Thu 21 Aug, 2003 04:41 pm
Read this story a week or two ago: a contingent of NY cabs have now been outfitted with a TV. It is positioned between the front seats, almost impossible to avoid for the passenger on the back seat. It can also not be turned off (though apparently it can at least be muted). It plays loops of commercials and informercials.
Now I'm not from NY myself, and the whole "adbusters" thing never really struck a nerve with me. Until quite recently, when suddenly two or three things I read in a row about the ad-ification of life - or the intrusion of the commercial message into our every moment of individual life, if you wanna put it more fancy - did have me thinking about it, I dont know what triggered it. And then I read this item, about the ads in cabs.
I think its a horrid idea, myself. Just last month, I was in an Amsterdam tram that had a TV screen in every car, with teletext news, mostly celeb gossip - and even though I tried to look outside, to look at the doors, still, by the time I reached my destination I'd read about JLo and Ben Affleck five times. And the cab ad-cam would be right in your face.
What do you think? Is there any limit - should there be any limit (to where ads go and stop)? But how could one ever legislate that? How can one self-exclude - are you aware of the impact of ads etc on you(r space)? Social critique, anyone? Petty gripes? Principled enthusiasm for the unfailingly self-innovating character of the market forces that supply us with our wealth?
I tried to find a link on the story, but all I could find was:
Sign of the Times - TV in a Taxi? Not Everyone is Hailing It
TIME: There's No Escape
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I think I'd cover the TV.
Main thing that I was considering the other day is the sheer extent to which its really not just a question of, well, just ignore it. Myself, for example, I am a fanatic reader - I read everything that appears in my sight, newspapers, magazines, etc - get very quickly bored otherwise. But then I was walking down the street that morning and noticed how, the twenty minutes I take to walk to my job, over ten of them I'm reading. Without thinking, without even realising it - there doesnt seem to be any conscious processing of the messages whatsoever. But nevertheless the "observation" part of my brain just goes, in a non-stop effort: Jeans, $29,99, Main Street, Hairdressers Johnny, AH has the best prices, Killroy was here, Heineken Beer Cafe De Bastaard, Garage Praha, Don't Turn Left, Toyota GH-56-JU, Classic Shoes from De Beijer, Vote SP - well, etc etc.
How much time do we spend in life - consciously or semi- or subconsciously - noticing, reading, processing, discarding, these messages that are foisted on us from all sides? How much of our focus, attention, brain-processes, are occupied by this, wasted by it, every day? TV or radio at least you can turn off (I possess neither) ... How did we get there, how do we deal with it? Ads and commercials are the fuel of the optimisation of profit, which is the engine of our economy, I know ... but is it really worth it? Where does it stop? Look at old postcards, the way your town's main street used to look ...
When it comes to spam, the new legislation promoted in Europe, for one, wants to demand the industry to shift from opt-out to opt-in - so that they cant just send ad email to millions of random e-ddresses, but only to those who somehow suckered themselves into it. But every day we are flooded with spam as we trod through town, sit in the bus, stand in line, thats neither opt-in nor opt-out ...
This didn't just happen. Mr. J and I were in NYC in June and the TVs were already there, and already pretty old.
And yeah, they're annoying as all hell, but you can turn the sound off and not look.
When you have the option of turning them off or at least killing the sound I can tolerate it. Some systems won't allow you to do that and I despise them. I was trapped in an elevator that had the LCD panel flashing ads and there was no way to kill it. That just seemed extremly intrusive. You are a captive audience and are forced to hear them jabber on about something you really couldn't care less about.
Part of what bothers me about this kind of ambient addvertising is that while we can tune it out, all kinds of studies have shown that kids are extraordinarily susceptible/ receptive to advertising. I've seen that with the kiddo -- she almost never sees commercial TV, but when she does, eek. (Burger King ad: "I'm HUNGRY! Mama, I want a hamburger." -pause- "I LIKE Burger King."
So I really dislike that it takes away that element of control over what she sees.
Meanwhile, I think it's in reaction to things like cable and TiVO, which allow people to pay money to bypass ads.