My friend and fellow backpacker Jason recently posted this short video of his morning commute, and I wanted to share it with you to illustrate the extent to which we are bombarded daily with advertising. In case you are wondering, the answer is yes – Jason knows his windshield is cracked. One of the billboards may even have trumpeted the answer to his problem (Safelight Repair, Safelight Replace! – See what I did there?). But that is a job for the weekend, instead of doing something memorable.
On one unpleasantly long ribbon of concrete, I counted more than forty ugly, hundred-foot tall posts holding messages wider and taller than your average IMAX theater screen, all screaming in Technicolor, “Get your stuff here! We gotta move these goods, folks!” It is a far cry from the sacred solitude I found as I stood next to Buzzard Rock on Whitetop in southwestern Virginia while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. While a handful of hikers approached and left during that memorable lunch stop, the spot commanded a reverence I’ve seldom found in cathedrals or the library. It seemed more appropriate to whisper than to shout.
In my upcoming book “Small Slow & Happy” I quote ad agency CEO Kinda Kaplan Thaler: “We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere.”
I hope she never finds Whitetop.
If you had your ‘druthers, where would you rather be, on the concrete ribbon being assaulted by billboards, or whispering on Whitetop? What change would it take to make that possible?