A couple years ago, there were billboard ads all over the place, asking “What is mLife?”, but never cluing you into what the product or service or whatever was. After seeing the umpteenth billboard ad — actually, after seeing probably the third one — I stopped caring. If they couldn’t bother to tell me, I sure couldn’t bother to buy their service. (Apparently, it was merely a wireless phone service from AT&T. Big whoop.)
A couple years before that, I saw a couple billboards in the Bay Area, black text on white, saying “Protect me from what I want.” Again, no information about what comp nay took out the ads, what the product or service was, whether it was a political statement, and so on. (A web search on the phrase today finds dozens of sites with lyrics from the band Placebo, but not much beyond that.)
The Seattle gay bar C.C. Attle’s reframed part of itself a couple years ago as “The Men’s Room.” They led off the remodel with a series of ads in the local gay newspaper, asking “Where is the Men’s Room?”, two or three small display ads per weeks for three months or so. For the first couple weeks, it was cute — “It’s down the hall and to the left!” — but it quickly grew stale as the weeks dragged by. (“If you can’t find the Men’s Room by now, just pee in the damn bushes!”)
Currently, there are a series of billboards and bus ads up around Seattle with the tagline “Five As One.” They feature body parts — an eye, a hand, the x-ray of a foot — split vertically into five strips and reassembled, each one coming from a different person, usually each one from a different race than the one next to it. Is this a race relations thing? (Let’s see: white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American…?) Based on the x-ray, is it something medical, maybe a uniting of five hospitals? Is it a new nightclub, or somebody’s new wireless plan? Since there is a city election coming up, does it have to do with the five City Council positions which are not up for election? Beats the hell out of me: as with the other ad campaigns, not one whit of guiding information on the ads, and even when I go to Google to search on key phrase, nothing comes up pointing to the ads.
(Update: They are apparently ads for the Seattle Supersonics pro basketball team, as one of the billboards — but only one that I’ve seen — now has a Sonics logo on it. The others are still without any identifying logo or text. Here’s an article about the ad campaign.)
I suppose you can make an argument that on some level, ad campaigns like this work, since I remember them even years later. On the other hand, I only remember them because they annoy the fuck out of me and pretty much ensure that I will have nothing to do with the product or service. Having your ads remembered only so that people avoid the products doesn’t seem like the best tactic. (Exception: I do go to C.C. Attle’s — aka the Men’s Room — once every three or four months. The ads didn’t drive me away, but they certainly didn’t bring me in, either. I go to bars in other states [and countries!] more often than I go to the Men’s Room.)
Updated on November 21, 2003
Updated on October 11, 2010
Still no luck on the “Protect me from what I want” campaign. The world may never know.
C.C. Attle’s closed on September 30. They have allegedly signed a new lease for a location on Olive Way, hoping to be reopened by the end of the year. We shall see.
Guess the “Five As One” ads didn’t salvage things for the Sonics.