When Advertising to Advertisers Invades the Public Sphere

Curator's Note

In April 2008, Bravo and Oxygen unveiled ads touting the quality of their respective audiences. While running ads during upfronts season is standard practice, what was unusual about Bravo and Oxyen’s efforts was where their ads were placed.  It’s common to see ads in industry publications like Ad Age and Adweek, but during the 2008 upfronts, the two networks took the bold step of plastering their campaigns in the subway.

I spotted these ads (click here and here), which are obviously aimed at media planners/buyers, in several stations in New York. Granted New York is the advertising capital of the world, but was a bit unusual to see posters bragging about high engagement and ROI occupying the same space as ads for movies and soda.

Bravo’s ad identifies their viewers as Affluencers, a portmanteau of the words “affluence” and “influential.”  In Oxygen’s poster, a group of self-satisfied women labeled Generation O are shopping and described as “trenders, spenders and recommenders.” At first, I thought these ads were an anachronism to the dire economic period of increased unemployment, home foreclosures and credit tightening.  I viewed these ads as a blatant disregard for recessionary times, but more importantly I wondered why Bravo and Oxygen opted for such a public campaign. After all, what’s the average straphanger to make of an ad promoting “high recall” and “intent to purchase?”

I can’t imagine people generally view themselves as rating points or pawns in a greater marketing scheme, but the Bravo and Oxygen ads seem to frame consumerism in an empowering way.  Although geared towards planners/buyers, the posters helped audiences identify themselves as not only Bravo or Oxygen viewers, but as elite coveted television viewers. While the ads pictured the type of unchecked consumerism that often leads to debt, they also communicated a sense of optimism.

The purpose of placing these posters all over New York was to make avid Bravo and Oxygen viewers feel as though they’re recession-proof.  It seems the networks were branding themselves as lifestyles.  Being an Affluencer or member of Generation O was something viewers could aspire to.

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