Here’s your change, sir. And a free advertising message…

According to Newsstream, a highly innovative guerrilla campaign has been launched to promote the new American mini-series Traffic. The show, which is set to reach television screens at the end of January 2004, is concerned with the trafficking of drugs, guns and human beings. Reports say that agency GoGORILLA Media is placing stickers on new dollar bills and getting bar staff to hand them out as change to punters in swanky bars across New York and LA.

Undoubtedly a great idea and one that seems well targeted and in keeping with the theme of the television show. But it does beg the question: how much further will advertising intrude on our every day lives and personal space? Former US Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader – and other activists associated with the anti-globalisation movement – claim that there are fewer and fewer spaces that are advertising-free. Kids are bombarded with marketing messages in school – an issue of growing concerns to parents in the UK as well as America. Interactive billboards in some parts of the States are now capable of picking up radio frequencies in cars and switching messages according to the demographics of the traffic queue. Hardly a day goes by without some new medium being exploited.

What about the radio data system? That’s the clever gizmo that flashes up the name of the artist and song as you’re driving along in your motor. Very soon, according to reports, it’s going to be sending out messages to accompany your radio advertisements too. A bank in North Carolina is experimenting with the idea this very month and seems likely to be flashing up messages such as “FREE GIFT” and “CALL NOW”. A superb example of direct and intrusive marketing? Or simply an additional hazard on the roads to distract drivers?

If you think you can escape the commercial bombardment by taking to the air, I have to advise you that won’t even be safe at 35,000 feet. Advent Airads™ are designed to greet you as you open the overhead locker.

Some people, however, clearly welcome the intrusion of advertising. Jim Nelson, for example. The financially astute Illinois resident apparently auctioned space on his head and now sports a tattoo advertising web firm, C I Host. They reckon Jim alone has brought in five hundred new customers. It really is a case of how to get a head in advertising.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is a creative director at a London-based advertising agency and a lecturer in advertising theory.

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Dollar bills promote TV mini-series

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