Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Where are Americans taking their technology? And what does this mean for Presidential election ad campaigns?

A true story first. Decades ago, when I was a young creative supervisor in an advertising agency, I interviewed an even younger guy looking for his first ad agency copywriting job. He showed me some speculative ads he had done. The ads themselves didn’t blow me away, but his initiative and wild imagination did.

One of the things he told me about was a business he had invented for himself. He tried to sell advertising space on the inside of public toilet stall doors.

“Look,” he said, “it’s a captive audience. Some people sit there for a long time and forget to bring in something to read. So I figured…”

It didn't matter what he figured. His wild thinking was too much for the stuffed shirts who made advertising decisions in those Mad Men days. But I hired the guy anyway. His name was Gary Kott. Before long he jumped ship from advertising for a career in movie and television writing. He ended up working on scripts for the Bill Cosby Show. He retired to the Nevada desert, I hear, still young (and richer than Croesus.) 

Crazy-like-a-fox ex-adman
enjoys the last laugh

Suddenly, Kott’s crazy idea doesn’t seem so crazy. And while technology has brought us far beyond john doors, the phenomenon that Kott glommed onto in about 1971 still holds.

According to a survey conducted by 11mark, a marketing agency in Alexandria, VA: 
“74 percent of men and 76 percent of women report they have used their mobile phone in the bathroom. 63 percent report they have answered a phone call, and 412 percent have initiated a phone call. Many (67 perent) have read a text, and 38 perent have surfed the Internet…”
The younger  they get, the more these people can’t drop their drawers without it. Says a press release about the report:
“As expected, Gen Y respondents are the heaviest IT in the toilet users. Ninety-one percent use their phone in the bathroom, but older generations are not far behind. Eighty percent of Gen X report they use the phone in the bathroom, as well as 65 percent of Boomers, and 47 percent of the Silent Generation…” 
Presidential campaign opportunity!

Clearly, this discovery presents an opportunity for the Democrats – as well as for further vindication of youthful  Kott’s brilliant  inspiration. Moreover, given the level of gutter advertising Romney and Gingrich have been hurling at each other, advertising for Democrats in toilet stalls would, if anything, bring up the level of discourse.

Imagine if, in October, you sat down on a john, say at a theater, only to discover a sign on the inside of the door a framed placard that says, “What is Romney’s economic plan? Explanation in four words." And then there's a number to text.

And when the smartphone-equipped person does just that, he or she gets a return message that says, “Romney-nomics: You’re sitting right over it."

Another: "Where will Romney's economics take America?"

When you text this time, the return message says, "press the handle behind you to see where Romney will take the economy."

“Guess what we’ve flushed out?” another john door sign might say. “Go to…” (and here there would be a URL inserted) to learn the no-crap truth.”

The possibilities just keep coming. “Constipated? You’re not alone. Romney’s full of it.”

“If you’re squeezing hard now, wait until you see what Romney does to your lifestyle and if he becomes president.”

Or just a big picture of Romney’s face with the headline, “Got gas?”

I'm not alone in thinking this is the wave of the future. “The writing is on the stall,” says Nicole Burdette, principal of 11mark.”

This is no crap.

Addendum: Gary Kott took a look at this post and tells me my memory is faulty. He writes that he has not only abandoned Nevada for a patch of California but that, " If the NY Times picks up on your blog, please tell them that the stall idea was Ron Gold's -- he's a great guy and I'd hate to hurt his feelings..." (Gary says he was merely selling john door ad space for Ron.)

If I should be so lucky as to hear from the Times about my blog, I will refer them to the paragraph above. 


Unknown said...


Cirze said...

I have to mention that in the 60's, yeah, the SIXTIES, when I was in undergrad school at UNC, we had a "wake-up" skit performed during frosh orientation that involved mirrors glued to the stall wall across from the (ah, how to put this delicately?) sitting down place so that you were forced to look at yourself the whole visit.

Many of us brought up the fact later in classes that they should have just gone ahead and taped up the first semester class notes as that would have been more of a wake-up call, but the views did have some creative uses for the more receptive students in the class.

Anyway, I do remember several wags saying that advertising space should have been sold too because it was a very large captive audience.

Good luck with "The Times" placement!

Love ya,