bringing targeted marketing to a whole new level 40 years ago

TycoonContrary to the popular belief of most people I know, my parents don’t live in Portland and I didn’t grow up in Portland. However, as Portland is the only city in Or-i-gone where actual people live according to anyone "on the outside," most people make this mistake over and over and over again despite the incontrovertible fact that my parents live in Eugene, which is Oregon’s second-largest city at a whopping 150,000 residents and home to the University of Oregon. It is the quintessential college town, probably one of the college-towniest college towns in all of collegedom. It also has a lot of self-righteous hippies, some Jesus freaks and soccer moms in the sprawl, and more rain that any place should ever have (I never noticed it growing up here when I thought frizzy hair looked sexy and wore horrible shoes and didn’t own a respectable jacket). It also has a pretty fantastic used bookstore–which brings me back to the "you live in Portland" mistake, which is relevant because Portland=Powell’s, aka the greatest bookstore ever invented in the history of bookstores. The only other two bookstores I’ve encountered that even compare are the Montclair Book Center in Montclair, NJ, which houses a wonderful selection of new and used books behind a deceptively tiny storefront, and Eugene’s own Smith Family Bookstore. I only started going there about four years ago, when I finally got the image of a hobo peeing on its steps out of my mind–that happened in about 1985 when my mom tried to take me there and all I remember is her whirling me around very fast and then calling the police on a pay phone ("Look, lady, all I saw was his penis and then I turned around!").

Tranquilizer_adNow I go there on every visit to Oregon (they glassed in the steps and now they are one hundred percent hobo-penis-free), and this time around I dropped about $60 there on all sorts of fantastic stuff, including a German copy of Kant’s Kritik der Reinen Vernunft and a bunch of Aristotle I’ve never read but really should have read, AND, especially awesomely, this 70s-era copy of Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel The Last Tycoon, which contains an advertisement on its inner cover–possibly the most accurately-targeted advertisement I’ve ever seen. I mean, seriously–who is a better fit for constant anxiety/depression than Fitzgerald readers? The only problem is, if they started the meds before they started the book, they’d be too hopped up on the "tranquilizer" half of the cocktail to read the book–and once the antidepressant half kicked in, the overwhelming Fitzgerald-reading desire would abate completely. So in that respect, I don’t see what Scribner was thinking, advertising a product whose use would completely negate the desire to purchase its own product! But I guess that is what makes Madison Ave. ad execs smart and me dumb. And don’t protest, because currently I am watching a pre-New-Year’s-Eve "Law & Order" marathon at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday and there is currently a 120-second ad spot on for "Cold Heat," a "smart" soddering iron–AND I AM WATCHING IT.

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