Now I know why we need meditation — there are demands for our attention everywhere. I realized this rather suddenly the other day when I entered a restaurant restroom and found a television screen implanted in the urinal.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but it was my first restroom television urinal experience and I’d been looking forward to a brief moment of mindless relief. Instead I was seeing something about climate change. At least I think that’s what it was — it was hard to give it my full attention.
Looking at it later — yes, I took a picture of a urinal — I had to wonder if the message was ironic. The screen says: “Water sustains industry.” The fixture was filled with ice. What did this mean?
Actually, after I’d had a chance to think about it, the only truly shocking thing about this was that there wasn’t a Bloomberg commercial — “I’m Mike Bloomberg and I approve this urination.”
Reality is coming closer and closer to twentieth century science fiction. Philip K. Dick had commercials chasing us on the freeways. Ray Bradbury had propaganda filling the walls of homes. And now there are unwanted messages — both true and false — almost everywhere.
But not quite everywhere. Marketers, propagandists and news outlets are missing some important audiences and in this election year they could be critical. I have suggestions.
Outhouses and confessionals are obviously untapped screen sites. So are judges’ benches. There’s a lot of down time in courtrooms and these are captive audiences. Discussions in chambers don’t have to be boring for everyone else. What a great place for lawyer advertising! Or imagine watching Judge Judy during a break in your trial.
Cars. I know that sounds dangerous, but consider all the down time — i.e., not actual driving time — you spend in cars. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam or sitting at a red light, you have time to look at a screen. (“I’m Mike Bloomberg and I approve this stop sign.”) There’s no reason why a smart screen can’t detect red lights and crossing guards and then send you a message.
The top part of your monitor. Just because you’re “working” doesn’t mean you can’t handle a little more input.
Pillows. Just because you’re sleeping doesn’t mean your subconscious isn’t available for entertainment or persuasion. I can definitely see this happening in hotels. People with expense accounts need suggestions for using them.
Dinner plates. Restaurants could make more money — or even reduce menu prices to generate business — by installing screens in flatware for commercials. Think of the fun you’ll have pouring ketchup on faces you don’t like.
We have a lot to look forward to.
Sob story. Ask and ye shall receive. A couple of weeks ago I encouraged you to come up with creative litigation against the Houston Astros and/or Boston Red Sox over cheating at baseball, and sure enough, it’s happened.
It’s a little weird, but it definitely happened, it’s creative, and best of all, it generated publicity.
I’m speaking, of course, of the suit filed by former Major League pitcher Mike Bolsinger who claims his Major League career ended after pitching part of one inning against those sign-stealing Astros.
It’s not easy being a professional cynic, especially when you’re looking at such an appealing and simple tale, but … really? A guy’s career is over because of one bad inning? Was he a wonderful pitcher in every other game?
Let’s to go to the Major League stats for Bolsinger: a 6.31 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched in 2017. In 2016, his ERA was 6.83. If you’re not familiar with baseball-speak, that’s not very good. Was he pitching exclusively against the Astros during that time?
You might think so. Here’s what USA Today reported: “The Houston Astros wronged a lot of people, in a lot of ways.
“But the damage they did to Mike Bolsinger — to his career and to his whole life — was particularly harsh….”
Here’s the lead sentence from CNN: “One bad game against the Houston Astros in 2017 cost relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger his career.”
Did it? Not even the lawsuit says that. It says he went on to become an All-Star pitcher in Japan in 2018 and “is currently a free agent hoping to secure a job in the United States for the 2020 season.”
Ah. Motivation for attention. Would it be extra-cynical of me to think the lawyers who filed this were hoping for some attention too?
The lawsuit — even though it’s not a class action — asks for $31 million from the Astros’s World Series bonuses to be given to charity. Which raises the question: Why isn’t this a class action on behalf of all the players who lost salary because their numbers went down against one team?
Stay tuned. There’s more creativity to come.
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