Getting the creeps from advertising? Then cash in

May 10, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

That's it, I give up. I'm throwing in the towel. Everyone else is selling out to corporate advertising and making money hand over fist, so why not me?

Why can't we call this space Kevin Cowherd Brought to You by Verizon Wireless?

Or just tattoo the words "Built Ford Tough" on my fat forehead in the column picture?

The point is, you can't get away from advertising anymore, no matter what you do.

Sure, you can click past the commercials with the remote. You can zap them with TiVo. You can switch stations when they come on the car radio. You can have the best pop-up blocker on your computer.

Doesn't matter. The advertisers will still find you.

This is 2007, my friend. You can run from advertising, but you can't hide.

No one can. There are probably Buddhist monks living on remote mountaintops in Nepal who roll out of bed at dawn and see the Nike Swoosh cut into a hillside when they look out their windows.

It's said the average person sees upward of 3,000 advertisements a day, in one form or another, which sounds like an incredibly high number. But maybe it isn't.

After all, I go to Orioles games at Camden Yards and Ravens games at M&T Bank Stadium - doesn't that just roll off the tongue? - and get bombarded with ads from every other company for hours and hours.

I go to the movies and sit through commercials for the Army, Coke and Mini-Cooper.

I drive down the JFX every morning and see billboards for Mountain Dew, Smyth Jewelers, Susquehanna Bank, even one picturing that big load Rush Limbaugh, smiling his big greasy smile.

There are advertisements plastered on buses and taxis, at high school football fields, above the urinals in men's rooms, etched into the scalp of boxers at prizefights.

Last year, a 27-year-old man named Robert Reames III, a father of three who needed quick cash to purchase a car, sold ad space on his neck to the Web-hosting company Globat.

So now he has a big, tasteful globat.com tattoo on the back of his neck, which he'll have for life, assuming that Google or Yahoo doesn't make him an offer and he has the Globat tat lasered off for bigger bucks.

Forget TV altogether if you want to avoid ads.

Even if you click past the commercials or use TiVo, advertising is now embedded in the shows themselves, either in the form of props or part of the story line.

Is any show worse than American Idol for this?

On Idol, the judges, Randy Jackson and ditzy Paula Abdul and the evil Simon Cowell, sit with big black Coca-Cola Zero cups in front of them.

A huge Coke montage swirls on the screen behind host Ryan Seacrest when he interviews one dippy contestant after another. Look, they even make the contestants star in a Ford commercial as part of the groveling and soul-selling on the show.

It's not just Idol, of course. On The Office, the gang from Dunder Mifflin goes out to Chili's for drinks and to entertain clients.

On the soap Guiding Light, characters munch on Pringles. On The Amazing Race, the creepy little Travelocity gnome gets so much airtime, you'd think he was one of the contestants.

Tuned into a NASCAR race lately?

What does NASCAR stand for, No Ad Space Can Appear Restricted?

The cars are plastered with ads, the drivers' racing suits are plastered with ads. How does a guy like Dale Earnhardt Jr. remember all his sponsors? He's got, what, 200 of them?

No wonder a victory speech takes two hours for these guys. ("I'd like to thank Budweiser, Chevrolet, Pennzoil, Jiffy Lube for making this possible, plus the great folks at Kodak, M&M's, Sunoco, not to mention my good friends at Burger King, Mattress Discounters, Avis, General Mills ... ")

PGA golfers are only a little less overt, with corporate logos plastered "only" on their hats, shirts, golf towels and golf bags.

I read somewhere that Fred Couples now has women dressed in Bridgestone Golf caps follow him around the course, Bridgestone being one of his big sponsors.

Does it get any sleazier than that?

"Ad creep" is what they call all this - advertising creeping into every aspect of society.

Look, it's even starting to happen in the holy business that is newspaper publishing - in Philadelphia, the Inquirer has a new business column sponsored by Citizens Bank.

Well, by God, I'm ready for ad creep. Bring it here, is what I'm saying.

From now on, when you think of this column, think four little words.

Those four little words are: This space for rent.

I don't want to hear from any rinky-dink companies, either.

Nope, I want the big boys to come knocking.

Sears, Hewlett-Packard, Taco Bell - those are the heavyweights we're looking for.

Cingular, Sony, Home Depot, Pizza Hut - hell, I'm getting as big as a Pizza Hut anyway, so that would be a great tie-in.

Don't be shy. Have your people call my people.

No reasonable offer refused.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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