Donald-Trump-Donkey-Hotey

For all his bluster, bombast and buffoonery Donald Trump is currently leading the pack of candidates for the Republican nomination to President of the United States. Whether Trump goes down in history as a freakish sideshow or actually becomes the GOP’s chosen candidate only time will tell.

Rather than get into his competency to rule (I bet he’d like that phrase), let’s discuss something that not only differentiates Trump from the rest of the field but also from every person who’s ever run for President. What I’m talking about is the free advertising his numerous and conspicuous properties afford him, especially in New York and Chicago.

The Trump Tower(s) are brash as the man himself. The ostentatious letters of his name adorn both buildings and are seen by millions. And lets not forget his TV show, The Apprentice, which has gone on for over a decade. It goes without saying that the slavish 24/7 “news” coverage of this guy overpowers whatever ad dollars the competition has.

This means, unlike any candidate I’m aware of, Donald Trump has some incredibly valuable media behind him. He needn’t ever run an ad for himself (though I’m sure he will and I can’t wait!) and he’d still have more exposure than any other candidate.

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Edifice as billboard…

Wishful thinkers might argue his garishly named buildings will only hurt the man, demonstrating his pretentiousness and vulgarity. Yet consider Trump’s biggest argument on behalf of himself: that he’s a billionaire and won’t be swayed by other people’s money. Like it or not, this resonates with a lot of people. The buildings reinforce Trump’s self-made image, making the signs highly persuasive.

Ironically, Chicago and New York City are huge Democratic strongholds. How infuriating it must be for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to see Trump’s name towering over his city. As it is, the Mayor has already publicly denounced Trump’s ‘ugly’ sign, calling for its removal.

Yet, it remains. As does the candidate.

Author’s note: I first wrote a version of this post last summer, when I’d hoped Trump’s campaign would implode by his own hubris. Alas, that has not happened.

 

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Lots of scuttlebutt over the use of Nazi imagery on several NYC subway cars to promote Amazon’s new show, The Man in the High Castle, which imagines our world had Hitler won World War 2. The campaign incited many riders to complain and inevitable criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, among others – and it did so without even using Nazism’s most reviled symbol of all, the Swastika.

I’m not surprised by the furor (no pun intended) but I’m not deterred by it either. Propaganda and advertising are supposed to illicit a reaction. That this campaign mixes the two is not gratuitous. The world would indeed be a scary place if Nazi’s were running it. That’s what the show is about. And that’s the point to this campaign. Copy ties it all together. But not before you’ve been flummoxed by the images.

I have spoken numerous times to marketing communications classes as well as at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes about the power of propaganda and its influence in modern advertising. I even use Nazi imagery as an example. It’s kind of a pet subject of mine. Ever since creating the “curiously strong mints” campaign for Altoid’s, I’ve respected the awesome power of signage. Out of home media – be it billboard, poster or experiential, when it’s done well, when it becomes iconic, is a game changer. A painted wall becomes a neighborhood landmark. There’s a semi-permanence to the medium that film and video can never possess.

Throwing stones in glass houses? One might question the campaign’s location. New York City is home to a great many Jews, many of them direct descendants of those who were killed by the Nazi regime. Maybe such images should never be foisted upon them -or anyone- in a public place (especially a railway car). It’s a fair argument. Even in today’s terror-ridden landscape, Nazi Germany still holds a special place in the cellar of evil. Its infamous symbols and propaganda demonstrate this evil with searing intensity.

That said, I’m all in on this idea. Precisely because of just how nervous it makes everyone. That means it’s working.

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Trumping Chicago…

For all his bluster, bombast and buffoonery Donald Trump is currently leading a massive pack of candidates for the Republican nomination to President of the United States. Whether Trump goes down in history as a freakish sideshow or actually becomes the GOP’s chosen candidate only time will tell.

Rather than get into his competency to rule (I bet he’d like that phrase), let’s discuss something that not only differentiates Trump from the rest of the field but also from every person who’s ever run for President. What I’m talking about is the free advertising his numerous and conspicuous properties afford him, especially in New York and Chicago.

The Trump Tower(s) are brash as the man himself. The ostentatious letters of his name adorn both buildings and are seen by millions. And lets not forget his TV show, The Apprentice, which has gone on for over a decade.

This means, unlike any candidate I’m aware of, Donald Trump has some incredibly valuable media behind him. He needn’t ever run an ad for himself (though I’m sure he will) and he’d still have more exposure than any other candidate.

