It's been years since I allowed myself to boggle at advertising. I mean, you expect it to be weird, right? But a recent campaign by the agency for the California Milk Processor Board has gone beyond the weird.
The idea, you see, was that everybody likes milk and cookies. So, in order to make people want to go home and drink milk, the agency got permission to put scratch-and-sniff strips that smell like chocolate chip cookies, in bus shelters in San Francisco, so the people waiting for the bus would smell the lovely aroma and go home and get some milk.
OK, I like milk, and I like cookies; but what I see when I step on the scale makes me just a little reluctant to stuff my face with either of them. And, if I'm standing in a bus shelter, I'm not there to eat (except in extreme circumstances). I'm there to catch a fardling bus, or worst case to get out of the rain for a minute. I can and do ignore printed ads, but smells are much harder to ignore. (Which of course is why they tried this.) Also, I'm an asthmatic, and I'm sensitive to strong perfumes, so I dislike smells that other people impose on me. (I actually dislike almost everything that other people impose on me; let's don't even begin on those rolling boom boxes...) It's one thing to say that it smells like chocolate chip cookies; but if the smell isn't coming from actual cookies, then it's coming from some combination of chemicals, and who knows what allergic reactions they might cause.
The real issue with these smelly bus shelters is that the smell isn't there naturally, as in a local Mrs. Field's. It's being imposed artificially by the ad agency to make you want something; and that, folks, in a space where you go out of necessity, is too much. Not to mention that bus shelters in San Francisco are often occupied by homeless or merely poor people, who may not be able to afford either cookies or milk; and for them, it's not just an imposition; it's an insult.
I'm happy to say that the City of San Francisco has ordered the scented strips removed, after getting objections from people with chemical sensitivities. But it was a dumb idea, guys. Let's stick to cute posters. The city got some flack, in a blog on the SFGATE.com site, about the fact that they were removing cookie scented strips from local bus shelters which normally smell like urinals. Well, if I could remove that smell too, I would. Imagine the awfulness of a urine scented bus stop which also had the chocolate chip cookie strip; yikes.