27 August, 2007

Bear Attacks Are Good for Business!

Not a year goes by that I don’t read about several shark attacks; bear attacks; or someone being killed by the exotic snake, spider or tiger they kept in their apartment. In the past week I’ve read three articles on crocodiles, one about an idiot who decided to wrestle a wild alligator, two about bear attacks, one about a rabid beaver attack and one about an alligator eating a shark (there was a special that day).

These animals have some serious advertising clout. Unfortunately, their message of, “Stay out of our clubhouse,” keeps getting lost on both seasoned thrill seekers and amateur morons. But what these animals have done is create an incredible buzz campaign. People don’t want to just watch or learn about these animals. They feel compelled to get closer, to touch them, to feed them, to offer their limbs as tasty snacks to ever-so-friendly WILD ANIMALS!

Nevertheless, their “advertising” has gotten these animals a lot of attention. How do you duplicate that for your product?

1. Create a product people are interested in (or you can make people interested in) when they encounter it—so much they’ll want to share this product or experience with others. “I nearly ceased to exist thanks to Nature’s Perfect Killing Machine. Want to go see it?”
2. Spend time. Build the hype. These animals have been doing it for centuries. You probably don’t have that kind of time, but you will need to spend some time and really dedicate yourself to that buzz.
3. It can’t be available everywhere. Not everyone can walk out their front door and see a Grizzly or Great White. That’s why people plan trips to zoos and aquariums. The zoo or aquarium presents something people can’t see every day. The same can be said for Disney World or Medieval Times. I mean whatever happened to street corner jousting? As far as products go, when my uncle was in the Navy, he was told to stay away from Ouzu, a Greek liqueur. What do you think was the first thing he did when he got to Greece?
4. The buzz has to pay off. You hype something up to be amazing, but if it turns out to be less interesting than watching carpeting glue set, your buzz may backfire. If it pays off, the buzz just continues to build. But you hype a movie for months and it turns out to be a horribly shot film with no plot, that ends in a dark shack with no clue to the actual ending, and people will be pissed off and tell their friends it was a waste of money. The buzz dies.
5. There has to be some sort of supply. When people can’t get something, they want it even more. X-Boxes, Playstations, Talking Elmos, Cabbage Patch Kids. But you can only hold people’s attention for so long. If the product appears too difficult to reach, eventually people lose interest. The pony you’ve wanted since were 3, Guns n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy album that has been coming “next year” since 1999, or the fabled flying car. At this point, just give me a jet pack.
6. Finally, update the campaign. Keep it going. Keep your product growing.

An incredible example of this type of advertising is from Red Bull Energy Drink. Before Red Bull, “energy drinks” were sodas. Now there’s an entire market dedicated to these products. And although Red Bull’s advertising seems strange, it’s very sophisticated. There are the quirky Red Bull cartoons featuring the tagline, “It gives you wings.” They have massive branded “fringe” events like Flugtag and The Streets of San Francisco. They have “energy teams” who buzz anything from gas stations to huge events giving away Red Bull to tired attendants. A friend comes up to you and says, “Where did you get that?” You reply, “The Red Bull guy drove up in some crazy truck and just gave it to me because I looked tired.” Your friend says, “What’s it do?” You say, “It gives me wings.” Now your friend wants one. The buzz is there. Oh, and it helps that it works.

Throughout all of their advertisements, though, Red Bull rarely notes the features or benefits of their products, or they at least keep those benefits vague enough to pique people’s curiosity. Yet Red Bull is the number one selling energy drink in the world, dwarfing competition from larger companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Anheiser Busch. One should also note, it did take more than a decade for that buzz to really build. At first Red Bull was only available in Europe, and the spread throughout the U.S. was gradual over the past 10 years.
Creating buzz isn’t easy. It takes a vision, a plan and dedication. Our animal friends got people’s attention, but their message was lost. Despite all of the advertising that said, “Don’t poke that rattlesnake with a stick,” there are still plenty of people who see a rattlesnake and immediately go looking for that stick

But the business landscape is filled with companies who created the buzz and got the messaging right—Red Bull, Nike and Macintosh, just to name a few (tell me you didn’t ask a friend to see that first generation ipod or iphone). When done right, a good buzz campaign is more effective than the most expensive super bowl commercial you could buy, because real people, with real social contact do the marketing for you.

Wait a minute. Red “Bull.” Dangerous animal + brilliantly marketed product. This just might be the smartest advertising on the planet.

