Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Captive Audience


Dear Solitary Reader,

The world of advertising has always intrigued me. There was a time, when I was a wee lad going through the MBA program, I actually wanted to be in the world of advertising. After all I was a fairly creative fellow, wasn’t I? That’s all that’s needed in the world of advertising, isn’t it?

Well, for one reason or another, that train has sailed, and instead of finding myself a participant in the creative end of advertising, I participate in the other end: that is to say, I watch commercials (thanks to PVRs and TV on DVD not as much as I used to).

Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the world of advertising: kidnapping.
First I’d like to delve into the reasons behind why advertisers feel they need to kidnap prospective clients, and I’ll point out a couple of examples. And then, like all tales of woe and wonder, I shall end it with song.

In the current day and age, with the afore mentioned PVRs and TV on DVD, advertisers have their work cut out for them; competing for the attention of a mass of people who’s attention span has rapidly declined makes the advertiser’s life a lot more difficult than it used to be. Personally, I don’t like watching commercials because they are rarely informative, are more often than not ridiculous, and only occasionally entertaining. (Notable exceptions are movie trailers and Super Bowl commercials).

Advertisers have been struggling to come up with a way to stick their finger in the leaking dyke of advertising dollars and seem to have come up with two viable solutions, one of which I approve of and the other I find deplorable.

The more socially acceptable method is called product placement. Companies are inserting their brands into popular TV shows as a way to get them air time and recognition; some companies do better than others. One successful company which comes to mind is Subway, which for a couple of seasons was all over Chuck and Community. Car companies are also on board with the program, I’ve seen a couple of humorous interplays on TV shows like Bones in which characters write in features of vehicles into dialogue, when the writers are good, it doesn’t even sound like a commercial.

A somewhat less harmless method of exposing your product to potential customers is the practice of kidnapping.

There are a currently a couple of advertising campaigns running in which companies are, for lack of a word rich in hyperbole which would aid my ridiculous point, kidnapping customers and either testing their products or force feeding them information. (Of course, let me say before I really start, as bad as these campaigns are, they’re not as disturbing as those toilet paper commercials centering around the slogan “Does a bear *** in the woods?”).

One of these advertising campaigns runs for the Bank of Montreal. Usually in these commercials, a financially distraught or confused person or persons is walking from one place to another and then BAM! all of a sudden they’ve have been transported to a room of blue where the only decoration is the bank logo and an information attendant all ready to brainwash the abductees. Uncool BMO, tres uncool.

Another example is brought to you by the fine people of Febreeze, and this one takes the cake (about 8 week old cake from the looks of the commercial) because what the people of Febreeze are doing is not just kidnapping potential customers, but also kidnapping their family, and subjecting them to random testing by placing them in rooms or vehicles full of garbage. Now I’m all for product testing, you have to be sure if that you’re stuff works before you send it out there, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t this why we test on animals?  (Kidding).

Now, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, I’m not a stupid person and I know these are just commercials – they’re not real. But, what if?

I may be envisioning a Running Man type future here, but how long before product companies actually start abducting demographically researched potential customers? The ransom? No longer a bag full of cash, but instead, picture the grieving family forced to go to its local Wal-Mart and purchase 400 packages of frozen dinners, or 800 rolls of toilet paper. Could any future be so horrible? (Okay, well, maybe one or two potential iterations of the future could be worse).

So, Solitary Reader, watch your back out there...

... but in the mean time, here’s a musical interpretation of one of these people captured by the mad whackers at Febreeze.


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