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Over 5,000 messages and counting…My media immersion observation.

MW: Scott, do you have one of those things that counts things?

Scott: What do you mean ‘counts things’?

MW: You know, if you have a lot of things to count, you click it, 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…

Scott: Oh yeah, no.

MW: Kate?

Kate: Nie (she’s Polish)

MW: Ceilese?

Ceilese: What is it?

MW: You know, a clicker. Like if lots of people were running past and you had to keep count.

Ceilese: Oh. No.

MW: Anyone?

Chorus: NO!!!!.

MW finds one at Wal-Mart online: Look, it’s called a Tally Counter! Does anyone live near a Wal-Mart?/?

SFX: crickets

MW: Are you guys telling me no one lives near a Wal-Mart?

Anne Marie: I do.

MW: Great. Can you pick one up? It’s $9.99, but if they have a cheaper one, get it.

Scott: What do you need that for anyway?

MW: To monitor the insanity that is my daily life with the frequency of idiotic conversations like these!

Scott: Oh. Well, let me know how it goes…


7am. I have my first brand interaction of the day with Excedrin Migraine, “Fast Migraine Relief,” to shortstop the crushing headache I’m anticipating this experiment will inflict. I begin clicking my tally counter. After a brief brush with Aim (cavity protection value-priced at $1.99), I unwrap a bar of Dial, which, the package thoughtfully informs me, is newly curved to fit my hand. What they really mean is they carved out a half ounce of product, but charged me the same.

Turning on my TV, I receive an unwelcome message from AT&T: “Press ok for U-verse TV” – code for malfunction. I resolve, as I do every day, to switch to Comcast.

Channel surfing, I encounter 12 on-air personalities – all of whom enjoy brand value in the millions with the possible exception of Willard Scott, who delivers centennial birthday wishes on behalf of Smuckers.  I click for Smuckers (there’s a bumper sticker for you) and briefly consider if, in spite of its enduring and iconic tagline, Smuckers risks relevance by identifying so strongly with centenarians.

I quickly tally up over 60 commercials promoting everything from Humera (7-9am being prime time for big pharma and their gallows humor disclaimers) to Swiffer, “Better clean in half the time.” I’m sold! Product demonstration remains persuasive.

The commercial that engages me is for Target, choreographed to the French song singable by every American who was ever in first grade, Alouette. The ad makes me want to skip through Target’s aisles, tossing things into my cart with gay abandon while singing in French. Is this a wink to the brand’s Francophile nickname ‘Tar-ghay’?

Driving to work, my car’s emblem assures me I am enjoying a ride of sophisticated luxury. My dashboard reminds me of the responsibilities of driving such a machine, i.e., 15 days beyond service and fuel is low. I consider the covenant I made with the dealership to use only premium, but Mobil’s sign signals its stratospheric price. I guiltily choose regular and select my form of payment from the credit card logos on the pump. My Delta Amex prompts the fuel tank to ask if I want a receipt and a brushless carwash. No and No. As I pump gas, I observe my surroundings, my clicker racking up numbers faster than a Vegas slot machine.

Crossing the bridge, I listen to NPR’s pledge drive complete with incentive – a free iPad. It doesn’t stimulate any philanthropic urge. Rather, I speculate on the on-going brand problems of NPR implied by the dangling of an iPad to encourage engagement. NPR gets clicks but no donation. Along my route, I spot four law firm billboards promising justice for the injured…“se habla español!”

In the parking garage, a poster tells me if I carpool, I can enjoy preferred parking. I note there is only one preferred parking space…occupied by a city vehicle.

Starbucks’ window decal informs me that I can have my coffee my way, hot or cold. That seems to lack imagination. I mean cold coffee is just hot…with ice, no? In any case, talk to the hand. Starbucks has ticked me off one too many times.

At my desk, my mail is piled neatly: catalogs, coupons, membership renewals and 4 fur storage postcards, all mailed to a woman (me) who lives in sunny Florida…hmmm.

An envelope from UBS says ‘important information enclosed’ but I’m not falling for that. Since 2009 the only important information enclosed has been that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and taken my portfolio with it. My shiny new New York mag calls out to me with a tantalizing cover story on Xanax, but I resist the temptation because I don’t want to tally the multitude of ads I am sure to encounter.

As media messages in every form mount up, the experiment begins to get to me. Estimates say we are exposed to more than 5,000 per day. I’m not sure if my counter goes that high and I don’t want to injure myself finding out. But the bigger question is one of media literacy. Do all these messages make me do things I shouldn’t? Like eating too many Pringles or frittering the inheritance that I don’t actually have and may never get? As a professional marketer, I can’t ignore my own culpability. But tally-counter ho! The day is young.

My computer boots up and I confront Adage, ProfNet, NY Times, Marketing Profs, Delta, Viagra (?), and a Nigerian who needs me to wire £5m to a bank in Tenerife. (I’ll get right on it).

In a moment of weakness, I pick up Vogue and am 100 media messages deep before I realize the error of my ways and snap it shut. At lunchtime, the office orders pizza from the Grimaldi’s outpost, “The pizza that made the Brooklyn Bridge famous”. Yippee, real NYC pizza!  The message creates big expectations, and the pizza delivers, jeopardizing our relationship with Papa John’s, whose daily promotional prices make it easy to believe that it is, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza”.

By 6pm, I lost count, even with my trusty clicker. The exercise is both amusing and illuminating. Today, there is very little that is not a media message, from the imprint on your daily vitamin, to the red soles of the shoes you wear to dinner, each and every one looking to take another little piece of your heart…


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