Friday, May 06, 2005

Steer Clear of Drive-By Advertising

The marketing side of my brain says this is a great way to reach customers, especially outside convention centers or at crowded community events. The cynical consumer side of my brain says this is an accident waiting to happen.

With distracted drivers making the news daily, it's amazing that rotating billboard trucks are still legal on city thoroughfares. It's not the size of the ad, so much as the motion, that entices you to gaze and watch the ads change. And while I don't mind rubbernecking as an intrigued passenger, it's not the same safe experience when I'm a driver.

Your ad can't be tuned out, turned down, switched off or thrown away like other conventional advertising. -- Billboards In Action Web Site
I'll grant them that. For many drivers, the ad can't be tuned out. Take it from me. I was there.

Click to enlarge these photos, shot by my passenger-side teenager while we were driving between school and home. With panels rotating every few seconds, there's no question this version of mobile outdoor advertising got my attention. But at what cost? I had to remind myself to focus on the nearby traffic instead of trying to sneak a peak at the morphing rectangles. Meanwhile, a teen driver in the adjacent lane was so distracted, he cut off another car when he changed lanes. It was damn nervewracking. I was relieved when the truck took a left turn off the beaten path.

We're such a litigious society, it's only a matter of time before someone sues the pants off a media outlet like this, or its advertising clients, after he veers off the road or has a related traffic accident.

A word to the wise. Steer clear.

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Mike Moore said...

Your arguement of the dangers is near-identical to the "magic bullet" theory that incorrectly ties perpetrated violence to violent video games. It is a choice made by the driver to gaze excessively, not a fault of the advertising vehicle. The choice of the violent was to commit the deed, not the fault of the game for inspiring it. If I am inspired by music to write a novel, I would then legally owe the music's composer royalties, by the same logic.

Kim M. Bayne said...

In some ways, I agree with you. The accountability factor in lawsuits always amazes me, which is why I raised the issue of perceived liability of such an ad vehicle. When you are a driver behind the wheel and time is on your side, you do have choices: gaze at the truck, swerve in traffic, or get the H off the road until the distraction passes.

But what if another driver slammed into me as a result of being distracted? I'm not a lawyer, but in the event of an accident, traffic charges or civil liability claims against the ad company are highly probable.

Now about that video game violence dispute. I played video games for years and not once did I develop the urge to commit murder. But Illinois lawmakers disagree wholeheartedly. They just banned the sale of violent video games to minors, according to USA Today. Sure, federal judges have struck this down before, but it could be the ammunition other states need to try, try again. Sadly, it's human nature to assign blame (to someone else for our own actions). I imagine the debate on this once is far from over.