"O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties... and ads from sea to sea."
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown

“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties… and ads from sea to sea.”

Corporate advertisers used to put their ads on television and radio, in publications, and on billboards and such. But, today, ads are every place, 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.”

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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 take-out cartons, Rolodex has put ads in the plastic security bins that you have to use at airport check points, 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. They 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.”

“Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Now Likely to See an Ad,” The New York Times, January 15, 2007.
“Ads inundate public places,” MSNBC, January 22, 2007.

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