Thursday, October 27, 2005

Something Noxious This Way Comes

It’s been some time since I’ve critiqued an ad in this space. Today, I can not help but do so.

The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association ran a full page ad in today's SJ-R encouraging people to oppose a total smoking ban in Springfield. They attempt to do so by telling us that we're better off with smokers congregating in bars than lingering outside of our homes.

If this ad is to be believed, my quiet neighborhood nestled in our modest Midwestern town will transform itself into New York City’s famed Meatpacking District, with trendy club goers congregating outside my house, reveling raucously until the wee hours of the morning, and littering scads of cigarette butts down into the grates that the city apparently plans to install along the street so that street sweepers won’t be able to whisk them away. “For the love of God”, I suppose that I am being enticed to say, “don’t destroy the habitat of these displaced packs of smokers and force them to migrate beneath the window of our son's nursery.”

The one argument against a smoking ban that seems to be holding any sway at all with non-smokers is that businesses should be allowed to be self-determined in such matters. But they don’t pursue that line of reasoning. Instead, they want to try and scare us with a “Night of the Coughing Dead” scenario. Like most horror movies, the effect of this ad is more comical than frightening.

Obviously, a smoking ban in bars and restaurants will force smokers outdoors where they will instinctively and irresponsibly litter their butts. But how is this a reasonable argument against a smoking ban? Allowing 16 year-olds to drink legally in bars would reduce the number of empties that get tossed curbside before the teens return home, but that is hardly a compelling reason for lowering the drinking age.

Another problem with the message delivered here is that it admits that smoking is a dirty, disgusting habit and that no sensible person would want to be around it. Yet on its Web site, one of the groups behind the ad is adamant that smokers and non-smokers can continue to live harmoniously in bars and restaurants.

It's standard practice that when advocating for a certain cause that those supporting the cause be portrayed in a flattering, or at the very least, a sympathetic manner. Perhaps that proved too daunting a task in this case. Still, depicting smokers as a ravenous scourge that would be unleashed upon the city, leaving filth and muck in its wake, is a pretty curious way to sway people's attitudes.

Besides sending a dubious message, the ad itself is of a very poor ilk. The layout looks as if it was done in Word and it contains no design concepts that would make it appealing.

The picture quality is terrible. My first reaction was that this was intentional. I thought that the art director was attempting to visually convey the blurry haze our street corners will be shrouded in once smokers are forced to descend upon the outdoors in mass. Then I went to the Web site mentioned in the ad and discovered that the images are stills taken from a streaming video. I can only assume that the high cost of cigarettes has eaten into their advertising budget, forcing them to run a full-page ad that looks as if it were designed by a first-year receptionist student.*

As I have opined here before, I could be convinced to support some type of compromise on this issue, provided that smokers get a significantly shorter end of the butt. I'm decidedly less inclined to do so after this pathetic little scare campaign. Just as it's hard to find symphathy for the slasher victim who refuses to leave the house despite the carnage that surrounds her, I can't commiserate with those who can't read the "No Smoking" sign upon the wall and threaten the very behavior that contributes to their ostracism in the first place.

*This is by no means intended as a slam against receptionists. It’s just that they aren’t exactly noted for their graphic design abilities and they have been known to create some pretty horrendous Christmas Party announcements using Word and some third-rate clipart.


Anonymous said...

Also that same lame arguement about butts being thrown on the ground. How about some butt recepticles on the outside so they can throw the butts in there instead of littering??? Or maybe that is too much work for a smoker to handle. I say too bad, I don't want to go to a bar and walk my way through a fog back of secondhand smoke.

Anonymous said...

That should say fog bank.

Monkey Boy said...

How about the owner of the "Funny Bone" whining that 80% of his customers smoke? I'm not sure that even 80% of the customers at "Dude's Saloon" or "Coonrod's" smoke. Picture 80 out of 100 people smoking in a building. Maybe, but not since 1955.

What a joke. Bassford is a boob.