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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21 August, 2007

Marketing Mike Vick's Misery

OK. My wife and I have been accused of being a little eccentric because of the number of animals we keep (two dogs, six cats, and a pond full of koi). We collect pets the way Bill Paxton’s character on “Big Love” collects wives. We’re Polanimalists. That being said, I’ll spare everyone my own personal diatribe on everything that’s wrong and disgusting about the dog fighting incident and about Michael Vick as a human being.

I will however give mad (rabid, even) props out to the people who’ve found a way to make a difference—or in some cases, make a dime—off of the guy’s stupidity. The beauty of America is its marketing spirit, and our natural ability to turn terrible circumstances into causes célébres and cash-a-plenty. Simply take a look at how many American flags Wal-Mart sold on September 11, 2001 compared with the same date a year earlier (for those keeping score at home, it was 116,000 units to 6,400 units, respectively). They made money, and people were able to display their support of their country. That’s the win-win of Patriotic Consumerism.

So when I saw the Mike Vick chew toy, I was ecstatic. Like it or not, you’ve got to give the four budding entrepreneurs who started the venture some punk points for inventiveness. Their product is molded, vulcanized rubber irony, guaranteed to stand up to even the toughest pooch. Now, whether they actually follow through on their website’s promise to share a portion of the profits with organizations dedicated to animal welfare, is another story. But they’re back-ordered, and that means business is good. Even better, Vick isn’t making a penny from it. Until he eventually sues their pants off.

PETA’s in on the action, too. Vick’s dog fighting charges—and plea bargain—are exactly what they needed to raise real awareness about the atrocities that take place in dingy urban basements, abandoned warehouses, and back-road trailer parks across America. The number of tips they’ve received has jumped since they rallied their efforts around condemning his actions. He’s the ultimate boogeyman, like the lurking burglar in ADT spots or the slippery floor that no elderly person can escape from in Life Alert ads. He’s the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to the animal rights cause in recent memory.

Who knows. Maybe Vick will even figure out a way to market his own mistakes. Think about it. Once he’s out of the pokey, he’ll no doubt be any network interviewer’s first round pick for easy ratings.

“Tell us how you’ve changed, Mike.”
“What made you do it, Mike?”
“Is that an Armani suit, Mike?”
“Who do you think will win the AFC, Mike?”

He’ll be on TV in no time. Then, perhaps a book. An acting gig. Hey, maybe even parlay his infamous persona into a professional wrestling career. In some way, he’ll find a way to get paid. And that, too, is what business in America is all about.

Marketing goes both ways, benefiting the good guys and the bad guys alike. Like the light and dark side of the Force or Andy Dick. It’s a just little tough to tell which is which, sometimes. As a pet owner, I feel pretty good that something positive will come out of this mess. As an ad guy watching people make money and promote their causes at Vick’s expense, I feel even better.

--M.M. McDermott, Senior Copywriter

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17 August, 2007

CALIFORNIA GIRLS – THE NEXT GENERATION: Moral Nightmares/Advertising Gold

Mike Love and Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys) must be rolling in their graves (wait… are they still alive?). One has to wonder if they ever thought that, 42 years after they penned “California Girls”, a group of young ladies would come along and terrorize the iconic perception of the fun-loving, easy-going, beautiful-as-god-made-her, southern California girl. To many, the Next Gen California Girls of today – Paris, Britney, Nicole, Lindsay – are high-maintenance, egotistical, unpleasant, delusional, anorexic-framed undeserving elitists who are completely undeserving of the attention the American public is bestowing upon them. Qualifications for this honor include all of the above characteristics, plus:

Drug and/or alcohol abuse resulting in…
At least one DUI/DWI charge, resulting in…
At least one probation violation, resulting in…
Jail time and/or
Incomplete or partial rehab stints
Total disregard for the law and the lives of others
Occasional pregnancy alert
Occasional marriage
Occasional divorce
Occasional head shaving incident caught on video.

Thinking I’m exaggerating? Let’s take a look at the headlines of the last few months, shall we?
o Spears accused of making death threats to photographer
o Experts: Lohan, Spears making mockery of rehab
o Spears-Federline marriage officially over
o Nicole Richie sentenced to 90 hours in jail
o Lindsay Lohan surrenders to police
o Jubilant Paris Hilton out of jail
o Nicole Richie, 25, says she is almost four months pregnant
o Richie pleaded guilty Friday to driving under the influence of drugs

Can you imagine The Beach Boys writing ‘California Girls’ today? All meaning would be lost. I mean, yes, these California Girls know how to have a good time, like when Nicole mixed pot, whiskey and Vicoden and proceeded to get behind the wheel of her car and head the wrong way on a California Interstate (yes, that means going against traffic). Good times. And who can forget Paris’s recent stint in jail for violating her previous DUI probation? Or Lindsay’s most recent DUI arrest. Good times indeed. It’s quite apparent these young ladies forget that, like it or not, they are role models for today’s female youth. “Lead by example” are apparently three words they have never heard strung together. How about raising the bar a little, girls… or would that make it too difficult for you to reach your drink?

