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Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 3 Shevat, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Have they no shame!? My sanity meter is running out | In bathroom stalls, elevators and now even the backseats of taxis, they just can't stop doing it. How disgusting! Have they no shame?

I'm speaking, of course, about advertisers. They're sticking ads everywhere, even in hitherto virgin territory.

"We've done urinal mat advertising," says Marcie Brogan, managing partner of Brogan & Partners in Detroit. Her competition, Flush Media of the Bronx, places ads discreetly above the urinals - as well as in bathroom stalls and smack-dab in health club shower rooms. What exactly do they advertise there? Soap? Shampoo? Liposuction?

"It has reached way past the point of silliness," says Scott Donaton, editor in chief of Advertising Age, musing on the ubiquity of marketing messages. "The question these days is, where isn't there advertising?"

His magazine has reported on the European fad of painting ad slogans on live cows - presumably, not for Big Macs. And then there's the Amsterdam ad agency offering free pre-printed strollers to parents who don't mind pushing Precious in a billboard on wheels. Advertisers are placing ads on movie ticket stubs, shopping carts and - how could they resist? - ATM screens. As long as you're waiting for your money, they might as well tell you how to spend it!

Commercials blare, too, from checkout counters and computer screens. They're playing in movie theater lobbies and again before the film. There's even a Florida company that has started placing ads inside golf holes. For what? Roof repair? In case you got (ahem) a hole in one?

But personally, Donaton most resents the ad invasion of his office building's elevator, where a nonstop TV broadcasts news, commercials and trivia. "I work on the second floor. Heaven forbid I have five seconds to myself to have an independent thought," he mutters.

My most recent and vexing ad assault came Christmas Day, when my family was taking a taxi to a friend's apartment. "Welcome to our world of toys!" sang the TV - yes, TV! - embedded in the backseat. We couldn't turn it off, which meant the kids sat glued to a smarmy toy soldier pitching the magic of the season - i.e., overpriced presents - even as the winter wonderland of a real live white Christmas passed by their windows, unnoticed.

Thank goodness, taxi TVs might not be here to stay. Right now, they're in just about 120 of the city's 12,187 cabs, says Taxi & Limousine Commission spokesman Allan Fromberg. Seven companies have placed them there as part of a year-long pilot project.

Some of the TVs are interactive, providing listings of restaurants and museum exhibits. But some, like the one I saw, are simply a mind-numbing loop of ads mixed with so-called public service announcements advising us to do things like buckle our seat belts. It's enough to make you - and the agonized driver - pine for Elmo. Our cabbie said he gets $100 a month to endure the pain, and it's not worth it.

The public is invited to register its enthusiasm or gigantic lack thereof at "If it's good and useful and the public likes it," says Fromberg, the TVs will stay, incorporating the features that consumers enjoy most.

But the feature I enjoy most is called my sanity. With ads blaring from every nook, its meter is running out.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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