Kids Are A Captive Audience With Ambient Advertising

captivity.jpgMar. 2007 (retro post) Don’t worry, I’d never show the billboard, but let me get this straight:

The L.A. Times reports that kids and teens were horrified by outdoor ads of grotesque torture and objectification of women used to promote the release of Lionsgate films’ CaptivityBut now we’re supposed to cheer, because the gruesome signage is being removed and wasn’t SUPPOSED to run in the first place?

Times writer Steve Lopez said, “I thought about ordering up a photo of the billboard for this column, but trust me, you don’t want to see it. I felt like I needed to take a shower just from having been within a hundred feet of it.”

Lopez quotes one parent of an 11-year old who said, “It’s the kind of thing that goes straight into your subconscious.” Her friend added, “The message is that this is what you do with women…You kidnap them, you confine them, you torture them and you kill them.” Ugh.

Two heinous issues here: #1: Media and marketing’s negligent disregard for kids’ exposure to ambient advertising (ever try to ‘turn off’ a billboard stuck in traffic?) and #2: industry’s unethical denial.

Sure, CNN reports that after a week they’re taking down the 30 billboards in L.A. and 1400 taxi tops in N.Y.; but not before tormenting the general public and giving kids nightmares. Kind of like MTV’s guerilla marketing for Err(or) terrorized Beantown and got global publicity before pulling the plug. (at least that was blinky instead of bloody)

The 4-panel promo featured “Abduction, in which a terrified young blond woman has either a gloved or black hand over her face, as if she’s being kidnapped. Confinement, in which she’s behind a chain-link fence and appears to be poking a bloody thumb through the fence. Torture, in which she is flat on her back, her face in a white cast, with red tubes that resemble jumper cables running into her nostrils. And Termination, in which her head dangles over the edge of a table, the murder complete.”

Kids now have those graphic visions burned into their psyche forever…all in the name of shock effect. But gee whiz, it was one of 50 or 60 ad concepts that accidentally made it to press, and somehow got posted coast to coast without client approval? C’mon.

Anyone that’s ever worked in advertising knows that account execs collect client signatures like eager autograph hounds stalk celebrities. EVERY comp, concept, work order change, blueline, or production press check is signed-off in CYA style, yet this was a colossal ‘oops’? What a crock.

The billboard debacle also feeds into media trends reported by Human Rights First regarding kids’ primetime exposure to torture and abuse. Makes me wonder…

Will more kids find sport in pulling snail shells apart, plucking wings off of flies, blowing up amphibians or torturing the defenseless? What’s next, puppies, kittens…toddlers?

Are we breeding desensitization? Sanctioning unethical conduct? Modeling power plays of control and manipulation of any creature more vulnerable?

Common Sense Media recently cited Jane Mayer’s in-depth New Yorker piece on the escalation of torture as a Hollywood prop, political rallying point, and behavioral red flag. Man, the slippery slide of industry accountability is getting more unfathomable by the day.

As media and marketing execs sleep well at night, taking zero responsibility, the rest of us toss, turn, and twist hoping the reckless abuse of childhood will subside. It’s torturous.



  1. chris ogbu says

    Let me have suitable advertising messages for youths in african countries

  2. Chris, Shaping Youth is honored to have been selected for the Women Leaders for the World program coming up July 22-29, and many leaders from African countries will be present discussing some of these vital issues.

    A few delegates include:
    Margaret Arringo, Jane Kamau, Louise Sewe & Dr. Gertrude Abuno from Kenya, Rutendo Mudzami from Zimbabwe, Ritah Mukande from Rwanda, Debbie Kaddu-Serwa & Mariam Mukala from Uganda.

    Not sure where you’re located, but if you’re near any of them, please open a dialogue so they can carry specific messages our way, we’re with you 200%!

    Thanks for commenting, and pls. keep in touch!

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