Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Transit ads to make your eyes sing.

Like it or not, advertising is a big part of our visual environment.

San Francisco is a city that advertisers love to target. We are trendsetters, I suppose, so the ads often get quite aggressive in order to capture our jaded attentions.
I've seen pillars mounted with palm fronds (selling what, I can't remember), lavish inside views of the first class cabins of some upstart airline, all kinds of eye-catching stuff. And I have to admit, as much as I resent having my attention grabbed for profit, a lot of it is fun and playful.

But that's downtown. Up at Castro, your eyes are much more likely to be met by the sad empty face of a meth addict warning you not to follow in his footsteps.

The Castro is an international destination for gay men, and yet our visual environment is a long series of sad, unhappy, preachy, demeaning advertisements designed to remind us of how precarious our lives are, how we are one short step from misery and pain.
Well, at least until you emerge onto the street level, and your eyes are met with a series of bulges and slick colors designed to turn your money into alcohol.

So, when I came across these ads this morning on my way to work, I was happily surprised. I've seen these same ads on the BART, but in this context, they are obviously designed to appeal to a gay (male) audience, first by their location, and particularly because of the color scheme, the lollipop bright red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet rainbow flag of smiling children, with a heavy dose of bubblegum pink tying it all together. These ads aren't cheap, the production values are high, and they spent a good bit of effort custom sizing everything for this particular space.

So I find myself wondering two really different things:
First, with the evangelical Right itching for a fight over adoption, why did decide to take the risk of catering to gay potential adoptive parents in such a blatant manner?

But the thing that's really got my head spinning is this. These ads are so different from any health-oriented ads I've seen in San Francisco. The first obvious difference is that they are up-beat. The second thing is that they are asserting quite forcefully that we have talents and capacities that are desperately needed.

Now, I don't know exactly what an ad campaign about gay men's health that was up-beat and urged us to exercise our talents and capacities would look like. But I'm hungry to see it.

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