Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Saturday, April 01, 2006


Written on the Subway Walls

I don't like to think that I'm that susceptible to the siren song of advertising, but I'm beginning to suspect that that's not the case.

It's those goddamn subway ads. When you're standing on the train during a heavy commute and you don't have anything to read, you need someplace to look. Someplace other than at the seventeen-year-old couple making out or the crazy lady rearranging her sandwich bag collection.

And so you read the ads. It's a bit easier to ignore ads when you've got a bunch of different ones in the car. Some cars, you see, have been broken up and sold as individual ads. So you'll see one for a technical college that can teach you how to repair air conditioners and one for a product liability attorney who can make you rich if your kid ate lead paint and one for Dr. Zizmor. Dr. Zizmor runs a dermatological practice on the Upper East Side and he's all over the subways in ads that always feature his smirky face. My favorite Dr. Zizmor ad was one that ran maybe a year after September 11th. That one featured his wife, as well, in a huge sun hat. It informed the public at large that Dr. and Mrs. Zizmor saluted the courage and fortitude of New Yorkers. And also that Dr. Zizmor's citrus face peel could help defeat the terrorists or something along those lines.

So these ads that stand on their own in a heterogeneous grouping are a little easier to let run off the back of your mind. But there are many trains where an advertiser buys one entire side of the car. No matter where you look on these cars, the message is getting through. It's effective.

This type of advertising is responsible for my trying Anheuser WorldSelect (recently re-named Anheuser World Lager, which isn't quite as international sounding to me). It's also a prime reason that I joined the NYC Teaching Fellows program. The Teaching Fellows spend a huge chunk of their advertising budget on these subway ads. Which means that I now get to stare at them on my homeward commute and seethe at how deceptive they are. "You remember your first grade teacher's name. Who's going to remember yours?" I'll tell you who's going to remember my name: the kid who goes to jail for assaulting me.

And now these full-car ads are responsible for my wife and I deciding that we want to go to the Bahamas. The ads feature pictures of blue water and lush green forests. They promise kayaking and snorkeling. This is incredibly effective when you look out the window below the ad and see slush piling up on a dingy street corner.

The website that goes with this ad campaign is nicely put together, too, and features ocean sounds. We were practically drooling as we looked at all the different islands.

So I'm thinking that maybe the Democrats should adopt this same strategy before the November elections. Full-car banner ads featuring their candidates relaxing in a hammock on the beach. A website where you can hear waves lapping against the shore and the call of the gulls. Yeah, it has nothing to do with the election, but it'd be nice if voters could associate something positive with the party, wouldn't it?