Take me out to the ball game, if only to escape Fox promos

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I guess I'm one of the few people who watched the World Series from beginning to end. It was great baseball and great entertainment. Barry Bonds versus the indefatigable Angels. Talk about the Energizer bunny-the Angels just wouldn't quit.

But I can understand why the all-California event drew among the lowest TV ratings ever, and I don't think the reason is solely geography. Were you as put off as I was by the incessant promotions for upcoming Fox TV network programs? Poor Joe Buck. He had to spend much of his time as a shill for Fox. "Look who's in the stands. It's the cast of `That 70s Show.' Be sure to watch `That 70s Show' every week," Joe more or less said.

And in case you didn't get the idea, Fox superimposed Fox promos behind the batter's box in "virtual" ads that looked nothing like typical ballpark signage. It was interrupting and very bothersome and, to my mind, enough to get viewers to tune out in droves.

When such blatant commercialism overshadows the event itself, it's a good indication advertisements have gone too far. And Fox, unfortunately, is not the only guilty party.

Clyde Haberman of The New York Times wrote about "the issue of the hour in New York: How to get businesses, large and small, to stop treating the city's streets as if they were a giant billboard begging to be filled with corporate graffiti." What prompted those comments was Microsoft's stealth-like tactic of plastering the city's sidewalks with butterfly decals to promote its new MSN 8 Internet service. He pointed out Nike and Snapple, from Cadbury Schweppes' Snapple Beverage Group, have both used the same "guerilla marketing" techniques-"as if it were merely a jolly jaunt in the tradition of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters."

I get the feeling that advertisers' drive, under the cover of integrated marketing, to blanket every square inch of unadorned space on the planet is beginning to irk some of our opinion leaders. The problem is advertisers tend to view every opportunity to distribute their message as just another medium. I'm afraid that's how they view the motion picture industry. I predict it won't be long before advertisers give away movie tickets to entice consumers to see their products in action.

Ford Motor Co. paid $35 million to replace BMW in the latest James Bond flick. To insure that lots of potential Ford buyers see the movie, what's to prevent Ford from giving a couple of ducats to people who go to dealers for a test drive?

You realize how important movies have become as an advertising medium when Revlon is staking its very survival on a line of 007-themed berry and frost-colored lipsticks used by actress Halle Berry in the new Bond film.

What's next? The music business, where unpaid product mentions already are made by some hip hop/rap artists, is ripe for the picking. Record companies and artists encourage advertisers to use their music in commercials (the Mitsubishi ads are a good example). The next logical step is to build a paid product "placement" into the songs. How cool would it be for rap star Eminem to work a product plug into his lyrics? And, while we're on the subject, how much do you think he'd charge Mars, maker of M&Ms candies, if he agreed to change his name to M&M? For a few million more, maybe he'd appear as an M&M coated shell.

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