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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom
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Everything is a billboard, even the cops | My ears are for sale. Left. Right. For the right price, you may have them both. Or, I should say, rent them. Your message here. On my ears. I am joining the 21st Century. I am becoming a billboard.

Hey. Why should I -- JUST DO IT! -- miss out -- FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES! -- on the trend? -- THINK FORD FIRST!

After all, things you never thought of as advertising space are now becoming -- OBEY YOUR THIRST! -- advertising space. Like police cars.

Really. More than 20 cities have signed contracts with a company that would provide free police cars in exchange for ads on their exteriors. I can see it now:

"Run! It's the cops!"

"It ain't the cops! It's the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile."

"You idiot! The Wienermobile IS the cops!"

How our police forces became this desperate is a subject I will get to in a moment. Also, I will give you the rates for my ears. First, this thought:

Just how scared are you going to be when you look in the rearview mirror and see the flashing red lights of a car that has "Dude, You're Getting a Dell" on the side?

But I digress. The rent-a-cop-car is just part of a trend. It is a trend that is swallowing every spare inch of America. No place is sacred. Everything is an ad. Every bus. Every shopping bag. Every phone booth. Every moment. I was watching the World Series recently and saw the backdrop behind the catcher changing every at-bat, flashing ads for products or the new shows on Fox. What? There weren't ENOUGH commercials in the World Series?

But wait. It gets worse. In beach towns, the lifeguard towers have been sold for messages. Trash trucks in Missouri now carry ads. In New York -- and this could only happen in New York -- vans roll through the streets at night and project ads onto the walls of tall buildings.

"Hey, Sid, what's that bright light?"

"I dunno. Let me open the window."

"Omigod, Sid!"


"Your face says: GET THE FEELING, TOYOTA."

This is nothing, however, compared with the small town of Biggs, Calif., which is considering changing its name, for the right amount of money, to Got Milk?, Calif.

"I have to do what's best for the people of this town," the mayor said.

I assume that, if it will pay for a new fire truck, everyone in town will have to walk around with a milk mustache.

How did things come to this? Well, for one thing, we lost our dignity. Years ago, you wouldn't shave the name of your into your head. It would have been uncouth.

Also, once upon a time, towns had lots of small businesses, they paid taxes, the city had money and the police cars were affordable.

Today, large corporations have bought up most of the small businesses, they hide their money in offshore tax shelters, towns are going broke, they are desperate for money, and the only ones who have enough of it are corporations that only want to spend it if makes them richer.

Meanwhile, small businesses, needing to stay afloat, try to advertise in any margin they can. So you get flyers under your windshield wipers or chalk drawings in the street -- while the big companies name stadiums, or buy the wristbands on U.S. Open tennis players.

The result is that every inch of space is swallowed. Marketing types see a mountain and say: "Why isn't there a swoosh on that thing?" It is sad. It is pathetic. It is overtaking the landscape.

And who am I to miss out? You want space? I got one of the left, one on the right. Two ears. No waiting. For the right price, I'll cut my hair and improve the view.

This is our country. Your ad here. And I'd like to tell you more, but the cops are at my door. I know because I see their car out my window. It says: "DOCKERS. NICE PANTS."

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Comment on JWR contributor Mitch Albom's column by clicking here. You may purchase his latest book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", by clickingHERE. (Sales help fund JWR.)


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