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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007 07:04 am

Ad nauseam

Five thousand ads a day isn’t enough for corporate America

Untitled Document Corporate advertisers used to put their ads on television, radio, in publications, and on billboards. But ads today are everywhere, with corporations fighting each other to shove their promotions in our face. Most Americans already encounter 5,000 ads a day, and the race is on to cram more corporate messages into our eyes, ears, and minds. Says one ad executive: “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. Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.”
Indeed. Taxicabs have screens blaring at us, as do elevators, bathroom stalls, and supermarket checkout lanes. Microsoft puts ads on the tray tables of airplanes, Geico puts its brand on the turnstiles of subways, Tylenol spreads ads on the pillows of doctors’ examining tables, Continental Airlines advertises on Chinese takeout cartons, Rolex has put ads in the plastic security bins that you have to use at airport checkpoints, and — how’s this for ubiquity? — CBS is stamping promotions for its TV shows on the shells of supermarket eggs. To escalate the cacophony, corporations are projecting monster-sized ads for cars, cologne, banks, shoes, and whatnot onto the sides of buildings in various cities. Even billboards no longer just stand there. There are now digital screens that flash computerized Technicolor messages at us, giving our highways and roads all the glitz of the Las Vegas strip. As one city’s Chamber of Commerce president complained, “The word ‘trashy’ has been used.”
For the final word on ad sprawl, a marketing official at Perry Ellis clothing says: “We’re always looking for new mediums and places that have not been used before — it’s an effort to get over the clutter.”

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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