I had a layover in the Philadelphia airport on my flight back home. My terminal featured no fewer than 8 strategically placed TV’s that played a Philadelphia infomercial every 3 minutes or so. It’s volume was offensively loud. I imagine someone high up in the airports marketing department pitching this: “Sitting down and zoning out out in front of the terminal is going the way of the dodo. My research shows we will get people to waste money at our dumpy little shops if we bombard them with an obnoxious advertisement. The key is that the we play it at decibels that pierce even the best headphone technology. People will never resent us for the shameless self promotion. It’s a no brainer!”
Make a corny, over produced, questionably factual, transparent cry for attention if you must, but don’t replay it every 3 minutes. There needs to be some sort of Geneva Convention type thing to establish protocols for the humanitarian treatment of airport travelers. If that came to be then this commercial would certainly be found in violation of everything that is decent and the creators would be punished appropriately.
Keep in mind that there were TV’s placed all throughout the terminal, so there was no way to escape the audio-visual bludgeoning other than to hide in the bathroom. Here’s my breakdown:
The first person to show up is Fat Mike Woodson. I forget his name but he reminded me of the former coach of the Hawks and Knicks. He shouts at you “Hi, I’m Fat Mike Woodson, the Mayor of Philadelphia! Welcome to Philadelphia international Airport! Please enjoy all we have to offer.” Looking back, this really should have been the whole commercial. A short, to the point welcome. Nothing wrong with that. The train wreck begins once he passes the baton to the hostess.
The hostess, whose name also escapes me, is supposed to be highlighting all that is amazing about Philadelphia. She is really trying to bring the energy, but to me she exudes a sense of boredom. Her facial expressions are muted, and her attempt at a winning smile is a few megawatts too dim. I think she knows that hosting an infomercial for the Philadelphia Airport is the last stop on the train. She is getting on in age and she has to take whatever roles she can get. She gamely tries to drum up excitement about The National Constitution Center, but her eyes are vacant. They seem to be saying “I promise you, I used to be better than this. I had a bright future and a childlike sense of optimism after my 3 episode arc on Days of Our Lives, but constant rejection and increasing apathy have left me a withered husk of a human.”
Mrs. Hostess starts rattling off some dubious claims. She practically screams that “Philadelphia is the heart and soul of the nation!” and “This is where democracy was born!” The latter statement is a lot less ambitious than the first, but both of them are simplistic and hard to verify. My favorite part of this section was how immediately after the claim about democracy, they cut to a 3 second clip of a man dressed like George Washington walking down a flight of stairs. I wonder if they made someone rock that absurd costume just for that tiny clip, or if they co-opted the footage from one of those history channel shows. If they filmed it, I wonder how they cast it: “Wanted: Chubby white guy to walk down a spiral staircase dressed like a fancy pirate. Will be paid in cheesesteaks.”
The video really hits the history angle hard. I guess that is all Philly has going for it these days. They have the nations first zoo, the oldest continually used residential street, and of course the Liberty Bell. I was surprised by what little fuss was made about the bell. It got less screen time than fake GW walking down the stairs.
Next comes 20 seconds where they shift gears and try to convince us that Philly is a relevant destination for people of this century. They are rated #1 for people and culture, #3 for food and drink, and top 5 for something else that slips my mind. I like that they said “top 5” instead of just “5”, as if they wouldn’t have said the higher rating if it wasn’t 5. Unsurprisingly, there was nary a source mentioned for what service gave out those rankings. It could have been the goddamn Philadelphia Inquirer. Please, writers of this commercial, a tiny modicum of respect for the intelligence of your audience is all I ask.
The final “we are a relevant place!” part of the commercial was the funniest to me. We are told that Philly has “cheaper office space than New York, Boston, and Chicago!” All right! By that logic I should go live in the Congo because I can get some prime real estate prices.
After extolling the virtues of the city at large, our intrepid hostess shifts gears to tell us about what makes this particular airport so much less soul sucking than the rest of them. Apparently there are a multitude of places to eat featuring the best local cuisine. Highlights include cheesesteaks and something that started with an S that I kept mishearing. It looked like fried spam with confection sugar. They also have a museum that appeared small and uninteresting.
I do give them props for featuring live entertainment. That actually peaked my curiosity. They show a clip of a 3 piece band rocking out. One guy had a flute, which was pretty awesome. Seeing the band got me thinking about what it must be like to play sets at the airport. I imagine it is pretty grim most of the time. No one is coming specifically to see you unless they ponied up hundreds for a flight ticket, and if you had that kind of pull you wouldn’t be at the airport in the first place.
Of course the commercial never actually details how often live music is provided or how we might go about finding it. It’s kind of ironic that the only potential “artistic” distraction to the people in my terminal was this very video, in all its relentlessly looped, high volume glory.
The whole thing ends with another appearance from Fat Mike, who tells us that “whether this is your final destination or you are just passing through, I hope you have a wonderful experience in Philadelphia.” Hope all you want Fat Mike, but your commercial has all but insured that at least one person that saw it will actively avoid your city because he resents being trapped for 2 hours with this vapid piece of self promoting trash.