Saturday, October 20, 2007

Relief in L.A.

The following piece is rated PG-13, in case you care about that crap.

Noticing things is not so much a gift or a curse for me, but something that tends to happen. At least when I'm paying attention.


(Thank you. I do two shows on Sunday.)

I have been an avid reader of the print version of The Onion ever since it started to be published here in L.A. (or at least when I noticed it being available around town). I have also discerned that the content for most of it is the same in other cities where it's published, but that the layout and local listings are up to those running it in each town. More important, much of the advertising is local as well, which makes the ads representative not only of the Onion reader but of the Onion reader in that city.

For a period of four weeks (from the August 23-29 issue to the September 6-12 issue), in addition to the ads for eco-friendly products, for clubs and bars, for movies, etc. (which I imagine appear in every city's edition) I noticed a recurring ad. Ostensibly the appeal of it would be prurient, as it featured pictures of two young women, but after decades of watching TV and reading magazines and looking at billboards, that alone isn't worth noticing.

What intrigued me about this ad was that the girls weren't hawking beer or clothes or suggesting sex; the ad was for a website touting that these girls (and many others like them) were looking to "hook-up" with male readers of the publication who sought no-strings-attached sexual encounters. It made no pretense about being other than that.

Now, one can find plenty of ads in the back of other weekly publications for "massages" or "escorts" that are obviously code for... something else, and I imagine there are online posts soliciting such affairs, but those are not generally found in The Onion (I'm not sure if that's an editorial decision or merely that such services are already happy with advertising elsewhere). I took it as this ad figured it could get away with merely leaving out the paying-for-sex part and it would seem less sleazy. And apparently The Onion was fine with that as well.

However, that ad ran only for those four issues and then was discontinued. I interpret that as indicating that the site wasn't getting a return on its investment.

Something else that I notice is another set of ads that have been running virtually every week and continue now. There are multiple advertisers promoting the same product (usually about four ads per issue): medical marijuana.

The ads run from featuring a big pot leaf and touting the ease of qualifying to attempting to making it seem mainstream and suggesting it's good for relieving stress from "high pressure jobs like being a talent agent." (I've never had an agent, but I have to imagine that any agent who can't get his hands on pot without having to get it from a clinic is not an agent worth having.)

That latter angle, specifically mentioning being a agent, is clearly directed toward an L.A. audience, or what they perceive a stereotypical L.A. audience to be. And, alas, it probably works better than I'd care to admit in appealing to potential clients. (However, I suspect those clients have occupations that may not be as stressful as dealing with celebrity demands. Still, it surely relieves the stress their jobs to cause. Or so I'm led to believe, for the purposes of any law enforcement personnel who may read this.)

These suppliers of marijuana keep running ads. That's more than can be said of the hook-up website.

So, what conclusion are we to draw from this? For readers of The Onion in L.A., when it comes to paying for a little relief from the troubles of daily life they prefer dealing with cannabis rather than with the clitoris.

(What? Would it have been better had I gone with "pot over pussy"?)

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