There was a time when I would have thought the new Diesel campaign to be the nadir of taste in advertising.
In one ad, an attractive young couple in the awkward stage between hipsterdom and yuppiehood stand in a kitchen that’s bigger than my bedroom regarding a black bear cub that’s busy examining the contents of the refrigerator. (I get the impression that this is a morning scene, but the cub is acting like a teenager just home from school.) Lady Yipster (high heels, red nails, an off-white pants-top combination with bold décolletage, static-electrified hair, a generally more-with-it-than-thou attitude), torn between a newspaper and the spectacle in front of her, seems to halfheartedly disapprove of the new pet, but cool Mr. Yipster (white shoes, tight black jeans, rectangle-frame glasses, styled mop) oozes enthusiasm. He’s a hip young Homer Simpson, zany and endearingly impulsive, but skinny and with hair. His expression seems to say, “Why the heck didn’t we think of this sooner?” Meanwhile, I’m eagerly awaiting the entrance of a rampaging mother bear. The caption reads, “SMART SAYS NO. STUPID SAYS YES,” and viewers are directed to “BE STUPID.” This campaign made no sense to me until I went on the company’s website. Stupid pays $175 for jeans.
(There’s another one that features an elephant sitting on the face of some luckless model. “STUPID,” we’re told, "IS TRIAL AND ERROR. MOSTLY ERROR. But I can think of a better tagline: “Dead men don’t wear plaid. They wear Diesel.”)
New York is infested with these irritating ads, particularly in subway stations, but they’re nothing compared to the ads run by Protect-A-Bed, a company that produces protective mattress covers. Subway cars are uncomfortable enough without having to look at pictures of bedbugs.
Advertisements are generally repulsive, but a billboard at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue has achieved a special level of disgustingness. It’s a simple ad: a gigantic bedbug and a cute caption, “BEDBUGS SUCK,” along with an admonishment to “PROTECT YOURSELF” with a mattress encasement from Protect-A-Bed. The ad, according to Bed Bug Plague, a blog run by the company, was featured on Rachel Ray’s television show, and they have other billboards across the city.
In addition to visual assault, they’ve managed to combine two of the things I hate most—bedbugs and Twitter—with regular postings from the point of view of a bedbug living in the company’s offices in Chicago. At 4:18 p.m. on December 22, 2009, the tweeting bedbug wrote, “I am proud to report our invasion of the USA is going extremely well. Low casualties and great reproduction. Who can stop us?”
The answer, of course, is Protect-A-Bed.
Sure enough, at 8:50 a.m. on January 5, the bug complained, “I hate this damn Bug Lock from protect-a-bed. It’s a prison worse than gitmo.” [Sic.]
We bought mattress covers from Protect-A-Bed last year, and they came in plastic cases with a paperboard insert with pictures of bedbugs, and Maureen nearly threw up. I had to hide the inserts before we could put the covers on the new mattress.
As the global bedbug infestation increases, exterminators, bedbug searchers, and peddlers of portable bedbug-killing heating machines, protective mattress covers, and other anti-bedbug products stand to make gobs of money, but they need to operate with discretion (a little empathy, dear exterminators, wouldn’t hurt either). They’re not selling designer blue jeans or sugary drinks; they’re servicing an unstable community. Many of their potential customers are mildly traumatized. We don’t want to look at supersized pictures of the things we hate.
I don’t have any complaints about Protect-A-Bed’s product, and I’m normally in favor of groan-inducing puns, but the “Protect Yourself” ads don’t make me want to buy mattress covers, they make me want to burn down billboards.