As if we don't have enough advertisements jumping out at us from behind every corner, or every window! As if we don't have enough commercial messages shouting at us from their soapboxes everywhere! The newest new thing, apparently, is a scheme by the local subway system to put illuminated stroboscopic billboards on the walls of the metro system tunnels. The signs are adjusted to flicker at a rate matching the speed of each passing train, so an image, possibly animated, will seem to hang in the darkness outside the subway car.

If it didn't sound so ghostly-surrealistic-and-silly I'd surely get irate about Yet Another Attempt To Make A Buck at the expense of peaceful passers-by. Our attention is constantly being stolen and offered up for sale to the highest bidder ...

Once upon a time, a decade or so ago, there was a TV show that combined witty humor, futuristic scienti-fantasy, scathing social satire, and some good cheap special effects. It was called Max Headroom, and since it was intelligent it only survived for a couple of short seasons before being canceled with extreme prejudice. Two out of three episodes of Max Headroom fell flat, radically so. But batting over .300 is nonetheless astoundingly good for television. (And I must herewith mention Amanda Pays, who was as delightful to see and hear as was Diana Rigg a couple of decades earlier in The Avengers.)

An early Max Headroom story centered on ultra-powerful ultra-short ultra-subliminal commercials. They were called blipverts and had the potential to generate huge profits except for one unfortunate side-effect: they tended to occasionally cause viewers' heads to explode. (Can't make an omelette ...) The plot which ensued was clichéd but fun.

Blipverts came to mind again in the context of subway-tunnel signage. Why stop there? Let's set up big wire coils on highway overpasses. Generate electromagnetic fields to induce currents in the brains of humans who drive beneath, currents which stimulate the victim --- oops, I mean "potential customer" --- to crave <insert your product name here> ...

(see also SomethingToSell (14 Apr 2002), For Themselves (8 Jun 2003), ... )

TopicSociety - TopicOrganizations - TopicHumor - 2003-09-11

Hey, idea on that last subject: You wouldn't need to stimulate for a specific product, you would just need to induce the drivers into a state where they have to buy something! - RadRob

Max Headroom was THE BOMB! WOW! -- LapisMouse

(correlates: Ben Franklin on Intellectual Property, SalesPitch, StatusQuoAnte, ...)