Advertising on Ring Road

By Joshua Waldrop

Our world today seems like a never-ending assault on the senses, perpetrated by multi-million dollar advertising firms and marketing companies intent, at best, on “educating” you about their product in the name of “brand awareness,” and at worst, beating you into sensory submission until you succumb and purchase their product. One would hope that the one safe haven from this relentless multi-media onslaught would be here on campus; you know, the place you and/or your parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend in pursuit of higher education? Unfortunately, one would be wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I am as much a consumer as the next guy and, admittedly, I am so moved by the power of suggestion that it turns out I am exactly the demographic these companies are trying to reach. I see a commercial for KFC and the next thing you know my car is pointed in the direction of the nearest Kentucky Colonel’s to acquire the newest unhealthy sandwich combination their engineers have designed for foodies like me who care more about the deliciousness than they do their sure-to-be-clogging arteries. Let me flip through the latest Maxim magazine and see a full-page ad expertly showcasing an icy, refreshing-looking glass of Pepsi with beads of cool condensation gliding down the sides and I am making a beeline to Zot-N-Go for sure.
It’s not that I am against marketing or advertisements. I get it, we’re a capitalist nation. It’s, as the kids say, “how we roll.”
What I am against, however, is having something jammed in my face or screamed in my ear as I try to focus my scattered brain in preparation of my next class or mental review of my last one.
From religious sects trying to save my soul, to someone trying to interest me in “making $16 an hour selling kitchen knives,” (total scam, by the way. You make $16 commission off of a sale they estimate it takes you an hour to make. What a waste of time!), to every campus club lined up on Ring Road screaming in their loudest, shrillest tone, “BOBA, TWO DOLLARS!” making your way to and from class unsolicited has become, in and of itself, a more stressful proposition than actual class.
There are a lot of things going through my head as I make my way around the circle. Thoughts like, “What an insightful lecture on Pope that was,” “Do I want Wahoo’s or Panda for lunch?,” “Wow! That girl has tremendous legs.” None of these thoughts include signing your petition to get a cause you really don’t care about but are getting paid per signature to get onto a ballot somewhere, or buying your books and DVDs that the discerning eye can see as religious propaganda which you refuse to admit or engage in discussion about, as if you’re trying to hide it. It shouldn’t be a rare occurrence to traverse the land between the Student Center and my class and then back again un-accosted.
This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the vendor fairs. This is a different matter entirely. I quite like seeing the unique wares brought to us by the creative minds and skilled hands of local artisans and business people. However, most of these people remain calmly at their booth and wait to engage you until you have approached them, showing interest. They do not continually scream at you what they are selling and its price. (Note: If there are four tables all selling boba, which is admittedly delicious, for the bargain price of $2, I will bypass the ones that feature someone sounding off like some broken boba car alarm and gladly support the club who has erred on the side against noise pollution.)
Nor do they come all the way across their side of the ring to the side you quite purposefully drifted to attempt to shove something in your hand that you don’t want. I must say I find this emboldened move to be the most offensive. Memo to the solicitors of off-campus interests,who, I understand, are simply trying to make some money: head down, eyes averted, and drifting toward the opposite direction from you is the internationally accepted body/sign language for “no thanks, not interested.”
Honestly, isn’t it enough that you can’t go to a 7-Eleven without being hit up for change, or to a grocery store without being asked to sign something, or even pass by a kid with their parents without being hit up about Girl Scout cookies? (OK, those I’m fine with. Who doesn’t like Thin Mints?) By all means, check out the vendors who help this school (especially the Giant Book Sale). Support a campus club by buying delicious boba or Korean BBQ (unless they scream at you, in which case, there’s always Wendy’s). All I’m saying is it would be nice if I could come to school, go to class, learn something, do homework and be able to focus solely on my education without the anxiety and intrusion that comes with running the sales gauntlet on Ring Road.
Let’s say we keep the non-stop marketing blitz to those unfortunate times when I actually have to venture away from school and back into that oftentimes dismal realm known as “the real world,” shall we? Is it really too much to ask?

Joshua Waldrop is a third-year double major in English and literary journalism with an emphasis on creative writing. He can be reached at jwaldrop@uci.edu.