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´╗┐SHIRT SHILL IS NO GOOD FOR YOUR BODY THEY ARE everywhere, as common this summer as ice cream cones and baggy shorts: white T shirts with a splash of yellow across the front, a background for the words "Premium Goods." The significant lettering, however, is not across the shirt's chest, but near its sleeve: NYNEX Yellow Pages. The T shirts are a marketing ploy in NYNEX's battle for phone book supremacy over the White Directory. NYNEX gave out 210,000 of them in the Buffalo area last fall. After a winter's hibernation, the shirts have come out of the closet. Everybody who wears the T shirt as opposed to, say, waxing the car or dusting the coffee table with it has in effect joined the NYNEX army. You don't need a marketing expert nike irons to know that advertising boosts sales. And you don't have to be a CEO to realize the best sort of advertising is free advertising. In a capitalist society, there are presumably no free rides. You want your running shoes advertised on TV or in the newspaper, you write out a check, often a fat one. Yet literally millions of Americans turn themselves, via their weakness for comely T shirts, into walking billboards for no reward. In the course of a day, each human billboard might come within sight of hundreds of people serving as an unwitting shill for Nike or Benetton or Corona or Budweiser or Guess or Esprit or Vuarnet or Harley Davidson or any other product with associations of quality or hipness. NYNEX is merely the latest company to take advantage of the public's peculiar eagerness to offer their bodies for the corporate good. At least NYNEX's T nike untouchable 1 shirt is free. Wearers of it could rationalize that the shirt's actual worth is no greater than the value of the advertising given in return. Of course, they would be wrong. NYNEX wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on T shirts without expecting to get at least equal return in advertising value. "I would say, yes, the promotion has been a success," said Steve Feeley, public relations manager for NYNEX. "To what extent, I don't know. It's difficult to measure in dollars and cents." The companies who benefit most from the public's product nike 180 air identification urge, of course, are those that not only get the free advertising, but charge 10 or 12 bucks for the T shirts. Double duping the public, as it were. Back in the 1930s, it wasn't unusual for people to walk around with sandwich boards reading "Eat at Joe's" or "Buy Lucky Strikes." But at least they got lunch money to do it. In the anti materialistic '60s, one would sooner mosey into an Army recruiting station than shill for a corporation. Now, as the '80s draw to a close, many of us pay for the dubious privilege of enhancing corporate America's ledger sheets. In a materialistic age, product identification equals prestige. I wear Nike, therefore I am. "People not only accept it, they delight in it," said Dr. Allan Korn, a business professor at Buffalo State College. "Society is based more and more on conspicuous consumption. If people stopped and thought about it, they'd realize they're paying money to advertise merchandise." If that practice were universally applied, the plumber would write us a check after unclogging the sink, the carpenter would fork over some bills after finishing the porch and you'd get 35 cents every time you picked up this newspaper. The earliest mass evidence of conspicuous consumption was designer jeans, the poor relations of high priced designer label clothes. In the '80s, the T shirt became the billboard of public choice. "It doesn't say much for the basic value system of society," said Dr. Korn, formerly a vice president at Sattler's. "That's what bothers me." Which is not to say America's walls will come tumbling down because of a few million T shirts. We'd like to think the United States is strong enough to withstand a 100 percent cotton onslaught. One wonders, however, when some of us will wise up. There is, after all, a difference between a consumer and a dupe. What has Nike or Benetton or St. Pauli Girl or Esprit done for you lately? In a capitalist society, as some great economist once may have said, it is the responsibility of every citizen to fulfill his or her marketing potential. Americans have something to sell their bodies. Specifically, the advertising space thereon. Smart consumers ought to band together, strip down to their essentials and appear on corporate America's various doorsteps with a message, preferably written across chest or back: "This Space for Rent."



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