Remember years and years ago, after the Internet had established its place firmly in our lives, and irony was taking hold across the world, when that one guy got his well-earned 15 minutes by selling ad space on his forehead to the highest bidder on eBay? Remember how everyone in the media made such a big deal about that at the time? Seems like that would never even get your local network’s backup weather girl over to your house nowadays. Everyone in the world is a sophisticated self-promoter now, and most of us have rented out our foreheads at one time or another too. (I went for classy– $250 to tattoo “TIAA-CREF” in bright blue, but then the money ran out so I had to supplement it with upper-cheekbone ads for the Candwich). But you know who’s not sophisticated at marketing and promotion? People who market and promote large corporations. That’s why we live in the badvertising era.
Those were some of the tastiest looking cheekbones you’ve ever seen
My particular gripe is not with the substance of ads these days. Everyone knows they’re crap. And there really isn’t much dispute about this from the makers of Audi Sports Cars, the Jenga Onyx Edition, Teekanne Teas, or Late Night: all nighter Cheeseburger Doritos. But lately, the ads are not only horrible, but they’re horribly placed too. I’m talking about the crazed outgrowth of advertising into really stupid places.
Yesterday, I was watching a football game on a podunk network that has been specially set aside for really good football teams that aren’t part of the BCS elite and do not deserve to be watched by national audiences. When one of the teams got within striking distance of the end zone, everything within the twenty yard line lit up in bright red and a Verizon logo appeared under the players’ feet in the middle of the red zone. The red zone, you see, had been brought to us by Verizon. The red zone is the strip of sod from the twenty yard line to the end zone. That part of the field, those twenty yards– that is what Verizon brought to you. I turned the channel over to another podunk network reserved for decent football teams whose outsider status merits constant belittling, and do you know what I saw? I saw a three-dimensional real estate “for sale” sign stuck right in the field on the line of scrimmage, brought to you by Re/Max. Re/Max brought us that line of scrimmage. What is a line of scrimmage? Well, it’s a conceptual line that only exists in people’s heads, and in network graphics packages. No real line of scrimmage was actually provided (fact: there is no such thing as a “real” line of scrimmage). Re/Max did not send a truck over to unfold and install the line of scrimmage. Turns out nothing real was provided at all. What was provided was a distracting, ugly cgi drawing of a real estate sign superimposed over a real football field with live football players standing on it. And why is there a for sale sign there? The line of scrimmage was ‘provided’ by Re/Max. But the line of scrimmage is also for sale? Is Re/Max now selling the same fictional line that it just provided? And would anyone care if it got sold, given that the line of scrimmage IS NOT A REAL THING?
See, this is what a red zone really looks like. Just pure, genuine, computer generated red.
This kind of thing is spreading, people. All of a sudden, things that already existed for free, and without corporate strings attached, are parcels of commercial real estate. I understand that entertainment producers want to fill up any possible sponsor-able real estate. Uniforms, stadium names, fields, they have all fallen to this tendency. But seriously– abstract concepts now? Lines of scrimmage and red zones? At the Jazz game the other night, Tucanos was announced as a sponsor. Do you know what Tucanos did to earn that announcement? Ten different people walked down the stairs of the arena each carrying something like 50 burritos, and handed them out indiscriminately to fans. Those burritos were provided by Tucanos. Literally, they provided something. It was very refreshing. By contrast, at the Real Salt Lake game a few weeks ago (what I am about to say is the truth, but you will not believe it) when a player got a yellow card, a big sign flashed up on the jumbo screen: “Yellow Cards Brought to You by Subway.” (See, I told you you wouldn’t believe it.) I promise. I was there. Subway sponsors yellow cards at Real Salt Lake games. I don’t know if Subway provides the actual yellow cards. I would like to hold one in my hand, to see if maybe it is embossed with a Subway logo– or maybe it just smells like meatballs and olives. You shouldn’t be able to sponsor a yellow card. No one knows if a yellow card will be needed in any given game. No one likes yellow cards either. Yellow cards are a bad thing. But Subway is 100% behind them. Subway’s marketing team is sooooo weird.
If you zoom in close on this photo, you can see that the ref is Jared Fogle
Utah Jazz three pointers are brought to you by Mountain America Credit Union. Ooh- and here’s one– I printed an article from the New York Times a few months ago. The original article online didn’t have a sponsor. But once I printed it, the page said “Print version brought to you by Winter’s Bone (the movie).” That’s right, you can sponsor print versions of things. Soon, we will live in a world where not only physical space, but conceptual space will be covered in ads. Technical fouls brought to you by Geico. The hustle of the home team brought to you by Transformers VII: The Fall of the Rising. Jerry Sloan’s expletives brought to you by Disney. All of the visiting team’s fumbles provided by the Incredible Edible Egg. There may even come a time (stretch your imaginations now) when someone might pay money to sponsor a blog. Okay, we’re obviously years away from that sort of thing. But it’s not inconceivable.