Shut Up And Commute

I used to ride the Brown Line into the Loop, so it was with piqued interest that I followed Adrants pointer to this great piece of front line reporting from the CTA Tatler, a blog that covers Chicago’s rail and bus lines.

I ride the brown line from Western to Chicago during rush hour. At Fullerton, an eye-catching gent gets on the train, cell phone pressed to his ear. He wears gray pants, a blue zippered hoodie, and a black backpack. There is a large white logo on the left breast of the hoodie, and a smaller one on his backpack. Aaaand…his face is painted blue. From hairline to jawline. Blue Man Group blue. Bears fan blue. I don’t recall any major sporting events today, but maybe I’ve missed something. So, like a good little city mouse, I ignore him and his blue face. He enters at the opposite end of the car from me, but at Armitage, he moves to the doors nearest me. He’s yapping away on his cell phone, which is annoying enough, but as he contrives to turn completely around in the unoccupied doorway, I can finally read his logos: “Talk Until You’re Blue in the Face, with U.S. Cellular.”
This makes things more interesting and more distressing. Not only is he a complete dink, he’s being paid to be a complete dink. Not only is his yapping intruding on my aural landscape, but his yapping constitutes an ad.
I want to know if the CTA is complicit in this crappy ad campaign. If they aren’t, I want them to come out against this kind of activity on their buses and trains. If they are, however, I want the riders to rise up and demand that the soundscape of the CTA remain unsold.
And a comment on this post: I was on the platform at Sedgwick, when four of these characters were performing/advertising. I got on the Purple line, and one of them stood right next to me, yapping in my ear. Granted I didn’t have a long way to go, but no one ever likes “that guy” — the one who’s yap yap yapping on his cell for everyone to hear. And, that morning, US Cellular was “that guy.” I hope the CTA doesn’t condone this. What’s next, commercials playing over the speakers between station announcements?

Nice work, US Cellular. You got people talking. But they’re saying the wrong things.
And what about Blue Man Group’s reputation? Is this the kind of risk an artist or group must accept when they sell the rights to their creations? If it is, no wonder the price is so high.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.