Living In A Branded City, Underground
But let's consider the idea, prima facie, of branded cities. I thought that's what I lived in. I can't go anywhere without seeing branding. I guess the branded cities idea takes to a kind of universal degree what has happened on the New York City subway.
To wit: instead of riders being surrounded by local ads for Dr. Zizmor (whose Dorian Gray photo suggests he probably died before L. Ron Hubbard) and all those law firms leaping once more into the breach so you don't get arrested again, there is an orchestrated campaign for one product, one service, one beer. Which is not good. It means that instead of a cacophony of garbage that tends to cancel itself out like grey noise, we have - to paraphrase the new campaign for Chevy Malibu (a car that, by the way, I drove this weekend and really like, so this isn't a comment on the Malibu) -- crap you can't ignore.
Take the ad push on the subways for that Hispanic-market radio station that I plan to ignore. The ads show two DJs shoving stacks of money into their mouths and ears. I won't go into the psycho-sexual implications of this, but anyway, what am I supposed to tell my kid, who had begun trying to eat money because of those ads.
Actually that one's not so bad, because there isn't that "We get the New York experience" supercilious tone most of these campaigns have; the "we understand what you're going through, cause even though we're an ad agency in Santa Monica, we understand what it means to be New Yorkers, cause we were losers once, too" tone.
"Hey," those kinds of ads say - usually for some kind of booze - "You missed the train? Screw it, let's get slammed!" I mean, they don't actually come right out and say it, but that's the sub-text: "Your life sucks, anyway; why not get toasted prior to work! Could it hurt?"
Then there are ads about places I'd like to visit, all in the Caribbean. More loser subtext: one says "rush hour" with photos of some callipygian gal in a one-piece writhing on sugar-white sand next to a fake palm tree, while a guy - her pimp? - is trying to drink a Mai Tai from a cup shaped like some Aztec God.
I'm thinking, "Um, who exactly is the target here? I'm on the F-train full of recent arrivals from my grandmother's hometown in eastern Europe, and suddenly we're all supposed to head out to Kennedy International and hit the beach? These people look like the last beach they hit was the Volga at ebb tide. The Caribbean? Better call Dr. Zizmor.