Friday, November 14, 2003

Since time immemorial, man has wondered how the world will end. Would it be by fire or by ice? A nuclear holocaust, or the resulting nuclear winter? Greenhouse gasses suffocating all animal life on Earth? Rogue asteroid strike? A mutant viral outbreak? Famine? An alien invasion from a distant star system? The possible reasons for mankind's eventual demise are mind boggling.

However, one potential cause that has rarely been considered is suddenly turning into the leading contender: Advertising run amock.

Please understand that I have no problem with advertising on TV. I understand that broadcast television is an otherwise free service available to all Americans, and that it is through the selling of commercials that the industry is able to pay its electric bills while paying a million bucks per actor per episode of Friends. Quite frankly, that's NOT a bill I would like receive in the mail on a weekly basis.

Advertising in newspapers and magazines I can live with. It helps offset the cost of all that paper and ink, as well as the reporters salaries. Again, that's understandable.

Junk mail, however, begins to push the limits of my tolerance. It requires a certain degree of effort to sort through one's postal mail and pick out the important pieces while discarding catalogues I never requested or coupon books I'll never redeem.

But the naming of stadiums is over the top. Who was the genius who first came up with the idea of charging a company $20 million to slap their name on a sports venue? Better yet, who was the genius who first agreed to pay the 20 million? There was a time not so long ago that stadiums were named for dead people (Jack Kent Cooke Stadium or Wrigley Field) or geographic features of a city (Three Rivers Stadium or Mile High Stadium). But what the hell is a Qualcomm Field, and how do you even spell it?

Now even movie theaters are getting into the act. I've already paid eight or nine dollars for the privilige of sitting in a darkened auditoreum while my blood pressure skyrockets because the idiots in the row behind me won't shut up. And that's NOT including the additional seven bucks for a flat drink and stale popcorn! So in light of all this money I've just shelled out, why I am I being subjected to more ads? And I'm not talking about the trailers, which I can live with. I'm talking about paying out my hard earned money for the privilege of watching a Pontiac car commercial on a two story high screen? Who's bright idea was that? More importantly, why do we tolerate it?

And then there's email spam, which is rapidly clogging the internet. Despite the extraordinary efforts of you and I to block the stuff, it just keeps coming and coming, multiplying like some sort of evil lifeform. And spammers seem to delight in finding new ways to circumvent filters and clog our inboxes. But why? Can't they understand that the whole reason we're blocking them in the first frikkin' place is that we don't want their crap?

And if that's not bad enough, now spammers are going after cellphones and weblogs. Again, what makes them think I want to use up the precious airtime on my phone--airtime I pay for--reading text messages about Viagra and low mortgage rates?

Even subway systems are beginning to fall victim to the scourge of advertising run amock. DC's Metro system, which thus far has been a class operation and a point of pride for our nation's capital, is considering selling ad space on its railcars. Another idea is to install lit signboards in the tunnels that become a "movie" as the train goes by at 60 mph.

Personally, I'd prefer annihilation by asteroid.

----------Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Inquirer

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