January 15, 2007
Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad
By LOUISE STORY
Add this to the endangered list: blank spaces.
Advertisers seem determined to fill every last one of them. Supermarket eggs have been stamped with the
television shows. Subway turnstiles bear messages from Geico auto insurance. Chinese food
cartons promote Continental Airways.
is selling ads on motion sickness bags. And the trays used
in airport security lines have been hawking Rolodexes.
Marketers used to try their hardest to reach people at home, when they were watching TV or reading
newspapers or magazines. But consumers’ viewing and reading habits are so scattershot now that many
advertisers say the best way to reach time-pressed consumers is to try to catch their eye at literally every turn.
“We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be
everywhere,” said Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive at the Kaplan Thaler Group, a New York ad agency.
“Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.”
No consumer, it seems, is too young. Some school buses now play radio ads meant for children. Last summer,
advertised its “Little Einsteins” DVDs for preschoolers on the paper liners of examination tables
in 2,000 pediatricians’ offices, according to Supply Marketing, a company that gives doctors free supplies in
exchange for using branded products.
Some people have had enough. Last month, after some “Got Milk?” billboards started emitting the odor of
chocolate chip cookies at San Francisco bus stops, many people complained, and the city told the California
Milk Processing Board to turn off the smell.
And this month the
Authority of New York and New Jersey
cancelled a plan to post ads for Geico at
tollbooths and elsewhere around the George Washington Bridge, a deal that was valued at $3.2 million.
Politicians and preservationists had raised aesthetic concerns, and some had complained the city was selling
the ad space too inexpensively.
Yankelovich, a market research firm, estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad
messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today. About half the 4,110 people surveyed last spring by
Yankelovich said they thought marketing and advertising today was out of control.