I know what you’re thinking… who cares, right? I mean, if these girls want to trash their own lives, so long as it doesn’t hurt others, who cares?! Well, I’ll tell you who cares… ADVERTISERS! These girls bring in eyeballs… lots of eyeballs. In print, on television, in cyberspace… lots and lots of eyeballs. Their publicists know it, the media knows it, and worse… THEY KNOW IT. The crazy part about all of this is that I honestly believe they are encouraged to keep up the antics to keep themselves in the limelight just one more day. Just one more day might be enough to land them on the cover of one more tabloid, be an entry in one more blog (ahem), or be featured in one more on-screen interview with the likes of Larry King or Diane Sawyer. And that may be all they need to get one more starring role and make another cool million to fuel their habits.

It’s concerning the way the gears in the Hollywood machine turn, but apparently there’s an appetite for these Next Gen California Girls. If you, like me, wish to diminish their prowess, here’s my request. Stop feeding the frenzy. Stop buying the tabloids. Turn the channel. Stop caring who they sleep with, whose baby they’re having, why they are going to jail, and which rehab facility they are escaping from. (And for the record, I’ll do my part. This will be my last blog entry featuring any of the aforementioned Next Gen California Girls). Moral of the story – if we move our eyeballs to more appealing content, trust me, the advertisers will follow.

--Jason Cohen, Director of Marketing

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15 August, 2007

Advertising's Next Big Market May Already Be in Your Wallet

Daily Research News said on Nov. 26, 2004, “US businesses will spend an estimated $278 billion on advertising next year, but the advertising industry will drive an estimated $5.2 trillion into the economy.” That was three years ago, and the number keeps growing...a stinkload of money by any standard! And it points to a huge opportunity for our industry. Why just spend this money...advertise on it! Each of those 5.2 trillion greenbacks is a potential billboard targeted directly to the consumer.

Think about it. Betty is standing in line at the check out, waiting to buy her Metamucil and Bran Flakes. She pulls out a few singles and notices a tasteful banner slung across the great pyramid which reads, "Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake!" Reminded of her love for Honey Buns, she violently elbows the elderly gentleman behind her into the magazine rack and sprints for the snack cake isle, adding 4 boxes of Honey Buns and 3 boxes of Kreamies to what would have otherwise been a meager purchase.

Corporate advertising on paper money only makes sense. Potential advertising space is diminishing, and the current glut can overwhelm individual messages. With currency advertising we can target "buy" messages the instant purchases are being made. And we can advertise on a medium consumers want and collect. In what other model could you envision consumers happy to stuff their wallets and purses full of advertising messages?

Advertising churn is another consideration. An ad that's more than a few months old can be considered out of date. But hardly useless. In any case, advertisers would place time sensitive messages on ones and fives, bills that are commonly used and thus frequently reprinted. More permanent or simply brand-centric messages would be printed on the higher, less common bill denominations. In fact, a simple of form of demographic targeting can be performed by placing an advertiser's message on the denominations most commonly seen by the desired population. A bit classist, yes, but effective.

All joking aside, the US Dollar is slipping in value against the Euro, Yen and other currencies. Back when the US was on the Gold Standard, each dollar represented an actual chunk of gold held in the vaults of Fort Knox. Now we use a flat currency system, in which there is no real value backing up a dollar bill's face value. This arbitrary valuation can lead to inflation and other nasty things. I propose creating a system in which the value backing our currency is the ad space potential on the bills themselves. This is a bankable commodity the Federal Reserve and the Mint could harness to create tiers of real value, stabilizing and strengthening our currency and creating a revenue stream for the government.

Right now I have 3 ones, 2 fivers and a twenty in my wallet. Applying complicated algorithms to this sample we can conclude that there are over 456 trillion bills currently in circulation nationally, give or take some unknown amount. With that much potential ad space, it would be unforgivable not to take advantage of it. Be honest with yourself. Aren't you tired of staring at pictures of 200 years dead, wig-clad girly-men? And what's with the freaking pyramid? Let's update our currency to reflect our modern, consumption culture zeitgeist and eliminate our national debt at the same time. Why not put Homer Simpson on the one dollar bill instead of George What's-his-name?

