Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are you distracted yet?

You oughta be! As if there weren't enough commercial messages floating in front of your face (and buzzing in your ears), along comes Air New Zealand with an offer of $777 cash (or a $1200 airplane ticket to New Zealand) for anyone willing to advertise the airline on the back of their shaved head.

According to the NY Times story yesterday, Air New Zealand calls the 30 people chosen for this marketing honor, "cranial billboards." At least half of them chose the airline tickets as their remuneration; it seems many were expatriates who wanted the chance to return on the cheap to their homeland.

Much like other such campaigns, these messages are temporary, typically words and symbols applied with henna to various body parts. You may recall that Andrew Fischer of Omaha put his forehead space up for auction in 2005 on eBay. By doing so he allowed Snore Stop only a month of unusual advertising but he received $37, 375 in exchange. Not bad, if you're willing to tattoo your forehead temporarily.

But, after the initial uniqueness (and the henna) rubs off, these messages are distracting. They achieve their first objective: to attract attention in the most cluttered, noisy environment since the beginning of time. But, whether or not they lead to an increase in sales is questionable. Their creators know that they must attract our attention and because they have helped to clutter the environment with mostly unattractive messages, they turn in desperation to places no man has gone.

Will things get any better? No way. Look for more product placements in your movies, in the lyrics of the CD's you buy, in front of your stall in the restrooms you use. Look for ads on the sides of school buses. Look for an ad on the back of the airline seat in front of you (these already exist). Look for more bizarre applications of messaging everywhere as attention spans diminish and products proliferate.

For now you are safe from the distraction of commercial messages... in your house... as long as you keep the windows shut and wear earplugs.

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