Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cookie-scented bus stops are canned

Well, city officials in my former hometown of San Francisco (sometimes referred to as "the People's Republic of San Francisco" for the city's decidedly leftist ways, but since I've only lived in blue states, virtually all of them, I found it to be a virtue) have ordered the immediate removal of cookie-scented strips from bus shelters just one day after they went in as part of a marketing campaign to promote milk. Apparently, the request was made to CBS Outdoor, the company that holds the advertising contract for the city's bus shelters late yesterday night. The move came amid public concern over potential allergic reactions to scented products. Under the advertising contract, the Municipal Transportation Agency (better known as MUNI) can request the removal of ads deemed objectionable.

The gimmick was part of the California Milk Processor Board's wildly successful "Got Milk?" campaign. The idea was that once people got a smell of chocolate chip cookies, they'd get the urge for a glass of milk, too. Of course, some people don't like milk, with or without cookies, so the scents might just be seen as annoying.

"We got complaints," said Maggie Lynch, a spokesperson for MUNI. "It is controversial."

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, representatives from the California Milk Processor Board were not immediately available for comment.

Although NPR reported that the campaign was planned to be introduced elsewhere in 2007, including possibly Chicago and New York City, this raises questions about the future of this particular type of ad campaign. Had it been allowed to continue, this would have been the first-ever "olfactory-based" marketing plan (or scented outdoor advertising) in the U.S.

I would venture to guess that New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would have opposed this ad campaign as well, since they voted to ban trans-fats, in a move that is being protested by the NYC restaurant industry not because they are unwilling to comply, but because they only have 18 months to find alternatives. They like to note that it took Wendy's two years to find an alternative oil for use in its fries (an alternative which Consumer Reports says still has trans fat in it, although far less than before).

Dan Fleshler, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, said "We don't think a local municipal health body has any business banning a product the FDA has already approved." Very well said, in my opinion.

NYC Health Officials might have claimed that the cookie-scents would turn everyone into type 2 diabetics, or some other unsubstantiated claim they have become known for making. Then again, the NYC Health Comissioner loves to appear on TV, and there isn't anything imminent to get his ugly mug on camera, but I guess the City by the Bay beat him to the punch! Speaking of punch, maybe they try to should ban that, too, it does contain a lot of sugar ...

What can I say, I'm a cynic, but that's why people like me!


George said...

I would love to smell cookies all the time!

It seems that we are living in the most boring time in history. I feel like everyone in the world is grounded from fun!

C'mon people! What about scratch and sniff stickers? Are those Controversial? LOL

Scott S said...


You are absolutely right. Personally, I was hoping the ads would be introduced elsewhere, but as noted, that seems less likely now. Gimme a break, the stops were outside, so if someone had some type of allergy, they could have waited away from the offensive scent.