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Playing “Pete Campbell” in the South

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By which I mean, of course, pretending that one is Pete Campbell in “The Fog” and discovering a trend long after it began trending and figuring out how to exploit it.   Because I haven’t been back to or through Lousiana in over two years, yesterday I was taken aback by the different advertising environment that confronted me on the trip from Houston, TX to Natchez, MS.  First, the signage now works according to the general principle:

  • if it’s not for a gas station, it’s for a fast food place
  • if it’s not for a fast food place, it’s for a bail bondsman
  • if it’s not for a bail bondsman, it’s for a strip club
  • if it’s not for a strip club, it’s for THE LAST ADULT ENTERTAINMENT STORE FOR 70 MILES (as the one sign I remember exactly read).

Those are, it seems, the only growth industries along the Texas to Louisiana stretch of the I-10 corridor … except I also happened to be listening to the Saints game on an AM station from New Orleans, and the commercials played during it were of an entirely different variety.  You had:

  • a waste disposal company with the slogan “our business stinks, but it’s picking up”
  • a scrap recycling center that bragged that it’s been in the recycling business since 1917
  • a paint company that boasted that it not only sells 1,000 different shades of green, but that its paints are environmentally friendly
  • a restaurant that noted that it was still purchasing its shrimp from green-friendly, local producers despite the BP spill

I don’t want to draw any general conclusions about the advertising environs, but if we assume that, like Campbell, these people know what they’re doing, Louisiana has become an incredibly strange place: everyone’s fat and in jail or going to be for crimes committed at or near a strip club, but they’re all committed environmentalists. 

That last bit’s the kicker: I was listening to a football game on an AM station when I was being bombarded with advertising designed to appeal to people who care about the environment.  I knew the oil spill had changed the minds of many people I’d grown up with — Facebook’s handy for tracking such trends — but I hadn’t realized how profoundly the environmental disaster had impacted their consciousness.  Especially considering that AM radio is some of the lowest hanging fruit in the advertising world …

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