Please Hydrate Responsibly

Last night, in typical college fashion, I went to an acappella concert by the Middlebury College Mamajamas. Their concert was entitled the “sell-out” concert to raise money to record their CD next year. Their singing was lovely and lively but, for the first time, I realized a new presence of advertisement on campus. At this particular concert, Glaceau’s Vitaminwater got the principle sponsorship. The performers joked about, mentioned, and drank Vitaminwater throughout the concert.

Vitaminwater’s sponsorship was sent up through one on-campus representative. This young woman was not shy about providing vitaminwater for the masses. She sent an email out to every student organization leader on campus saying that she would give vwater do any event, any time. She has successfully brought the drink to these events, for these peoples: the Student Global Aids Red Party, the Midd Mayhem Picnic, the SIM concert, Relay for Life, Walk for MS, Women’s Water Polo match, Middance rehearsal, and staff for Guster concert setup. Wow. That is a lot of free Vitaminwater but it’s also a lot of free publicity.

Surely the publicity is effective but it really depends on the student representative on campus. In this case, the representative is doing amazing work, filling a huge void on campus. In other cases not so much. For example, the largest coporate sponsorhip before Vitaminwater was Red Bull. They outfitted on gentleman’s vehicle with a giant Red Bull can in the bed of his truck. I’m sure he got plenty of free Red Bull too. But success? No. That gentleman didn’t really care to push the product. I also think it has to do with college-compatible products that are “fresh-enough” image-wise to create a consumer base. Vitaminwater has a youthful outlook and so does Red Bull. But take Stonyfield Farm’s new organic energy drink that was offered free by the bottle at the latest Guster concert. It was not the right product. No student wanted a yuppie yogurt drink no matter how organic it was.

With all the debate in elementary schools about soda and vending machine sponsorship and presence on campus, it’s worth examining if higher education should encourage this. I don’t think colleges have a choice really but certainly an environment free from advertisement would be quite worthwhile. Vermont comes close by not allowing any billboards in state but what can you do?

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2 thoughts on “Please Hydrate Responsibly”

  1. what do you mean by an environment free from advertisement? surely not that nothing should ever be advertised. every student organization on campus advertises for its events, and for the most part students appreciate it. perhaps you mean advertising for products; but many of these events have an admission fee. perhaps you mean commercial advertising; but all advertisments serve to provide information about a product in the hopes that someone will find it useful and want to buy it, and generally there is someone who will want to know about that product. now, i’m all for tasteful advertising (i think that’s where vermont’s no-billboards law comes in), but i certainly would not agree that an advertisment-free environment would be a good or popular idea.

  2. Certainly we can’t make the entire world an advertisement-free environment. But I think there needs to be a space, a sanctuary, where people can go to escape from it, even tasteful advertising. No matter how much you like advertising and find it amusing, funny, engaging, intellectual, etc., there needs to be a space, somewhere, to make the realization that the advertising world is not reality. Advertising is meant to sell you something — that’s what it boils down to. This breeds a consumer culture that is taken for granted. I’m sorry, that is not okay. I’m not saying do not buy anything (hell, I buy all kinds of stuff) but people need to be aware of the effects of advertising. And if you live in a world where there is no sanctuary from this, then you will never be able to grasp that advertising does not just provide you with information, it makes you buy things.

    As for on the MIddlebury campus, I would argue that the advertising landscape is wasteful and ineffective. Doesn’t matter if you are a coporation or a sudent organization. Putting up posters just wastes paper pretty much. I don’t think students appreciate it as much as you think. They like to know when things are happening (and maybe occasionally also like the aesthetic appeal) but they could easily get information from less wasteful means (person-to-person, events schedules) that are currently not really working on campus.

    I’m not anti-advertisement either. My mother is a director of marketing for a bank. I watch those super-bowl commercials just like everyone else. Things should be advertised, like you say. I believe, however, that advertisements need to be targeted, effective, and artful. I also believe that there should be spaces of sanctuary from this — then maybe we wouldn’t have so many children out there that can’t concentrate on anything because their attentions are always being drawn away from one advertisement to another.

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