This is the future...let's meet it. In H&R Block We Trust.

--Jason Bloom, Senior Avid Editor

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14 August, 2007

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

The concepts of brand awareness and brand loyalty do not just apply to the masses of adults who do things a certain way because that’s the way they like it. Kids are learning quickly the art of sticking to their guns when it comes to their favorites, and now there’s proof.

Kids have their favorite foods (hotdogs, pizza, candy, etc.); they have their favorite toys, blankets, you name it; but now they have their favorite packaging.

For generations, parents have tried everything to force Brussels sprouts down their children’s throats. Today, kids would much rather take a McDonald’s wrapper off their food and sink their teeth into whatever lies beneath – hamburger, fries, apple pie or maybe even carrots.

Lately, McDonald’s has been making an effort to promote better health and eating for today’s youth with low-fat milk, white meat and apples, but what if they could get little Johnny to choke down those greens?

Well according to U.S. researchers, McDonald’s wrappings might just be able to help trick those kids into eating what they have for so long fought against. Ok, that’s not the way they put it, but a new study says 60 percent of the kids between 3 and 5 preferred carrots and other foods when wrapped in McDonald’s packaging, as opposed to those in generic packaging. The catch? There was no difference. The carrots were the same in both packages, yet 60 percent of the kids said that the McDonald’s carrots tasted better.

So, what are we to get from all of this? I say one of two things. 1 – Mc Donald’s is one of the most phenomenal players in the branding world (which is hard to dispute) and we as consumers have let ourselves and our children not only walk into their trap, but walk in with bells and whistles. Or, 2 – it might mean that it is possible to stop forcing vegetables down our kids’ throats and just sit back and watch them stuff it in their own mouths.

Like everything else in life, I guess it depends on how you look at it. Is this a bad thing, or is it a back door to the problem that has faced caring parents for generations? It all comes down to the parents. Either they are willing to let there kids eat anything in a McDonald’s wrapper as long as they eat their vegetables, or they are going to stand strong to the “no dessert until you eat your peas” persuasion.

--Nick Piche, Copywriter

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08 August, 2007

“Mad Men” and the Writings of a Mad Black Woman

FLASHBACK – It’s last November (that’s November of 2006) and I was in New York at an Ad Week function where Mark Cuban was a keynote speaker. He asked how many in the assembled groupage of advertising executives had HDTV. When just a smattering of hands went up, he looked shocked. But not as shocked as I looked mere moments later when I turned around to see for myself and came to the sobering realization that I was the only African American in the room of about 100 people.

FAST FORWARD – July, 2007. AMC Network debuts their original series, Mad Men, which chronicles the exploits of Madison Avenue ad guys in the 1960s. A couple of things you’ll notice about that show, everybody smokes (sorry Disney), the clothes are awesome and there are no black people. Gee. I guess nothing’s changed in 40 years.

Now I know the ad industry has come under fire lately for the lack of minorities-- particularly blacks--at the executive level, but I wanted to do a little informal digging around as to why this is. I mean blacks have an estimated buying power of $679 billion so one would think the industry would be interested in having folks from that market represented in their boardrooms. So I started reading and making some calls. I talked to a friend who is the CEO of a black-owned agency in DC. He felt the onus for lack of black representation lay, in part, at the door of corporate racism.

Case in point. I found an article in Black Enterprise written by Brian Wright O’Connor in March of 1993 that quotes Charlie Rice, associate creative director with Caroline Jones Advertising Inc., a black-owned agency in New York. Reportedly, Mr. Rice had received dubious words of praise while employed at a general- market firm that, in essence, congratulated him for being able to think like a white man. On a scale of 1 to 10 on racist comments, this has got to be a 9. Not quite Imus worthy, but obviously showing a complete lack of understanding of the African American experience.

What the decision makers at general-market firms are slow to appreciate is that blacks have to know how to “think like a white man.” Now don’t start getting all ruffled, and think I’m going to get all militant on you, but it’s the truth. Successful African Americans in all fields have learned to maneuver in two different worlds. You could say that we are bi-cultural and even bi-lingual. We have to know how to talk the talk in the boardroom and we have to know how to “keep it real” in various parts of the African American community. How many Connecticut commuters could really hack it and feel comfortable at an all black function? Us black folks? We have to excel and do what we do even when we’re the only black person in the place.

