Back that thing up

Please back up your car up just a bit. I’m not sure I caught the ad on the back.

I was on the Austin Business Journal website today and saw a link to a survey done by Los Angeles Business that asked people their opinion on California’s proposed electronic license plates that would display ads on stopped vehicles. The results are in no way surprising. 77% of those polled said they hated the idea. I want to throw my emphatic no in there too.

I’m all for unexpected advertising and stretching our creativity in terms of ad placement. But license plate advertising is just flat out ridiculous. It’s incredibly obtrusive, not to mention distracting and potentially dangerous.

I’m a huge fan of well-executed guerilla marketing. I think causing people to pause and think about something- particularly a brand or a brand attribute- in the middle of a busy day is a huge win for advertisers. It’s the chance to genuinely interact with consumers. Ad Age recently released their outdoor edition, focusing on campaigns that charmed, shocked and entertained passersby, all in ways that grew the intended brand in the right way. Just look at DDB’s “Fun Theory” campaign for Volkswagen. Brilliant. Also, I’m a fan of a good billboard. If I’m stuck in traffic, why not a moment of amusement? But this is too far.

I thought advertising was learning a lesson in subtlety. After all, isn’t that what social media is about? Haven’t we learned that the hard sell won’t work like it once did? Not in a forum where the consumers have so much voice, anyways. Haven’t we recently seen brands fumble as they try to find a voice that has the authority to assert old brand equity while still allowing room for the consumer’s own narrative?

If early TV ads were accused of breaking into the home, than these glaring and invasive ads are jacking into our cars with crowbars. Let’s keep trying, California. I don’t like where this road leads.

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