Point

Point/Counterpointpatriotism Oct 3, 2001

Outdoor Advertising Is A Blight On Our Society

By Karen McClary

"The land of the free and the home of the brave"? More like the land of the Stay Free maxipad and the home of the Whopper. America may be blessed with purple mountain majesties, but these days, odds are pretty good that those majestic purple mountains are blocked by a giant, ugly billboard for Diet Coke.

It's bad enough that we're bombarded with advertising in our homes, at the movies, in magazines, and on TV. But now, even the great outdoors isn't safe from the crass commercialism of corporate America. Soon, all of nature will be sponsored. I can see it now: "These bison have been brought to you by Kodak."

The billboard, an unnecessary staple of U.S. highways, has become such a part of the American landscape that most motorists don't even notice them. Many think that not consciously registering a billboard's existence is the same as a billboard not existing. Conscious or not, your brain stores the visual information it takes in, perhaps motivating you to buy a product you saw while driving to dear old Grandma's house.

What's worse, many of these billboards are as tasteless as they are intrusive. Take a recent ad for Cinnamon Altoids I spotted while driving on I-75. It featured a drawing of a bustier-wearing Bettie Page look-alike so scantily clad, it would have been classified as pornography only a few decades ago. How are parents supposed to raise their kids right when it's impossible to shield them from images like this? At least parents can actively monitor the TV shows and movies their children watch. Not billboards.

It's bad enough that corporations are poisoning our air, water, and land. But turning every mile of our nation's roads into an eyesore? That just might be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Counterpoint

I Just Wanted To Tell The Nice People About The Yogurt

By A Yoplait Yogurt Billboard

I lead a simple life. I sit outside in the sun and rain and do what a billboard is supposed to do, what the Yoplait people made me for. I tell the nice people about yogurt.

People enjoy Yoplait yogurt. It's an important source of calcium. I show people enjoying yogurt. I show it to the nice people in cars. Sometimes they look. Sometimes they don't. I don't care. I have a job to do. I do the job well. I'm the best billboard on the highway. People look at me the most. I always tell the nice people about how good Yoplait yogurt is for you. Not like other billboards that tell the nice people about not-nice things. Things I don't even want to talk about. I'm a good billboard.

So why do some of the nice people not like me? Lady In Red Car, she doesn't like me. I've done nothing to her. Why does she always shake her fist at me? Why does she always glare at me when she drives by? Why does she put her hand over her daughter's eyes when she is going past me? Yogurt is good. It has lots of calcium. It also has acidophilus. That's an active culture that helps people digest better.

Maybe Lady In Red Car is mad because she doesn't eat enough Yoplait yogurt. Maybe another billboard fell on Lady In Red Car, and now she hates all billboards. Maybe she hates the Absolut vodka billboard on the other side of the highway, and she can't tell us apart. She never says why she's mad at me. She just is.

I'm scared. Last night, some bad people came with a ladder and covered the Ford Explorer billboard. I'm scared they're going to cover me next. Scared they're going to cover up the yogurt and the message about Yoplait yogurt. What if they write bad words on me like they did on the Fred's Furs billboard a few months ago? I don't like telling nice people bad words. I'm not a bad billboard. I'm not like the billboard down the road that tells people to listen to the mean man on the radio or shows people in their underpants. I would not like it if they came and covered me. Then, I am only half a billboard. Then, I am sad.

Maybe one day, I will be a big billboard and cover the entire side of a building. Then, the bad people won't bother me. I will be so big that when they come, they will look at me and say, "Billboard too big to paint. We afraid. Run away!"

If they run away, I won't laugh. I don't like scaring the bad people or anybody else. I only like telling people about Yoplait yogurt and other good things like a billboard is supposed to. That is what makes billboards happy.