Some people don’t understand why just the fact of being black makes our American experience so different. I came from a middle-class family. I went to private school. My mother sent me to Europe during my senior year in college. Some people might say that I come from a privileged background and I might agree, but even with that I have certainly experienced out-and-out racism, having been called the “N” word once and I’ve definitely encountered cultural insensitivity more times than I care to count. I say it’s more than time to turn the tables and expect Madison Avenue to better reflect the markets it sells to. Perhaps if we can encourage a more balanced atmosphere, companies like Intel won’t have to apologize for their sorry excuse for an ad (pictured left). And if you don’t get why that ad was an issue, and you’re in this industry, well… call me, and I’ll explain it to you.

--Gay Pinder, Director of Program Devlopment

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06 August, 2007

Sticking It to Barry Bonds...for Fun and Profit

So Barry Bonds hit homerun number 755 this past weekend, tying Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s career record; with it, our collective karma no doubt swirled a bit closer to the hole in the cosmic toilet bowl. But as much as I’d love to devote a post to flaming the guy, this is an ad blog, and I’m getting paid the big bucks to come up with groundbreaking, industry-relevant material. Plus, I see the potential for someone other than Mr. Bonds to benefit from it.

See, Barry breaking the record may be bad for baseball, but it could be gold for your brand.

With the exception of the friendly confines of San Fran, Bonds is generally loathed throughout the sports world. Whether it’s his personality, his apparent disregard for the integrity of the game of baseball, or the ‘roids debacle, he’s worked hard to be hated. When he breaks that record, though, a perfect storm of emotions will converge around one little, white ball. It will become the Holy Grail of baseball, a symbol of what’s right and wrong with game. From the moment the lucky fan gloves it, the possibility for an adventuresome business to build its brand (at a bargain price) begins.

Let’s talk numbers. The ball Bonds hit for his 73rd homerun of the season in 2001 (the MLB record) sold for over $500K in 2003. Nice chunk of change at the time. But as steroid allegations built up a frothy head in the court of public opinion, sentiment quickly turned. A telling indicator: Bonds’ 70th homerun ball from that season (tying the previous HR record held by Mark McGwire) recently fetched a meager $14K. Analysts predict Bonds’ 756th homerun ball could get as much as $750K, but that number could fluctuate wildly based on an assortment of variables (including whether or not he is indicted for perjury).

In the ad world, large companies don’t flinch at the prospect of doling out ¾ of a million bucks for a brand campaign. Herein lies the possibility for an edgy company to define its image on the cheap simply by making a bold move. Here’s my two-step approach to adding value to your brand with the help of Mr. Bonds.

Step One: Buy the ball. Immediately.
The mere publicity of purchasing the ball is enough to get your company on the front-page (bottom fold) of papers across the country. The sooner, the better. Don’t let the electricity surrounding the record dissipate before you make your move. Overpay if you have to.

Step Two: Do something spectacular with it.
Here’s where the fun begins. Your goal is to milk it for all its worth. There are a number of roads you can travel down, depending on the image you want to project to your consumers. Some ideas:

The Altruistic Approach: Bonds has already announced that, even if he were able to obtain the ball, he won’t give it to the Hall of Fame. To baseball purists, that’s despicable. That ball is an historical artifact and deserves to be in the one place dedicated to celebrating the history of the game. Announce that you’re donating the ball to the Hall. Fans and non-fans alike will respect the gesture. It’s a commercial world where very little is sacred, and any time a company transcends the muck and the mire of it all, it’s noteworthy.

The Interactive Approach: Give it away. Seriously. Have a contest and advertise the hell out of it. Along the same lines as the Doritos Super Bowl Ad campaign, challenge consumers to create a commercial for your product with a thematic tie-in to the ball. Let people across the country vote for their favorite commercial, and give the ball to the lucky winner. It’d be an unprecedented undertaking. Anyone can raffle off a car or a house. But it takes a special company to give away history. Added bonus: everyone who registers for the contest (or the opportunity to vote) provides useful consumer information (buying habits, contact information, demographic stats, etc.).

The Democratic Approach: Create an online poll, and let folks vote to determine what you should do with the ball. Again, consumers register for the right to vote, and in doing so, provide useful information about themselves. Give each registrant a coupon or some other incentive for participating. Perhaps trial samples of “The Clear”.

