Cool, Innovative Advertising?

Sometimes, with a lurch, I realize that – every moment of the day – I am constantly surrounded by the insentient equivalent of dozens of plaid-suit and bear-grease hucksters, doing jumping jacks and breathlessly screaming for me to look at them. Wherever I go, they are there. Even weirder, I realize I’m so used to these obnoxious guys following me around all day that I don’t even notice when, for example, they scream at me to look at something so surreal or stupid its actually kind of awesome. Like a load of porridgy-eyed Dubliners omnibusing to work in the morning in a giant locomoting can of Heinz Baked Beans. Or a massive inflatable robot hovering from the corner of Tower Records in Boston, with his laser eyes ominously glowing.

At times like these, it makes me realize that the loud braying ubiquity of advertising pretty much invalidates it without any effort on my part. I don’t notice advertising anymore, unless it is advertising that somehow makes my life a little more surreal, or stupid, or silly, or magical. Advertising has oversaturated me, and consequently, I’ve built up sort of an existential immunity that prevents it from parsing at all. Which makes the occasional advertisement like the two examples above so striking, in that the guys behind it get that you can’t just slap a placard up or buy some television space to really get people to notice anymore. Advertising needs to, well, actually be cool to even penetrate the anti-advertising bubble most of us walk around in.

And what’s even more surprising to me is how many traditional advertisers just don’t get that, instead laboring forth the same tired advertising tropes. Or, hell, actively discourage the sort of awesome, groundbreaking free advertising that, if they had a lick of sense, they’d be investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in.

Read this Improv Everywhere “prank”. What it really amounts to is a free innovative advertising campaign for Forever 21. These guys get an entire crowd of amazed passers-by to stand around oggling a Forever 21 store, even coming inside to see how the dance is being orchestrated (and maybe make a spontaneous purchase or two), only to be manhandled and kicked in the seat of their pants down the escalator by the outraged store manager. Talk about pissing away a golden opportunity.

So what about you guys? Have you ever seen any advertising that makes you think “Okay, these guys just get it?” Or, heck, advertisers who criminally don’t? I’d love to read some examples in the comments section.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.