The problem with Jackson

September 3, 2009

potato_art

So, every morning for the last week or so when I’ve decided to take the Jackson tunnel from the Red Line stop to the Blue Line stop, I have been greeted by an ad campaign in the tunnel. It’s an ad for Lays chips. And this is noteworthy because there are 19 double-sided billboards along this tunnel—virtually every few steps—which means I have the potential to be inundated with 38 brand messages in one 2 or 3-minute walk. I am never greeted by an ad campaign in the tunnel; I am showered with at least 10 repeating messages which I casually ignore and likely subconsciously file away. Which reminds me, I could sure go for some Starbucks, the country’s #1 best coffee! I wonder whether they’ve started delivering yet. Let me check Grubhub.com, where I can discover who delivers!

Yeah. It all filters in.

Lays bought every billboard in the tunnel. Both sides. The ad campaign with which Lays has covered the subway tunnel a whopping 38 times is as follows: Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Just the billboard, though.

Vague the first time you read it. This is the city. Potatoes generally aren’t grown in the heart of the Loop, to my knowledge. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Okay, still odd upon second reading. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Cryptic, now. What are they driving at? Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Oooookaaaay, now I start to get paranoid. This tunnel has begun to stretch out before me like a bad trip. How close are their fucking potatoes grown? Why? Why should we care? Where are the potatoes?

Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

I glance anxiously behind me. Are the potatoes following me? Giant spuds tiptoeing, sneaking up behind?

Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Now I begin to regret skipping that shower this morning because I was running late. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. I envision potatoes sprouting out of my austral regions, out of my ears, on the back of my neck, vines creeping out of my sleeve. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Dirt clinging stubbornly to my ankles and under my fingernails. What the hell are they talking about??? I’m suddenly way creeped out by Lays, and I don’t want their dirty city potato chips. If they are, in fact, grown closer than I may think, seeing as I live here in the city, they’re probably laden with glass shards, cigarette butts, gum, and traces of PCP. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Leave me alone, billboards!!

And then I discover. They are supposed to have placed (though it is entirely absent from the Jackson tunnel) an image of potatoes growing through the ceiling of the subway, so it looks like they’re growing over you. They’re trying to make their brand seem local and appealingly tongue-in-cheek. Ohhhhhhhh.

Uh, hey guys, next time you pay for 38 billboard advertisements in a prime location, don’t forget to put up the part that makes it all not seem frightening, menacing, or darkly ominous. Thanks.

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