Sharpen the Chain Saws

At the beginning of Edward Abbey’s rollicking eco-sabotage novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, his character Doc Sarvis is chain-sawing down billboards along Arizona highways. “Everybody needs a hobby,” Doc says with an R. Crumb grin. 

Bravo to the city of Minnetonka for fighting lighted billboards. Like we don’t have enough advertising plastered all over every surface of the world. 

There’s communicating a message, and then there’s screaming in people’s faces. Driving towards downtown Minneapolis on northbound 35W, I see this excrescence like a huge flat-screen TV flipping bright mindless ads at me. It’s like a bad acid trip where I open up my glove compartment or toilet seat or closet door or my fly and out pops a 22-year-old account exec selling me a credit card. Get away! 

Is communication that irritates really effective? Do those dancing idiots on the website ads do anything but speed up your next click to eradicate them? Does my diving for the remote so I don’t have to waste my last few brain cells storing that insipid jingle “Save big money at Menard’s” help Menard’s sales in any way? Isn’t it counterproductive, Denny Hecker, to make me have to peel away the half-page ad wrap that’s metastasized over the sports section before I can get to my Twins stories? That grab-me-by-the-throat approach only makes me vow never ever to buy a car from you because you’re in my way and you piss me off. 

Billboards suck our attention in to the mundane so we can’t see anything beautiful or real – a sunset or wooded hillside or the need for urban renewal – beyond them. And lighted billboards – that’s like a yowling baby plopped right there on your dashboard. 

So you go, Minnetonka, and the other cities that are trying to protect some small corner of our consciousness from the hucksters. And if the courts and councils don’t come through, the McCullochs and the Husqvarnas might just start screaming back.



6 thoughts on “Sharpen the Chain Saws

  1. jl says:

    Well good morning to you too Comrade Marx!

    I don’t like the Hecker-wrap or the freeway flat screens either. The world would be a beautifuler place without intrusive ads.

    But what how are those intrusive ads any different than the PR person handing you crap at the ball game or polluting community gatherings with cutesy events to promote products? When outlawing annoying and intrusive ads, where exactly do you draw the line.

    It’s all intrusive. It’s all annoying. It’s all the hand that feeds us.

  2. Curtis Smith says:

    I get annoyed at advertisements, too. But whatever happened to the mindset that those sponsors (not just annoying advertisers) make that particular show, Web site or program possible?

    That’s where I think advertisers are missing the point. Call him what you will, but Howard Stern hit the nail on the head when he said, “The best way for people to show they support me and this show is to support our sponsors.” This brought amazing consumer brand enthusiasm.

    Take Snapple for example. Sure the relationship soured in the end, but the type of sales numbers Snapple showed by sponsoring the Howard Stern program were through the roof.

    I guarantee reaching a show’s core audience at such a dedicated level would garnish better bottom-line numbers. And as the Star Tribune learned all too well, the bottom line does actually matter. 🙂

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  4. Lurker says:

    The Hecker wrap on the paper is pure nuisance. I don’t even put it in the recycle bin because I feel most complete by wadding it up and throwing it in the trash! So Denny has done a great disfavor to society and the future of our world by forcing me not to recycle certain amounts of paper each week.

    Also, let’s not forget Tom Shane. Those radio ads where he’s mimicking a “conversation” with a real life person interested in a pink or blue sapphire that Tom personally handpicked on one of his many trips to Bangladesh make me projectile vomit in my car. Thus I carry air sickness bags with me wherever I go.

    Thanks Shane Co for providing me with a weight loss plan I can count on!

  5. Curtis Smith says:

    Bruce, name your three favorite products. I’ll be happy to support them to show my love of this blog. 🙂

  6. Litman says:

    I can deal with the other stuff, and can even understand their effectiveness.

    But I just don’t get the Hecker Wrap, which is so memorably negative that it just can’t work – can it?

    I’m less likely to buy, and more likely to boycott his dealerships because he creates such a daily nuisance – hitting me right between my bleary eyes at a time I’m not real interested in being manipulated.

    How about the rest of you folks?

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