WBEZ's spring ad campaign: You've come a long way, babies | Bleader

WBEZ's spring ad campaign: You've come a long way, babies

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  • Go Make Babies: it's a long-term strategy.
When it launched a few weeks ago, WBEZ's new ad campaign was called "saucy" by the New York Times, which is a solid indication of one specific kind of inoffensiveness it represents; the Times probably thinks Fruit of the Loom ads are "saucy," too. The station was reported to have paid $400,000 to the ad agency Xi Chicago, part of BBDO and Proximity Worldwide, for the pleasure of a campaign you'll be seeing on billboards, taxis, and buses, as well as in a full-page ad in the current Reader. (I'm going to find out if this is one of those in-kind deals and if we can see about getting some audio of these goats yelling like people on the radio.) Slogans, which limn the intersection of pretension and procreation, include:

"We Want Listeners Tomorrow. Go Make Babies Today."

"Do It. [ed. note: You know. It.] For Chicago."

"Hey Interesting People, get a room already. And then put a crib in it."

"Interesting People Make Interesting People."

As far as sex in marketing is concerned, this isn't particularly hot stuff, even by the standards of public radio, or for that matter by the standards of the Times. When the campaign launched, the media response was, if not positive, at least titillated for no good reason; but on the social media, where 'BEZ is also aiming the campaign, responses seemed a little more vituperative, and not just from single people and homosexuals.

The epithet "heteronormative" was uttered here and there, and so Nico Lang, who blogs about LGBT issues for WBEZ, brought those concerns to the station's marketing director, Vanessa Harris. Do the new ads marginalize the nonreproductive? Is it a bummer that dudes can't get dates with other dudes via the dumb matchmaking app at GoMakeBabies.com? Harris says that there is a queer campaign forthcoming, with slogans about rainbows, but it wouldn't have made sense on its own—it required the context provided by the initial baby-making gambit. Harris also assures us that, as Lang puts it, "society is changing, and LGBT people and same-gender families are a huge part of that." In the meantime, Harris actually says, "I'm sorry. I wish I could hug each and every one of you."

Heteronormativity, really, isn't the problem with the campaign. What's interesting is that the ad drive seems to signify WBEZ's attempt to escape the public radio mold for something sexier, but it's hard to imagine a campaign that could better match the station to its stereotype: "Interesting People Make Interesting People" is so snobbish, smug, and insular it's the sort of thing you imagine Garrison Keillor saying during a pledge drive. Poynter quotes a WBEZ vice president saying that the station hopes the new campaign "will reach, and resonate with, younger news consumers who've never heard of us," and Harris says the same thing—the point is to get noticed.

'BEZ is great radio—look no further for evidence than this past weekend's powerful episode of This American Life. (And only true haters, and Richard Marx, can hate Rick Kogan.) But it should be able to do better than "any press is good press."

Also, not for nothing, the proposition that interesting people make interesting people is bullshit. Interesting people come from everywhere.

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