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Friday, February 20

Marketing Maddness

Like NASCAR drivers, our politicians should wear uniforms clearly stating their sponsors This is enough to make you lose your Poli Grip.

I don't recall when the big corporations started slowly, insidiously renaming the stadiums and arenas across this great nation, which, incidentally, is brought to you by Pepsi. But I do remember when it hit
home. Just up the road from where I live, the pastoral concert venue East Jaysus Creek Pavilion was changed to Richie Brother's Pavilion thanks to the fat cash infusion from the auctioneering giant. I still call it EJ Creek Pavilion. This is still a fee (Dodge Ram) country after all.

The economic reality is that there are scores of renamed and rehabbed stadiums and concert halls all over the country. And aren't those shiny new skyboxes worth the humiliation of admitting that you actually bought tickets to the Frito-Lay Bean Dip Rose Bowl or the Dr. Scholl's Corn Pads Fiesta Bowl?

It's hardly news that big money can change everything, but every now and then, say, while watching the WNBA's Light Days Panty Liner play of the game, I think that things have gone too far.

Oh, I was just kidding. Nobody watches the WNBA. On the other hand, maybe if absolutely everything is for sale, why not me? Baby need new shoes, as they say, and what I need is some corporate sponsorship. Why not the fruit-juicy Hawaiian Punch-line of the day? Are you listening Pepsi Co.?

For a little extra dough, I could insert into my clinics, lessons, and posts veiled, subliminal messages that would be great free advertising for my corporate sponsors. My doctor say Mylanta. Okay, maybe more subtle than that.

Don't blame me. This is, like cross-country two-way communications by Nextel, the way of the future. Hons, you know it won't be long before they start thanking us for watching NBC's continuing coverage of the Sonic Jalapeno Poppers War in Afghanistan.

We're so conditioned to corporate sponsorship, who among us would be all that surprised to see the Swiffer WetJet "moppin up the terrorist" moment of the day? Or The Toilet Duck "tank roll of the hour" The Monistat "Yes, Geraldo was a fungus among us" field report?

The possibilities are endless as the relief I aways get from Icy Hot. Purina could sponsor those moments when American Idol judge Randy Jackson affectionately calls someone "dawg." As in Might Dog! Now with more tender kibbles and bits.

Although stadiums have sold out across the country, surprisingly, sanity prevailed when Major League Baseball decided (after allegations of monumental tackiness) not to place red-and-yellow Spiderman 2 promo ads on the bases at a Yankee game. At first MLB officials didn't seem to get it. They did, after all, pinkie-swear not to put anything on the hallowed home plate. But they did plan to transform the on-deck circles into huge spiderwebs for the game.

It's small wonder that companies like Sony warmed to the idea. Sony the parent of Columbia Pictures (and a rather permissive parent at that, the kind that never minded if you , heh-heh, had an underage beer when you visited your buddy on Hamburger Helper night). With so many people zapping commercials these days by using digital video recorders like TiVo, you have to be creative in promoting your product.

Maybe that explains the ham-handled product placement in Cheaper by the Dozen, the two-hour Crate & Barrel ad staring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Empty boxes with the nifty and unmistakable C & B logo were scattered in every room of the Baker house. Sure enough, when the brood moved uptown, the moving van was followed closely by the huge Crate & Barrel delivery truck. I think it backfired; now I associate owning C & B stuff to having twelve children. I'd rather eat my own eyeballs.

Subtle product placement is a thing of the past. If Gone With the Wind were made today, Clark Gable would pull Vivien Leigh close and say, "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn, but if I did, I'd choose Cingular Wireless with no roaming fees or activation cost."

In 2006 for the first time in it's hundred-year history, the Kentucky Derby allowed jockeys to wear advertisements on their silks. I shuttered. It's one thing to see Dale Jr. and his ilk coating themselves shamelessly in Viagra and Tide detergent decals but the Derby?!

I don't' blame the jockeys, who don't make all that much money, if you believe Spider-Man. Sorry, wrong Tobey Maguire movie. After all, they could be paid thirty thousand dollars to wear a little Wrangler jeans logo. Still, it tackies up everything and makes the world just a little bit more crass, a little less decent. Then again, what's my point? Did I mention that I'm for sale?

Major League Baseball officials changed their minds thanks to the pressure of fans, those oft-forgotten families who shell out ninety dollars for so-so seats and over-boiled hot dogs. Only a few days earlier, MLB had boasted that Spider Man is a natural fit for baseball," a wacky statement that make about as much sense as "Why, yes, Mr. Billy Joel, I'd be delighted to let you drive me home!"

It's been tough times for a lot of big business, so I guess they're getting desperate. Telemarketers can't hassle us anymore now that we've got the Do Not Call registry. I was one of the first of an estimated ten million angry Americans who signed up to have their phone number removed from telemarketers' call lists. Within months, some sixty million were signed up. The rest, I presume, are clinically insane

The process was blissfully simple. With a few computer keystrokes, I could practically see legions of telemarketers, with their offer of "free" water-quality testing, home security systems, groceries, and so forth fleeing like those zombies in the low-interest credit card commercial.

And that's not all. Now that I'm registered, I can sue any telemarketer who calls me for eleven thousand dollars per harassing call. This is going to be some fun, particularly if that perky pest from the time-share group in Williamsburg Virginia, calls again. The last time she woke me on a Saturday morning to tell me that Williamsburg was waiting for me to see firsthand the "magical marriage of perfectly preserved history and modern-day fun," I told her that if I ever meet her in person, she better make sure that aren't any loaded muskets lying around.

Sadly, the don't-call list doesn't filter out all household pest, just 80 percent of them. Charities are exempt, even the phony ones. This mean the Quasi Fraternal Benevolent Lovers of Law Enforcement, who harass me more than anyone else, can legally call me. These people are the most persistent, interrupting my dinner preparations nightly with "Hello, we'd like to keep drug dealers off the street, and we need your help."

This has led to the unbecoming sight of me standing at the stove as my young grandchildren quietly colors at the kitchen table while I scream into the phone " Leave me alone! I love drugs!" Nothing else has worked, so I have high hopes for this approach.

While there were some concern that the new don't-call laws would put many thousands of telemarketers out of a job, causing a serious jump in the nation's unemployed, at this point I think I speak for many millions of Americans when I say, "So?"

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