Monday, January 28, 2008

Controversial Target© billboard ad on Times Square: Exploitive, offensive, or good commercial design?

My last job as a federal civil servant was to set up a new publicity hub on the local military post which would promote all recreational activities available for servicemen and their families. We put out publicity, designed and strung across roadways enormous banners, published a monthly 16 page mag trumpeting coming events on and off post.

We began as a small operation, but accomplished some pretty big publicity things before I returned to university. Our office was called the Community Information Center, or CIC, and I liked to refer to myself as "The Man from SICK!"

My supervisor was a real go getter, a GS-13 who didn't always play by the rules his superiors, like the post commanding general, expected him to follow. But by bypassing bureaucratic channels he got things done that might have taken much, much longer to accomplish, or might never have happened at all.

But the boss made a big mistake. I wasn't aware the great printing press he bought us had not been approved through the requisite channels. Neither was the base commanding general aware, but things went along smoothly until the general and his staff learned of our secret possession. Until then we had been able to avoid overview by forgoing on base printing or off post contracting out request approvals by simply printing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it.

While I never designed anything (near as clever, exploitive, or offensive?) like this controversial Target© Times Square billboard ad, the point of a free press was soon to be driven home to me in a most powerful way. The powers that be had real problems we at CIC, the people from "SICK," were operating outside channels with our own press. I guess it made us potentially more dangerous than your run of the mill bureaucrats.

But it was my GS-13 supervisor who was called on the carpet and raked over the coals. The resulting irony being, myself and a number of his underlings were solicited to submit letters to the general in support of our superior. This we did. Undoubtedly, it was one of my finer efforts at letter writing.

I'm not sure how the issue was resolved between my boss and the base commander. That's because I left before it did, and I believe my supervisor transferred back to Germany shortly thereafter. Maybe his greater zeal for the job was more acceptable on the frontiers of the Empire, although I doubt it. Freedom of the press can be a dangerous thing.


Cartledge said...

It amazes me that a corp as innocuous as Target manage to ride the fine edge between great design and offensive design. They do it here constantly.
This one is quite attractive if you don't analyse it too much :)
I agree with your free press comments. Doing research, reports and media stuff for various organisations I'm always very particular to have things vetted before release, unlike my journalism days.
I can understand the military being concerned about a loose cannon press.

Fran said...

Since coroprations like to screw consumers, I'd say this ad is a bullseye.

Don't worry about the freedom of the press-- to date they can kick out presidential candidates from their debates, to protect their own freedoms!

Ok circular logic perhaps..... but the press is free to do what the corporations allow them to do.

Thankfully, there is alternative press so we can get REAL news.

Maybe my brain is still grabled from all that tap dancing Bush did in his SOTU address.
Terror & enemies took the spotlight.
I did up a little recap of the jibberish.

Heckofa boring speech Mr. Decider.
He warned he will be yielding his VETO stamp, if he does not get his way.

Oooh something to look forward to....
I;d like to VETO stamp him!