Sunday, February 05, 2012

Awash in Advertising

February 5, 2012, 11:20 a.m.

Manipulating Us Into Buying
Poor Quality Products We Don't Need,
With Money We Don't Have,
To Impress People We Don't Like

It's Super Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2012. "Only a game"? You've got to be kidding. It's the top rated TV show of the year; an advertiser's dream -- albeit an expensive one, at $3.5-4 million per 30-second message.

Indeed, our acceptance of advertising is now such that there is almost as much interest among some TV watchers in the ads as in the game.

Put "Super Bowl commercials 2012" into Google and up pop 2.2 million links to Web sites.

When I was a kid you could earn money by walking around town carrying advertising boards front and back. The companies paid you to advertise their products. Today's kids stand in line, willingly paying the companies extra, for the privilege of possessing goods carrying the companies' logos.

Shirts, pants, shoes, hats, drinking cups, backpacks are sought, and proudly worn or carried, because of the ads.

Advertising has entered the schools, from the ill-fated TV commercials on "Channel One," to wall posters, to event programs, to scoreboards. Colleges find no conflict in forbidding athletes to bet on games, while running ads for gambling casinos on the scoreboard; or bemoaning students' binge drinking, while profiting from the beer ads during those televised games. I have a law school colleague who has jokingly suggested we use advertising revenue to reduce tuition by including, say, a "Microsoft Minute" at the beginning of each class period. (I suspect that some day it will no longer be considered a joke.)

It's still possible to be paid for wearing advertising -- if you're a NASCAR driver . . .

. . . , or a college football or basketball coach who can put a Nike swish on every player's uniform.

There are even those, among whom I have included myself on occasion, who believe that public officials should not only be permitted, but required, to wear the corporate logos of those who fund their campaigns. Not everyone bothers to read, let alone understand, campaign contribution disclosure reports. A more meaningful form of "public disclosure," immediately apparent when they appear on television or at public events, would be to require of them the same honest disclosure that NASCAR drivers impose on themselves -- like this:

With the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and other opinions appearing to take the corporate view of things, some (not I) have even advocated this approach for the justices:

While not exactly the same thing, the Oklahoma legislature has taken a rather permanent step in this direction, with corporate sponsorship of the entire state capitol building.A couple I know -- whose known hobbies include biking across the country, world championship poker playing, high class public service, and European travel -- also include a nearly-completed goal of visiting every state capital in the 50 states. A recent trip included Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma State Capitol building -- and its backyard oil well.

Much to their surprise and mine, inside the dome, around the base, are inscribed the names of the corporations that hold up the building (and perhaps its occupants and the taxpayers as well).

The only name on display in this picture is "Hobby Lobby Stores" (no pun intended), but I was assured the names continue around the entire base.

If it's worth $3.5-4 million for a 30-second commercial on a super bowl game, imagine what it would be worth to have your corporation's name enshrined forever inside the capitol dome of the national capitol building in Washington -- or even your state capitol building. Future generations of visiting school children and your potential customers could look upwards toward the heavens, see your name and logo, and give thanks for what you've contributed to making ours the best government money can buy.
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