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Ads are Everywhere, and We Do Mean Everywhere


Recently, we told you about "pop-up stores," which open, then disappear, so fast that they create a buzz about the product being sold.

Well, there's an even more imaginative marketing phenomenon on the street. Sometimes literally on the street: directly on certain New York City manhole covers. A clever marketing company has transformed these big metal lids -- which cover service entrances to underground utilities -- into what appear to be giant, hot cups of Folger's coffee -- complete with rising steam. The manhole supplies the steam.

As Americans grew weary of ads, endlessly assaulting them in print and broadcast media, they began to block, mute, and ignore them. So a whole new industry, called "guerrilla advertising," sprang into action. It puts commercial messages in your face, whether you want them or not. Some -- like the coffee-cup manhole cover -- are so imaginative that you don't much mind.

Animated ads on the sides of vans now zip around America.

Quickie commercials flash past in subway tunnels. Some of the cars themselves are shrink-wrapped in plastic images of beer or movie stars or brands of toilet tissue.

Take-out pizza boxes advertise cellphones; coffee-cup sleeves promote an online dating service.

Sickness bags on airplanes and parking spaces at shopping malls are sponsored.

There's even something called "legal graffiti" -- or outlaw-looking ads, spray-painted onto walls.

The most compelling, or outrageous, advertising innovation -- depending on your point of view -- may be the 30-second commercials that are now projected onto buildings at night in some American cities. You can't zap them or mute them, and they're awfully hard to ignore. Which is exactly what the advertisers are hoping for.