Monday, June 28, 2010

Ads Nauseum

It’s that time of year in Sacramento when our elected representatives
grapple with the state budget, an activity that can best be compared
to the Crusades.

This Holy War pits Democrats versus Republicans, who each try to
hammer each other into submission while believing God and Good are on
their side.

Ultimately, nobody wins. The two sides pick up their wounded and live
to disagree another day.

This year, in addition to the usual ideological stalemate, there’s a
$26 billion deficit on the table, forcing the state to desperately
seek new revenue-generating ideas.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, seizing the moment, has set up a Twitter site,, that allows us all to join in the search.

A few recent entries: “More $ for higher education; less for pseudo
system of capital punishment.” “Legalize and tax marijuana. End the
war that does more harm than good.” “California has the worst
representation and the highest cost of government. There is a

“My idea is to give people cash incentives to move to other states.”
“$1 toll for all persons entering the state. Toll booths at I-5,
I-80, I-15, I-10, and charge airlines.” “Don't have a film school at
UC Berkeley ,at UCSD and another one at UCLA. Eliminate duplication.

Noble sentiments, deeply felt, but I don’t see a billion dollar idea
in there.

All is not lost, however. Riding to the rescue is Democratic State
Sen. Curren Price of Los Angeles.

Sen. Price is proposing that the state could make a bundle of cash by
requiring digital license plates that display advertising.

It’s brilliant in its simplicity. Turn every car and truck in the
state of California into a moving billboard. Why didn’t I think of

Price has introduced a bill that would allow the state to begin
researching the use of electronic license plates that would mimic a
standard plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to
digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four
seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light.

The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some
section of the screen. In emergencies, the plates could be used to
broadcast Amber Alerts or traffic information.

"We're just trying to find creative ways of generating additional
revenues," Price told the Associated Press. "It's an exciting
marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep
California in the forefront."

I can hear the police dispatcher now: “Attention all units. Be on the
lookout for a stolen vehicle with a license plate frame advertising
Tidy Bowl.”

Come to think of it, product placement could be a knotty problem. Do
you want your car to flash “Viagra” every time you hit the brakes. Or
pitch mortgage lenders? Or Scientology? Or strip clubs?

How about a Meg Whitman ad on a Democrat’s car. How would a
Republican feel about having “Re-elect Nancy Pelosi” blinking from
the rear of the family sedan?

Of course, in California, if our ballots are any indication, the ads
would have to be offered in every known language from Arabic to Zuni.

And no self-respecting advertiser is going to be satisfied with a
15-second spot. He’s going to want a full minute or more. No problem.
We’ll just adjust the signals to stay red longer. Just remember as
your blood pressure rises that it’s your civic duty to help fill the
state coffers.

Then there’s the problem of hackers. I read where a group of jokers
changed one of those computerized electronic warning signs on a Texas
highway to read, “Zombies Ahead. Run for Your Lives.” Which is funny
unless the sign originally read “Bridge Out Ahead.”

Speaking of safety, do you think flashing signs on cars would boost
the accident rate substantially? It’s a body and fender man’s dream.

Nice try, Sen. Price. Why don’t you push that toll booth idea instead?

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