marti about the last thing the people lose is their dignity. Yeah, right. Yet, it is actually refreshing to walk the streets of Havana and not run into a single ad for entire stretches of blocks. I remember seeing a Nestlé ad and it jumped at me. giving me quite a scare, because its mere existence was so unusual. Same thing in Marrakech. I don't remember seeing any ads at all, except for one ad asking drivers to respect the pedestrian zebra lines (try to cross a street in that city and you'll be forever thankful for that ad). That was about it. Perhaps Muslim countries have restrictions about imagery, but the result is a deliciously ad free zone. You feel you are indeed in a different country and not more of the same but in French, if you are not bombarded by a barrage of the usual global brands.
Meanwhile, places like Mexico City and Caracas, with their anything goes corruption, have papered themselves over aggressively and are overrun with ads everywhere; shocking examples of urban blight by advertising. But I guess in such countries there are other more pressing issues, such as worrying whether you will die of kidnapping as you leave for work every morning. The ad problem is not a priority for people and so it grows unchecked, like a visual cancer.
And I work in advertising.

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