Super Bowl Boulevard Is a Corporate Wonderland
Sometimes, we need to be reminded that the world is a fundamentally absurd and silly place; that while there are people out there who command a lot of power and money, those people aren’t generally smarter or less goofy than you or me. For instance, there must have been a moment when there was a presentation, probably in some sleek conference room, about what events should be thrown in honor of the Super Bowl coming to New York City. One of the slides that appeared on the hi-def flatscreen read something like:
THROW A BIG STREET FAIR IN TIMES SQUARE IN LATE JANUARY? INVITE ALL THE BRANDS! (SUSAN PLEASE REWRITE TO MAKE IT SOUND BETTER THX)
And with that, or something like it, the Super Bowl Boulevard Engineered by GMC came into being.
A press release has described the Super Bowl Boulevard as “a series of football-themed experiences that will take over Times Square the week before the big game. Stop by a live concert, snap a photo with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, or race down a specially made toboggan. [sic]” Another way to think of it, via Business Insider, is as a “garish branded hellscape… placed on top of the preexisting garish branded hellscape that is Times Square.” Having wandered around the Boulevard for a couple of hours in the freezing cold on Wednesday night, I can confirm that it is indeed both “football-themed” and “garish.” But calling it a “hellscape” is maybe being a bit unfriendly to the giant, multinational corporations responsible for it. They just want you to have a good time! Look, they brought the Rockettes in to do this:
They also built these giant Roman numerals, which rose from the ground like a heathen idol after an elaborate ceremony that involved not only the Rockettes, but also the Boys Choir of Harlem, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell, and the cast of the musical Jersey Boys:
Oh, did I mention Kevin Bacon’s band, the Bacon Brothers (best known for their hit “Wait, Kevin Bacon Is in a Band? Huh. OK, Good for Him I Guess”) played on Wednesday night? Kevin started off on the bongos:
What If Lawyers Wrote Ads?
Lawyers are to creativity what the Gatling gun was to the Spaniards at San Juan Hill. The amount of human ingenuity that has been killed dead, forever, by attorneys throughout history is impossible to calculate. If you asked IBM’s Watson the question, it would probably melt. But the legal crows weren’t always so powerful. Back in the good old Mad Men days of advertising imagination came before fear of litigation, resulting in some of the best campaigns ever produced.
In the spirit of the freethinking tradition that they strangled, let’s imagine what the world would have been like if lawyers had always operated with their heads stuck halfway into the creative department’s office. Some of our favorite taglines would have been gutted, and advertising would be just as castrated as it is now.
[Lawyer-approved ads are on the right.]
All “lawyer” images by Courtney Nicholas
VW Moon Ad
This ad ran in Life magazine on August 8, 1969, just two weeks after the astronauts of Apollo 11returned safely to Earth. The ad agency obviously had it in the can, ready to run, and probably sent film of it and a back-up ad to Life, just in case of disaster. Today, a DDB lawyer would have added an asterisk to the headline, or just shortened it like so, and slid it back under Bill Bernbach’s door.
Porn Sites Are Paying to Remove Tattoos of Their Logos from Hostgator’s Face
The media keeps telling me that, thanks to the new LA condom laws and the fact that the internet exists, the porn industry is flat broke. But if that’s true, how can they still afford to get their logos tattooed on to my friend Hostgator Dotcom’s body and face?
Hostgator and I got to know each other when I interviewed him about selling his skin as advertising space to porn sites so he could afford to feed his family. After that article was published, one of the companies who had tattooed their logo on to Hostgator’s face decided they felt bad and offered to pay for Hostgator to have all of the tattoos removed. Which proves three things: 1) that online journalism CAN change lives, 2) that people who run internet porn sites are human beings with souls, and 3) there comes a time in every man’s life when he must get the tattoos of porn websites removed from his face.
Anyway, Hostgator emailed me the good news so I thought I’d call him up to congratulate him. It turns out he’s doing great and his kids aren’t starving, but he also has some worrying new plans to make money.
Hostgator with his kids.
