Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sloppy urinal thinking: How the world is getting destroyed by clever idiots

I am grateful to for having posted this photograph of a urinal in a Burger King restaurant somewhere in Asia.

Look closely and you’ll discover a tiny TV screen atop the urinal. According to The Reynolds Rant, “It's ... advertising Burger King's flame-broiled Whoppers. And I'm still impressed with automatic paper-towel dispensers!”

Yes, the technology is weirdly impressive. However, the choice of what to advertise is stupidly suicidal.

But let’s take a step back from the urinal, so to speak, and look at the big picture.


Advertisers are in deep – dare I say doo-doo in the context of this story? Their problem is people like you. Yes, you!

Instead of sitting like a good little couch potato in front of a TV screen, the way most of the western world did for about 50 years, you’re sitting like a bad little couch potato in front of a computer screen, right now, not watching commercials.

You are just like millions of people who are forsaking their TVs for their computers, or watching TV but employing one technology or another to zap and zip right past the advertising. While advertising costs go up, the audiences that marketers can reach by traditional means are going down. This is leading to – believe me, I know some of these folks – wild panic on Madison Avenue.

Frantic advertising agencies and their clients are hunting desperately for places to put selling messages that you will see and pay attention.

They spend small fortunes to have a shot of this actor or that actor sipping a particular brand of soft drink – or driving a particular automobile – in a feature film. It’s called “product placement.” As if that will get you to levitate out of your movie theater chair and run to your car dealer.

But as TV advertising used to say back when anybody was watching, “Wait! There’s more!”


In the name of “viral advertising,” marketers now pay good-looking people (or is it hookers?) to go into bars and loudly order a drink made with the vodka or other booze of the moment. What kind of virus will potential customers catch from this “noisy hooker” effort?

Instead of making advertising that informs and delights you, agencies tell their clients to open stores that helps to “brand” the parent company. Walk around New York and you’ll find a Hershey’s store, a Disney store and an NBC store, among others. There’s even an NBA store.

Is Hershey really going to sell significantly more Hershey bars around the nation because they have one store in Times Square? Are you going to watch more NBC programming because you have a coffee mug that says “NBC” on it? Will they sell more basketballs in Zanesville, Ohio, because there’s an NBA store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan? Gimme a break!


Despite the minimal mass impact of some of these “viral” ploys, ad people regularly congratulate themselves in front of their clients for being so clever.

I guess, the ultimate in this cleverness is putting a TV screen running a looped commercial for Burger King on top of urinals in Burger King restaurants.

Except for one small problem:


I wish I knew who said, “Nothing is idiot proof. The idiots are all too clever.”

While urinal tops might be a great place to advertise medicines like Avodart (“Having trouble going right now? Ask your doctor…”) you have to be a total idiot to get your customers thinking “urine” every time they think about your hamburgers.

But advertising isn’t the only field infested with clever idiots. Consider Washington.


The Pentagon invaded Iraq with about a tenth as many troops as they needed to hold the country, maintain the peace, protect property from looters, and keep insurgents from infiltrating from abroad. See, by invading on the cheap we could save a lot of money.

That clever Don Rumsfeld figured out that we’d only need a tiny number of troops and a bunch of bombs to blow Saddam Hussein out of power. So that’s what the Pentagon did, failing to think two minutes ahead.

The result is a war that has lasted longer than WWII and cost American taxpayers in excess of $371 billion as of this writing. []

It has also resulted in a body count of needlessly wasted American soldiers that is rapidly approaching the number of lives lost on 9/11, [] and perhaps 40,000 or more Iraqis killed. [] No wonder so many of them are beginning to hate us.


Nuclear issues? “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” say the clever idiots. So instead of finding a way to defuse Iran, Clever Condi is helping to drive them into a nuclear frenzy. Ditto Korea. Ditto God-only-knows-where-next.

The clever idiocy marches on, whether you’re discussing the Bush administration’s fiscal policy, social policies, or immigration policy.

They’ve been clever, all right. Clever enough to be driving American lives and American jobs and the American standard of living right into the toilet.

Somebody ought to take out an ad on a urinal.

1 comment:

bjbarron said...

What is this "tee vee" of which you speak?

Never heard of it and I can't find anything about it on Google.

Was it the computer that came out before the Atari...something that ran CP/M maybe?