The Tie-In Approach: Connect the ball with your unique selling proposition. If you’re Fed-Ex, promote the reliability of your service by having the ball delivered all over the world (safe, sound and on time). You’re Brinks? Drop the ball in one of your fire-proof safes, stick it it in a furnace, and film the demonstration. How about Black & Decker? Use the ball to demonstrate the sharpness and precision of your new table saw. Then mail it to Barry Bonds. COD.

Ultimately, the opportunities to give your brand the unfair advantage over the competition are endless. You just have to be willing to take the chance. In his own strange way, Barry would be proud of that.

--M.M. McDermott, Senior Copywriter

EDIT: Bonds hit his 756th homerun on 7 August 2007. Four Horsemen charged the field in celebration as a horde of locusts cleaned out the concession stands.

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01 August, 2007

Mickey Gets the Patch

Last week, the Walt Disney company pledged to ban smoking in all of its family films and discourage smoking in pictures released by Touchstone and Miramax. It’s a mostly symbolic gesture as it’s a rarity to see smoking in mainstream movies these days. Even in 2005’s Thank You for Smoking, a movie centered around a tobacco lobbyist, not a spec of tobacco was smoked. Still, the mighty arm of censorship toasts graciously to another victory.

What if studios had made this decision 70 years ago? Would Humphrey Bogart have been eating a Mars bar? Would John Wayne have gnawed on Wrigley’s Double Mint gum? Would Holly Golightly have traded in her signature cigarette holder for a Tootsie Pop, and have become the early inspiration for a generation of ravers constantly seeking out broken-English-speaking landlords? And the only thing to cue us into who’s the bad guy in a spy movie would have been his French accent.

Perhaps now it’s a different time. When these movies were made, everyone smoked. It was part of the culture, and most people weren’t aware of the many negative effects of smoking. Take this commercial from the 1940s that notes, “More doctors smoke camel than any other cigarette.” Today people are more health conscious, more aware of the dangers of smoking. My many college friends, who used to huddle around the same bench only five feet from the sign that stated, “NO SMOKING WITHIN 30 FEET OF THIS BUILDING,” have kicked the habit for health or monetary reasons. Across the country, cities and states are banning smoking in bars and restaurants. The culture is changing and Disney’s decision reflects this.

According to Disney CEO Robert A. Iger, “The primary reason is that cigarette smoking is a hazard and we should avoid depicting it in movies and on television.” And you lost me.

I’d believe that if they had some sort of track record to back that up. However, Bambi’s mom was shot by a hunter. Hunting is dangerous. Cars was an entire movie centered around characters that drove at unsafe speeds for a living. That’s very dangerous. And the Rocketeer. HELLO! Someone just try and make the case for safety in that Disney movie.

The point is—when you begin to censor, you descend a slippery slope. First it’s smoking. Tomorrow it’s drinking. The next day it’s fast cars. The day after that, open-mouthed kissing (could lead to STDs and the horrible gum disease known as GINGIVITIS). And then Poison will be singing, “Chatting in the Boys Room” and Snoop Dogg will be rapping “Walking down the street with my helmet on, sippin’ on apple juice—with good posture—thinking about visitin’ grandma, provided I don’t use fossil fuels in the process.”

Disney’s ban on smoking in movies is just another way to protect idiots from themselves, like seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws. I always wear a seatbelt because it’s been scientifically proven that you’re more likely to survive a crash if you’re wearing one. Smoking never appealed to me, but between the Truth, YDoYouThink and the countless articles and studies, how could people not know smoking is dangerous?

But eventually everyone makes a decision for themselves, even if it might be unhealthy. Fast food, driving too fast, living in a dangerous city—hell, where are all of the anti-sky diving advocates? (Second-hand smoke is a different subject. But up until 2 years ago, the air quality in Maryland was equivalent to living with a smoker. Why not ban the factories that make this smog instead of not letting my buddy light up a cigarette while we’re busting at some karaoke at our local tavern?)

Censorship has always been dangerous territory. You never want to stop someone from speaking their mind, creating something brilliant or changing the world. However, you’re probably gonna complain when your neighbor spray paints a 15-foot-high mural of a naked Jessica Alba on the front of their house and calls it “art.”

Let the industry censor itself. If a producer feels that a smoking character will cut into its audience and thus its profits, let them change that character. But what if smoking is important to the film? What if you want to show a character is an idiot and associate him with smoking and how stupid it is? Or what if a character is dying of emphysema and wants to reflect on ways she could have changed her life? There are very good reasons to keep smoking in movies that don’t have to do with cowboys or a guy who wears a beret and loves croissants.

But the censorship continues, and culture is the worse for it.

--Captian Awesome, Project Specialist

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