VICE: So, great news, man. What happened?
Hotsgator Dotcom: Yeah, so the website cam4.com is going to pay for the tattoo removal on my face. They advertised on my face a long time ago, read the VICE story, and decided they wanted to help me—they’re just doing it to be nice. I had my first laser removal treatment last week.
Did they apologize for getting them done in the first place?
No, they said that they appreciate me advertising for them, but that if I don’t want them any more, then they’re happy to remove them.
How Much Does the Church of Scientology Spend on Advertising?
The Church of Scientology has, for a long time, been putting a lot of money into advertising, most recently with the super expensive-looking Super Bowl ad embedded above and their disastrous attempt at running sponsored content in The Atlantic.
But if you’re one of the five people in the world who doesn’t use Adblock, you might have noticed that they sometimes pop up as the sponsored result when you google things.
So how much are they paying to do this?
I’ll do my best to explain this as quickly as possible, because it’s pretty boring. Here’s how cost-per-click advertising works on Google: a company sets a maximum bid that they’re willing to pay for an internet user to click on one of their ads. These bids are associated with keywords that internet users type when searching. Based on the ad’s relevance to searched keywords and the maximum amount that the advertiser is willing to pay per click, Google determines where to place those ads.
For example, if a dessert company wanted their ads displayed any time a user searches for “ice cream cakes,” it would cost, at the time of writing this article, about $0.60 per click in English-speaking countries.
To figure out how much Scientology pays, I tried to advertise for Scientology myself. I set my maximum bid at one dollar per click and selected multiple keywords involving Scientology. All of my bids were rejected, meaning that the person who is currently paying to advertise on those terms is paying more than a dollar per click.
In order to advertise on the first page of Google’s search results for Scientology-related searches, I would have to shell out a minimum of three dollars per click for “creed of the Church of Scientology.”
I Tattooed Porn Sites on My Face So My Kids Wouldn’t Starve
In 1990, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, dreaming of a future in which all barriers to communication were torn down and people everywhere could bask in the glory of an interconnected global world. Two decades later, a man had the URLs of multiple porn websites tattooed on his face. It seems as if the internet has reached its logical conclusion.
Call me a prude, but it’s always been a general rule of mine to not tattoo pornographic websites on to my face. But for Hostgator Dotcom—née Billy Gibby—it didn’t take a second thought. Faced with unemployment and a pending eviction, he did what any good father would do: Sold his body, face, and legal name as advertising space to over 40 companies. In that sense, it’s a pretty sad story, and one that’s indicative of how few options America’s poor are faced with these days.
Anyway, when I heard about Hostgator, I thought I should get in touch because, a) I wanted to give him some more coverage to help him make more money to feed his kids, and b) I wanted to know what it feels like to have “Pornhub.com” tattooed on your face. Turns out it doesn’t feel that great.
VICE: Why, Hostgator? Why?
Hostgator Dotcom: Well, I used to just sell tattooed advertising space on my body, but no one was really buying it. I was laid off at the job I had, my family and I were gonna be evicted, and I needed a way for us to survive financially. I didn’t want to do anything illegal and I didn’t have any friends I could borrow money from. I looked for jobs but couldn’t get one, and I couldn’t allow my wife and children to be homeless, so I thought I’d sacrifice my face so that they could have a place to live. I didn’t want to do it—I really didn’t—but I also didn’t want my kids to be homeless.
That’s very noble of you. How many people are you supporting?
Five kids and my wife.
And I’m guessing Hostgator isn’t your given name?
No, I sold my name to Hostgator.com for $15,000 (£9,966).
Wow, I might have to sell my name if you make that kind of money.
I’m actually trying to sell my name again right now. I’m trying to get in The Guinness Book of World Recordsfor the world’s longest name. So if Golden Palace buys my name, then I’ll be Goldenpalacedotcom Hostgatordotcom.
And it flows so nicely off the tongue. Doesn’t that breach your contract with Hostgator, though?
No, because I still have Hostgator.com in my name.
True. What are some of the websites you have on your face?
