Adwatching in Chicago

I spent Thanksgiving week in Chicago and got a lot of CTA public transportation riding in, on the El and the bus, not to mention a few insane cab rides. (I thought the cab drivers in Seattle really didn’t care — now I know what it means to have no regard for safety or human life.)It never fails – big cities just have the best outdoor campaigns. All the new products and concept products launch in the cities. Consumers in major metro areas have access to and knowledge of products and ideas that will never make it as far as Portland. Seattle gets some, but Chicago is another thing completely. It’s got to be a factor of efficient CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and urban early-adopter-opinion-leadership.Anyway — BMW has an intriguing outdoor ad running on several of the buses and stretchy-buses in Chicago that simply label the bus “This is an SUV” with the BMW logo and the promotional NoBehemoths.com Web address. I admit I thought it was a clever way to take advantage of an unwitting city bus, and I had to check it out. Copywriters out there, take a look – while the car looks like a Buick on steroids, the site concept is a straight cop from the Visual Thesaurus framework.But the El advertising was the real interesting one. It seemed like everything is either targeted toward the consumer desires of commuters, like for mp3 players (more on that in a second), headphones, more headphones, and coffee, or toward the compassion of commuters with entreaties for social programs, halfway houses, charities and benefits.But it was the litter of teaser ads and full-body shots of the Microsoft Zune that really got me with their tagline “Music the way it wants to be” ….Nice. A more ironic statement could not be written about the most skeptically awaited consumer technology product of the year.With the jury of public opinion more or less in that Apple has established market dominance in the mp3 player market with its inimitably gorgeous and intuitive iPod, it seems not so much cheeky as myopic that Microsoft would assert the Zune this way. I don’t begrudge Microsoft for finally getting its horse into the race for good measure — hey, Redmond is really an empire of consumer-and-enterprise technology — but the race has already been run.If my music knows what’s good for it, it’ll stay in my iPod and on my hard drive and in my CD collection and on my vinyl if it has any say in the matter. Not download itself from a special store that no one has heard of so it can go to a Zune player that only lets me beam it to other Zunes for up to 3 days or 3 plays, whichever comes first. I wish them well, but I think the marketing folks at Microsoft have been sipping a little too much of their own Koolade.

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