Up next: The giant slalom down the slippery slope… In much of North America the relentless invasion of the visual landscape from outdoor advertising rolls on with barely a whimper of organized resistance. As PR and marketing firms seek out creative new ways to lay siege to the pleasure centers of our brains where they can plant a logo-emblazoned flag and claim them as their own, we tacitly accept the installation of “buy” message in the most unlikely of places: gasoline pump nozzles, banana peels, urinals cakes, ATM machines, even the walls and roofs of public elementary schools. (According to Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, one Atlanta-based firm wants to send inflatable billboards filled with corporate logos into geostationary orbit, as visible in the night sky as a second moon.) In the words of one outdoor media firm, “The explosion of advertising messages, combined with growing fragmentation of the media, has eroded the power of the traditional advertising environment to deliver.”

Like most media trends, Montana has lagged slightly behind the curve for ad ubiquity—though not for long. In keeping with this week’s cover story on ski resorts (see pg. 12), one trend worth keeping an eye on is the steady encroachment of billboards onto Montana’s ski slopes. “You catch people when their guard is down. You catch them in an uncluttered, relaxing setting, say, at a lift tower with nothing else around,” says Bill Hussey, vice president of sales for SkiView, one of the nation’s largest outdoor advertising firms. “That’s why a number of advertisers love it. There’s no more beautiful backdrop than a mountain.” Partially obscured, of course, by a salesman’s pitch for Ben Gay.

Why ski resorts? In the words of Ripple Resort Media, one national outdoor media firm that targets ski resorts, “Skiers and those who frequent resorts are an advertiser’s dream. Representing middle- to upper-class consumers, today’s skiers have more disposable income than their predecessors had.” In this effort, Ripple Resort Media has created a product designed to reach skiers “while they are held captive on the ski lift:” MapLinks©, a trail map affixed to chair lift safety bars, which feature ads for everything from Chapstick and Nike to Coors and Jack Daniels.

According to SkiView, which \maintains more than 3,500 ad spaces at 165 resorts nationwide, targeting an estimated 56 million skier and snowboarders annually, “display media is positioned to provide inescapable viewing to a captive audience riding resort transit systems, purchasing tickets, standing in lift lines, riding the chair lifts, using the ski racks, and visiting resort food service facilities.” Among its other selling points: brand-conscious consumers, target-specific demographics, high-impact viewing in an “uncluttered” (i.e., by other billboards) environment. Do you notice the recurring incarceration motif?

As a survey of press material from ski resort advertising firms reveals, snowboarders are among ad marketers most desirable targets. Demographically, they are predominantly male whose average age is 22, often middle to upper-middle class, highly media savvy and not easily susceptible to more conventional marketing messages. Just something to think about the next time you head out for a few turns over the weekend.

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