Have you ever noticed how driving down the street in your own town is remarkably similar to surfing the internet? There are the real life versions of lies, false claims, pop up ads, rotating banners, yada yada yada.
Think about it.
In our town the big craze these days is what I call “Las Vegas style signs.” These are essentially giant televisions that are extremely visible to drivers. That’s a great idea, right? Distracting drivers of cars? Yeah. Great idea. It might even cause them to text message the wrong person in their address book!
As the price of these kinds of signs has come down the local merchants have slobbered all over themselves to get in on them. These are the same merchants who continually violate our city’s sign code with banners hanging on walls and fencing, signs that exceed dimensional limits, sandwich boards blocking sidewalks, etc. Another favorite tactic, sadly still legal, is to drive around town with giant ads in the back of pickup trucks. Of course I take special note of all these tactics and put the pricks on my Do Not Shop list.
The burger stand has a Las Vegas style sign. So does the mortgage company. The furniture company has one, too. So does the used car lot. And, guess what? Even the local mortuary has gotten in on the deal. I shit you not! The mortuary’s Las Vegas sign is visible through the windows of my freakin’ house.
Remember the old days when a fancy sign was the one at the bank and all it could do was display the temperature and the current time? It had something like a five-character limit. I even remember when they expanded and impresively added Celsius into the mix. Those were heady times. Then there were the “moving message board signs” where they could display short messages like “Have a nice day” in addition to the temperature and the time. A quantum leap in sign technology.
Now nothing less than a giant television will suffice.
I attended city council meetings and voiced my opposition to the signs in our small little town. If you don’t regulate them early, then you’ve screwed yourself for the long haul. Because even if you get an ordinance with some kind of limit later on, all of the signs that already have been installed because the council was asleep at the switch will be “grandfathered” and allowed to exist for the next 10 to 20 years or so. That’s the problem with city council, though. They are not proactive. They are reactive. By the time they notice a problem it’s because it’s already all over town and it’s much too late to do a damn thing about it.
The city council actually asked staff to come up with a proposal for an ordinance. I had a conversation with the director of the planning department and I told him, “You’ve got to think big. You’ve got to plan ahead. Don’t limit yourself to the Las Vegas style signs. Think holograms.” Yep. That’s right. I told him that as technology continues to go ape shit they should plan ahead and make the ordinance apply to three-dimensional space. My fear was that in just a few short years local companies will be able to buy projectors that will cast their gigantic logos up and spinning in 3D space just above their building and parking lots. When that day arrives I for one will gaze upon it in wonder as I slit open my own throat. Maybe they can vlog my death on Pay Per View. Damn, never thought I’d go out Lorax-style.
Of course the director thought I was nuts and totally ignored my concerns. City staff then came up with a proposal that was the weakest thing you could possibly imagine, much like using a tea bag to make yourself a 20th cup of tea. Their proposal didn’t address sign sizing, location or movement. It merely put an extremely weak limit on lumens. And then the council bickered over that lame proposal and rejected it outright. Not even that watered down joke of a proposal got passed.
And so it remains to this day. Even the mortuary brings the delicious flavors of Las Vegas to our humble little city. Joy. I bet that brings the families of the deceased a lot of comfort.
Then a big billboard company came into town and bribed property owners to put billboards on their land. These are the kind of billboards that rotate and can display multiple ads. Hey – just like rotating banners on web sites! These things seemingly popped up everywhere all over town overnight before we even knew what hit us. Once again the city council was caught flat-footed. They responded with a three month moratorium to “look into the issue” which has long since expired and nothing was ever done. I’m still waiting for someone to sell the space outside the windows of my house and block my view to the mortuary’s giant television sign.
What else can you see when driving down the street? There sure are some inventive people out there when it comes to advertising and mascots…
- The mattress store has a mattress mascot. It’s a mattress with arms and legs and a face.
- The newspaper has rolled a up newspaper for a mascot. It has arms, legs and a face.
- The pizza place has a slice of pizza for a mascot. It has arms, legs and a face.
- The local ice cream stand has an ice cream cone for a mascot. It has arms, legs and face.
- The alarm company has an alarm sign for a mascot. It has arms, legs and a face.
- The Kool-aid man has a pitcher of Kool-aid for a mascot. It has arms, legs and a face.
I think you get the idea. This is some amazingly clever shit we’re talking about here. Someone really put on their thinking caps. Not just anyone can think up shit this good. Madison Avenue – eat your heart out!
So these mascots stand out on the sidewalk in front of their respective businesses and wave at the drivers passing by. That is their advertising message. “I’m a mattress and I’m waving at you. Please buy our shit!” I just love the “home town feel” that our city council claims to be committed to preserving.
All good things must come to an end, though. You can’t drive forever so you eventually have to go back to the safety and sanctuary of your own home. Does the onslaught stop there? No way!
Here are two new tactics we’ve noticed in the door-to-door realm of hyper-bullshit:
- A clean cut young teenage boy came to our door. My wife answered. He opened with, “I’m sorry to bother you. Are your parents home?” Bedazzled by this line of pure and unmitigated gall, my wife informed the snot that he was talking to the parent. “No,” he replied. “I’m looking for your mom. You are much too young to be a mom.” HOLY BULLSHIT SUPER-HYPE, BATMAN! Offending the hell out of our intelligence with that kind of false suck-up behavior isn’t going to make the sale, young man. And I mean E-V-E-R. Not in one million years. Begone agent of Satan!
- A modestly dressed young teenage girl comes to our door. I answer. She opens with, “I’m looking for the man of the house.” Uh-oh. Here we go again. “That’s me,” I grunted, pounding my fists on my chest and yelling, “Ugga booga! Ugga booga! Me man, this house.” Undaunted she continued, “No, I need your parents.” ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!
I wish I could tell you I’m kidding. I wish I could say I’m exaggerating. Alas, I’m not. Apparently Jedi mind tricks like these work on some of the weak-minded out there. Just like spam, it continues because it works. These kids were coached, trained, and working from the same playbook by rote. I would not be surprised to learn they had been bussed in to work over our humble little town. Shit, maybe the local merchants even hired them.
Next time they better bring their vomit shields because they almost got a full dose of my fucking PUKE!
When does the onslaught of existence against us on all fronts ever take a fucking break????