This afternoon I passed a billboard in a very prominent (i.e. expensive) location on the I-10 just outside the loop, headed toward town. It was advertising a Corpus Christi tourism association (I’m not sure whether it was a travel agency, not-for-profit organization, chamber of commerce or what have you, because my eyes were blurred by uncontrollable guffawing.) which simply said “Got Beach?”
Now, for many of you younger readers, this may seem like a simple question intended to provoke the passerby to ask themselves “have I got any beach?”, and then to wonder why not, and how they might get some, and then to notice the small words in the corner mentioning Corpus Christi, which would inspire them to head south on the 610 and thence down the 59 to Corpus Christi, where they would stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants and patronize local shops, thereby stimulating economic growth and building a better future for the children. But to many of us, this simple question evokes a California Milk Processors Board ad campaign so old that it, at one time, featured Jonathan Taylor Thomas in a print ad.
Got Milk? made its public debut in 1993 in a TV commercial starring a bizarre-looking, bespectacled man with an Aaron Burr infatuation and a mouth full of PBJ (Note: I met this man, Sean Whalen, in the line at Space Mountain in 1996 and took a picture with a disposable Kodak camera, which, again, many of you may be too young to remember. It was not an insignificant moment when I recognized him in 2009 in the role of Frogurt on Lost, getting impaled by a flaming arrow.). The commercial made such a hit that other dairy associations, milke processors and farmers across the country licensed it, exploding milk sales in many markets, and making a few people really, really rich. So effective was this campaign that thousands upon thousands of third-rate marketers have since pirated the slogan and bastardized it to push their own offerings in recent decades. Some of my favorites include Got Sand?, for the dune buggy/ATVcrowd, which sucks because nobody ever asks this, which makes it not only unoriginal but stupid to boot; Got Allergies?, which betrays the spirit of the ad because it evokes the problem rather than the solution; and Got Window Coverings?, which sucks for obvious reasons.
But I digress. In writing this article, I don’t mean to criticize marketers who are beneath criticism, but rather to praise the sheer brilliance of the campaign. What’s that they say about imitation and flattery? It makes me think of Congress for some reason. Which reminds me, on my way back from town this afternoon, I passed another billboard that simply said “What happens in Lubbock…” Now that just sounds like too good a time!