Wishful thinkers might argue his garishly named buildings will only hurt the man, demonstrating his pretentiousness and vulgarity. Yet consider Trump’s biggest argument on behalf of himself: that he’s a billionaire and won’t be swayed by other people’s money. Like it or not, this resonates with a lot of people. The buildings reinforce Trump’s self-made image, making the signs highly persuasive.

Ironically, Chicago and New York City are huge Democratic strongholds. How infuriating it must be for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to see Trump’s name towering over his city. As it is, the Mayor has already publicly denounced Trump’s ‘ugly’ sign, calling for its removal.

Yet, it remains. As does the candidate.

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So Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) puts up a billboard in Times Square. It’s cute. Plays off of the obvious reason why people would traffic a site like Pornhub: to masturbate. For those unawares (all 3 of you), Pornhub curates and displays thousand of Porno videos, categorized every which way you can imagine. People go there, choose a video that suits their fancy, and well you can guess the rest. Oh, the horror.

Look, I’ve got nothing new to say about pornography. It’s been around since the beginning of mankind. Have you seen some of the content meticulously etched upon the interior walls of the Pyramids? Pharaoh so horny. We all are. And looking at pictures or video of people having sex is a very popular way of satiating one’s sex drive. Very popular. Every day, I’m guessing as many people go to Pornhub and myriad other such sites than visit CNN, Gawker or Gods of Advertising. Combined.

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Oh, Mummy!

Porn was always popular. The Internet made it, if you’ll pardon the expression, explosively so. No more stealing and hiding dad’s old Hustler’s under the mattress. No more skulking into a peep show. No more fast forwarding the VCR. All one has to do was open his (or her) laptop.

I’m old enough to remember the advent and subsequent collapse of the VCR. For about 15 years, videocassettes ruled the world. And pornography entered what many connoisseurs refer to, as it’s golden age. Not counting the obligatory college outing to Behind The Green Door, the VCR is where I watched my first porno video. There was a shop on every corner. The only problem was you had to go behind a red curtain in order to procure your, ahem, film. Pornography still managed to be the number one seller in home video entertainment. I don’t have the numbers but I know from reading up that porn movies kept a lot of mom and pop video stores open for business. Not Star Wars. Not Back to the Future. But hardcore pornography. These video stars all but killed the porno mag.

And in turn the Internet killed the video store. Online pornography flourishes like blades of grass in the suburbs. Or should I say blades of grass flourish like online pornography in the suburbs?

What this essay is about, then, is not the fact that this mildly provocative billboard got put up but that it was soon taken down “for unknown reasons.” Why are we so afraid of our own sexuality? On the surface I get it. I’ve got three daughters. If my wife is taking them to Times Square I’m guessing she’d rather not explain what Pornhub is. Not that they would ask. Not with all those scantily clad Calvin Klein and Fredericks of Hollywood models staring down at them.

We have such a f-cking double standard in this country. Frontal nudity warrants an NC17 from the MPAA. Viciously depicting the killing of hundreds of people in a film and it will receive a ho-hum PG. The Pornhub billboard showed neither. It was a silly pun and a pair of hands. Below it was and likely still is a gaudy vodka ad. Booze has caused a lot more problems than pornography, let alone masturbating. Trust me.

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“He who is without sin…”

Honestly, it’s more than a gross double standard; it’s hypocrisy. Made even more ironic given Times Square used to be the peep show capital of America. I’m guessing to a man that every person who had anything to do with taking down Pornhub’s billboard has gotten it up to Pornhub as well. What did Christ say about casting stones? Oh yeah, we always forget.

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Ever since helping give rise to the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids, I’ve been a huge fan of outdoor advertising. Especially posters, propaganda and signs. Yet, maybe the awe for it goes back even further than Altoids…

Case in point a small excerpt from my keynote presentation to the Outdoor Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC), which I gave earlier today:

…I grew up in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Nice now, but when I was a kid the area was rife with gang violence, in particular a turf war between the Latin Eagles and the Latin Kings. Their flamboyant signs permeated my neighborhood, haunting the alleyways, literally threatening me from around every corner. Marking their territory, if you will pardon the expression…

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Marking one’s territory has always been humanly relevant.

Crude as it sounds brands exert power marking their territory. We are here, they say. And we mean business. You cannot resist us! Granted, brands don’t jump you in the alley and take your bus money (not yet, anyway) but that doesn’t make my crude metaphor any less accurate. Signs and symbols have always been used to convey messages. For good. Evil. And everything in between. And OOH has done so for a longer stretch of time than all the other media combined.