Is this the definition of running out of ideas? I was recently checking out a friend’s link to a New York Times news story on forgetting (which is fascinating). To get to the article, though, I had to make my way through what marketing departments call a roadblock ad (my company uses them all the time). This is not a big deal, and something I have come to expect. But this particular ad caught my eye.
In this ad, made by mediacampaign.org for the National Office of Drug Control Policy, a kid is walking through a two dimensional mall that has store names like “Bongs, Etc.”, “Sex Galore”, “Sports”, and “Candy” (I can’t remember the last time I went to the internet to search for candy, but whatever). The ad reads “If the internet was a mall, this is what it would look like,” and “So, where’s your teen hanging out online?” I had to do a double-take, because of the similarity between this government ad and the Dave Chappelle skit “What if the internet was a real place?” from Episode number 206. In this skit, Dave walks around a mall setting where porn and other illegal antics are being flaunted about.
It would be easy to assume that the ad campaign came up with this on its own. This is the office behind such brilliantly effective ads as “This is your brain on drugs“, “No one ever said, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up,'” and who could forget “Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs” (sobs, “You dad, I learned it from watching you!”).
But I haven’t seen the concept used in, say, mediacampaign.org’s TV ads (which, as the Chappelle Show illustrates, is a very good medium for this particular metaphor). Plus, the Chappelle Show air date predates the last update of mediacampaign.org’s Mall banner site by two years, which is not to say the Chappelle skit was definitely created first, but since mediacampaign.org’s update is the only date available, and since the disparity is two years, not two months, I would venture that it’s a safe bet that the Chappelle show ran with the idea first.
Speaking of PSA’s, this little blast from the past (c. 1991) exhibits the disturbing and racist perspective by which that government ad agency decided to frame the discussion of heroin, crack, and cocaine. Ironic too, is the narrator’s discussion of dignity while ridiculous jungle sounds and drums beat in the background. Although the argument could be made that this was just a case of a well-meaning metaphor gone terribly awry, that assumes that the commercial’s creators had zero capacity to know better.