What do your wife and kids think about that?
My kids are still young and they accept me for me. My wife is OK with it, but she wants me to get the ones on the face removed, so that’s what I’m working towards now.
So you regret getting the porn sites tattooed on your face now?
Yeah. I did it for a good reason, but I wasn’t thinking rationally at the time. I have bipolar disorder, which I’m not trying to use as an excuse, but I wasn’t thinking as rationally as I am today. I take medication now and I’m more rational.
ExtaMax is humiliation porn: viciously misogynistic, unforgiving, and bleak. It preys on the desperate in a way that is so blatantly contrived, but also brutally effective and constructed like every other infomercial: Here we are, alone, in the dark, thinking about what’s wrong with us, listening to a confident woman holding a microphone and telling us unequivocally that we are defective and hopeless. They make statements that are dire and absolute; there are magnified images of the spectacular, craterous pores of a person who is not you but who is maybe sort of you.
There is such a shocking, vivid element of the ridiculous in infomercials because they are serving this to the delusional, to the helpless, to the obese, the naive, the damaged, the heathens, the women with psoriasis, the men with shriveled, runty dicks. Infomercials reduce you to nothing so that you will need their products to survive. We’re here with Jennifer, whose face looks like a pastrami sandwich. Jennifer, would you like to not have a face like a pastrami sandwich? If you have watched television after two in the morning then you have been relentlessly reminded that you are wrong. All of you: your bald head, your posture, your breath, your epidermis. Delirious televangelists thundering like Lenin at the podium, telling you your attitude is wrong, too, but that he will save you. It will only take 26 minutes + shipping and handling. Infomercials are their own revolution, wise and inspiring only in that their audience needs them to be.
Brain-computer interface devices are essentially helmets that allow users to control computers with their thoughts. Last August, a group of researchers at the USENIX Security Symposium used this technology to extract security PINs from people’s minds using off-the-shelf BCI technology and published their findings. But Daniele Perito of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the paper’s authors, told us not to worry about our identities being mindfucked out of our heads before being transferred to a memory card and sold on the black market. Instead, this technology will mostly be used for profiling and advertising. Thanks, Daniele, we feel a lot better now.
VICE: Should we be scared that you can hack people’s brains?
Daniele Perito: We can’t make somebody do something they don’t want to do. The only thing we did was to get people to wear this helmet and hook them up to a machine, and then show them images and see if they are familiar with them by measuring their signals of recognition. From that you can infer certain information.
Ummmmmm, like people’s PINs?
We asked our participants to choose a PIN, and then we said: “We’re going to show you some numbers. At the end of the experiment, you will be asked to enter the first number of your PIN.” This basically forces them to think about the first number of their PIN, so when they saw these flashing digits, they had a higher recollection when they saw the first digit of their PIN.
Can this technology also extract information from someone’s mind?
We’ve had partial success, but our experiments were very controlled. Participants sat in front of a screen and watched flashing images, but nobody is going to do that [in real life]. Now we’re thinking of ways in which this could be made subtler, so that you could be probed for hours without realizing it.
That sounds really creepy. How does it work?
Once you see and recognize a stimulus, we can measure it. We’re trying to bring the display time low enough so that it’s barely noticeable at all, to see if the reaction is still there. This is not going to be dressed up as an attack as much as user profiling. When you’re browsing the internet, many parties are going to have questions about you—your status, your age, your gender, your mood, what you’re interested in—and we can track that.
It sounds like a very intrusive but effective advertising tool.
It’s going to be a while, but I think it is going to be much easier to get certain information like someone’s political preference or sexual orientation.
Want more weirdness? Check these out:
The Cat Offers Itself
Aliens Do It Better
William Gibson’s new novel, Zero History, completes a trilogy that began with 2003’s Pattern Recognition and continued with 2007’s Spook Country.
In these three works, Gibson explores the dark, dark world of marketing, advertising, and trend forecasting. Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty scary stuff.
Read the rest at Vice Magazine: WILLIAM GIBSON - Viceland Today