The Hightower Report

Corporate advertising pisses me off; and, the rich get richer


MAKING A SPLASH

Corporate advertising is everywhere.

I don't mean on radio, TV, billboards, and other commercial spaces. I also don't merely mean that it's in our public schools, yammering at us in elevators, catching us by surprise in our parks and museums, and otherwise intruding into our community spaces. I mean it's everywhere.

I know, you're thinking, "Hightower, there you go again with the gross exaggerations." But I'm not exaggerating. You want gross? Meet the latest advertising advance: Wizmark.

That's wiz, as in, take a whiz. Yes, we're talking about male urination, and the advertising potential therein. Perhaps you think that I'm going to go on a tear about the little TV screens that many places are now putting above the urinals, so you can watch an ad as you ... well, whiz.

But no, that would be almost civilized in today's world of ad excess. I'm not talking about advertising above the urinals – I'm talking about ads in the urinals. Indeed, ads you whiz on.

You know those plastic urinal screens that also deodorize? Wizmark has now accessorized them with ads. Not some bland printed ad, either. Dr. Richard Deutsch, creator of the Wizmark, has brought to us the world's first – are you ready? – "interactive urinal communicator."

He offers one that has a motion detector. When a gentleman steps forward to do his business, a ring of flashing lights is triggered in the screen, drawing the gentleman's startled attention to your corporate logo, safely protected in the middle of the screen by a waterproof casing.

Or, if that's too subtle, Wizmark offers a voice-and-sound model with a microprocessor that shouts ad slogans and corporate jingles at the urinator. Still not tacky enough? Gotcha covered. Dr. Deutsch has the patent on a radio-frequency model that can read your ID card and personally greet you when you step up to the urinal: "Hey, Frank, good to see you again!"

I don't even want to know where the ad hucksters are taking us next.


RICHES FLOW UPHILL

As Ray Charles sang, "Them that's got is them that gets" – and the getting was very, very good for those at the top in 2003.

Forbes magazine's annual survey of wealth reports that there are now 587 lucky souls living in Billionaireville, up 10% over the previous count. These wealthiest of the wealthy added half a trillion dollars to their personal stash of lucre last year. Among this group of swells are the Waltons – the reigning heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Interestingly, the company that profits by paying poverty wages to its employees returns a king's ransom to those at the top – Forbes reports that of the 10 richest people on the planet, five are Waltons, each one sitting atop $20 billion in Wal-Mart booty.

Then there are the CEOs who lavish corporate cash on themselves. These dandies now average nearly $11 million in annual pay – even as they downsize their workforce, cut health care and pensions for the people who do the work, and ship our country's best-paying jobs off to foreign shores.

Numero uno in corporate pay last year was Sandy Weill, head of Citigroup. He only worked nine months of the year before retiring in October, but he pocketed $30 million in salary. Let's see: $30 million divided by nine months ... wow, that's $111,000 a day! And that doesn't count the $14.7 million he took in "other compensation." But wait, Sandy got even more in '03, for he cashed in some $285 million worth of stock he'd been awarded.

Well, say apologists for this system of royal pay, such is the way the free market works. Horsefeathers. The supply of potential CEOs is huge, and the number of slots is very small, so if the free market really was at work, CEOs would be making an honest wage. But the system isn't honest – the pay of top bosses is set by board members hand-picked by you-know-who: the top bosses.

Money flows uphill not because of merit, but because the system is rigged by those at the top.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

advertising, corporate advertising, interactive urinal communicator, urination, Richard Deutsch, Wizmark, Forbes, billionaires, Sam Walton, Wal-Mart, Sandy Weill, Citigroup

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