Friday, June 23, 2006

Tunnel Vision

A leading indicator of 21st Century hell is the presence of advertising everywhere. On the walls above urinals, blue screens at ballparks for ads only television viewers can see, before the movie (trailers don’t count; Pepsi ads do). A gas station in Breezewood, PA has video ads on its pumps.

A new low has been reached in Washington, DC, America’s nexus of new lows. Video ads are now displayed on the walls of subway tunnels, sequenced to move in time with the train so you don’t have to risk whiplash watching them. (Swear to God this is true:

My trust of marketing people falls somewhere between politicians and lawyers. They won’t lie to you all the time, just when transmitting information. Their expertise is alleged to lay in a more directly profitable direction than honesty: they’re supposed to know how to contact just the right people your business needs to sell more of your product, which most of them probably don’t need. (The American economy is now almost wholly based on things we don’t need.)

The current ad playing on Metro tunnels for the Lincoln Navigator makes me wonder about their marketing team. How many of the people jammed into a Metro train are actively considering a luxury SUV purchase. “Hey, Ethel, screw the Lexus dealer. I saw an ad for a Navigator in a subway tunnel today.”

Let’s think of who Metro riders are, especially on the Red Line headed out for Northeast DC and Prince George’s County. Isn’t this comment any more likely to be generated: “Fred, instead of that KIA from CarMax, what about a Lincoln Navigator?”

I shouldn’t make too much of this; I’m sure these folks are smarter than me. (I live near Washington, DC, where everyone is smarter than me. Just ask them.) I mean, you’d have to be smarter than me to run a major American automobile manufacturing company, role model to industrialists around the world for forward-seeing, profit-building vision and efficiency. Wouldn’t you?

Or maybe not.

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