Guy Does Exactly What Advertisers Tell Him Bryant Park Project producer Ian Chillag spent a week taking advertisements seriously. Sort of.
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Guy Does Exactly What Advertisers Tell Him

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Guy Does Exactly What Advertisers Tell Him

Guy Does Exactly What Advertisers Tell Him

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Last week, BPP Producer Ian Chillag announced he was going to spend one week doing everything advertising and packaging told him to do. That was the sort of thinking that almost influenced Reggie Jackson to kill the queen in the first "Naked Gun" movie. But one week of clicking later, he is here in the studio to tell us how it went. Hello, sir.

IAN CHILLAG: Hello. Good morning.

PESCA: So, how did it go?

CHILLAG: It went pretty well. You know, I saw an ad this morning telling me to come on down to Red Lobster, and I was so grateful I didn't. It's not the right hour for Red Lobster right now, no matter how you feel about it.

PESCA: No, yeah. A week ago you would have had to do it?

CHILLAG: I would have - I would be eating, you know, a shrimp platter right now.

PESCA: What else did you do during this week of doing everything?

CHILLAG: Well, you know, these things break down into categories, and there are very specific calls to action. There's like, you know, these, kind of, lesser ads, and I'm currently signed up to win a free cruise on Holland America.


CHILLAG: I'm awaiting an information pack from the University of Phoenix Online.


CHILLAG: I'm a member of the Chuck E. Cheese Chuck E-Club...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Which I've got to admit, I'm really worried about. On the survey, they ask you how many times you've been to Chuck E. Cheese in the last year, and some of the choices are, like, five times a week. Really, people? I also...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: It's easier to say, how often have you left the Chuck E. Cheese?

CHILLAG: I also - I found out my Epsonality.

(Soundbite of website The Epson Printer Personality Profiler)

Unidentified Announcer: Question three. Imagine you're stranded on a deserted island. You can only have one printer. Would you choose to be stranded on the island with a printer that only prints?

(Soundbite of beeps)

Unidentified Announcer: Or would you rather be stranded on the desert island...

CHILLAG: So, I mean...

PESCA: I thought that was for Epson salts. I didn't know where you were going with that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Now, and that's a thing about these, it's, like, you really become complicit. They're asking you to do something, and I think, like, in the perfect world, you know, you have these sort of zombies that actually do everything that they say, and then you kind of feel like a zombie doing it. It's not a nice feeling.

PESCA: In the advertiser's perfect world, they would want zombies.

CHILLAG: Yeah, yeah.

PESCA: Well, what was the biggest challenge, since you aren't a zombie, or at least weren't when I talked to you last week before this began?

CHILLAG: Right, well - yeah - and so I made this rule that I had to keep, that I wouldn't spend more than 10 dollars a day, which was actually really easy, because very few people were asking me to buy something that cost less than that. So, you would think that would save me from any major appliance ad.

PESCA: Yeah.

CHILLAG: But then we came across - I came across one. Take your dirtiest dishes to the Whirlpool Power Scour, which - it didn't ask me to buy a Whirlpool, so Nora and I got our dirty dishes, and we walked over to PC Richards. It's a big, you know, electronics appliance store here in New York, and I just figured I could pass here, if I just tagged the Whirlpool washing machine with my dirty dish...

PESCA: Yeah.

CHILLAG: And then walk back out. So that's what we did. We roused a lot of suspicion. No fewer than three PC Richards' employees came over to ask us, you know, if we needed help.

PESCA: You were just - they carry this appliance. You were following the instructions, and no one knew what the hell you were doing.

CHILLAG: Exactly. Yeah.

PESCA: That's kind of terrible advertising, I would say. Yeah?

CHILLAG: It would seem. Yeah.

PESCA: Yeah, yeah. So, were you subject to, you know, a greater inundation than you even expected? Or was it a little easier than you expected?

CHILLAG: Well, yeah, I mean, we all know we're bombarded with advertisements. I was - it's just - if you actually concentrate for a second and pay attention to them, I thought of it kind of like your foot. Like, you don't think about how your foot feels right now, until somebody says, think about your foot.

PESCA: Yeah.

CHILLAG: But your brain is still getting information, telling you, like, what position your foot is in. And so, like, all of this is out there, and once you turn it on, you notice your foot, and you think, God, it's weird, that was there all along. And this, like - getting all these messages, it was just insane. And I thought we - Nora and I, my girlfriend and I, went to this exhibit at Cornell Library, like, they were showing stuff from their archives. And there were like these safe zones, and I figured the Cornell Library Archives would be a safe zone, but sure enough, they had this magazine opened to this 1950s ad with Robert Preston.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: You know, star of stage and screen, and it said after the game, enjoy Schenley, which is a whisky, and you know, I looked - you can't escape this. I looked around. Preston, for the record, was a part of "Kraft Television Theatre," "The DuPont Show of the Month," "Goodyear Television Playhouse," "General Electric Theatre," "Campbell Playhouse," and something I had not heard of, the "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars." So he's been in the business of selling things for a long time.

PESCA: Yeah, and if people ever say, oh, advertising has gotten more terrible, most of the shows don't have the advertisers name right there in the title.

CHILLAG: Yeah, yeah.

PESCA: I guess it's gotten more subtle, and by the way, when someone said, like, enjoy Brand X, you couldn't just try it. You literally had to enjoy it.

CHILLAG: Yeah. Yeah, you have to enjoy it. Yeah, yeah.

PESCA: So what did - did you come away with a respect for advertisers, they really know what they're doing? Or do you think they're just kind of throwing things out there with a shotgun approach, and they're not really well crafted, most of the advertisements?

CHILLAG: Well, like that ad with Robert Pre - you know, with that ad with Robert Preston, there's a lot of the older advertising, it's really direct. It's like, go here, get this. And the messages now are a lot more sophisticated, and you know, a lot more about creating an identity, telling you how some things are supposed to make you feel. But then what that leads to is when they actually then do make direct commands, the direct commands don't make any sense.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: They don't mean anything.

PESCA: Yeah.

CHILLAG: Like, what am I supposed to do when Tostitos tells me to free the fun? I don't know. One doctor advertising a procedure called the Brazilian Butt Fill - that's trademarked - said, don't leave your butt behind. I didn't, but I still don't know what that means. Like, awaken your soul, there was a brand telling me that.

PESCA: Uh-huh.

CHILLAG: Curve my hunger. Fan the fragrance. Fill the room. I don't know what any of these mean.

PESCA: Unless you have some fun chained to the basement, like a Tasmanian devil, I would not know how to feed the fun either.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Yeah, that's true.

PESCA: And I just hope - have you taken your performance to the next level?

CHILLAG: I have. Yes.

PESCA: All right. That's good.

CHILLAG: As Nissan asked me to do.

PESCA: Ee-ahn (ph) Chillag, he will - or Ian Chillag, you know, however you pronounce it, put a couple of photos of his week as a slave of advertising on the blog. Thank you very much, Ian.

CHILLAG: Sure. Sure.

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