Sunday, August 2, 2009


As I was riding home on the subway yesterday, I looked up and noticed an advertisement for ConEd. Now, it's usually impossible to ignore advertising on a NYC subway car, as a company usually buys the rights for an entire side of the car. Meaning you are oppressed by a giant wall of ads extolling the virtues of Bud Lite, Dunkin Doughnuts, or, in this case, ConEd.

ConEd is New York's electricity provider. It's short for Consolidated Edison, the company founded by Thomas Edison. I find this mildly ironic, since Edison invented direct current, but recently announced it was no longer supporting DC because only four buildings in the city still use it and it's no longer cost effective. Instead, Consolidated Edison sells alternating current, which was invented by Edison's chief rival -- Nikola Tesla. So maybe they should change the name to Consolidated Tesla.

ConEd is also known for being completely incompetent. Like the time someone stepped on a manhole cover and got electricuted by stray electricity; then it came out that this happened a lot more frequently than anyone knew, but ConEd never bothered to tell anyone about it. Or do anything about it. Then, when they added a rubberized coating over all their covers, it turned out they failed. Or the time several neighborhoods in Queens went without electricity for three weeks (in the summer, no less) because a transformer blew up; and ConEd didn't want to, you know, adjust everyone's electric bill. (This is when the company stopped using it's "We're On It!" advertising campaign, because clearly they weren't).

Back to the ConEd advertising. The entire campaign is based around telling you, the consumer, how to save money on your electricity bill. They're usually basic, common sense tips like "don't leave your refrigerator door open to air condition your house" and "don't forget to turn off the TV when you leave." You know, the kind of stuff any moron would know to do. But at least ConEd is trying. I imagine the rejected "advice" from them: "Don't stick your tongue in a light socket" and "fire = BAD!"

But the campaign seems slightly disingenuous. ConEd is in the business of selling electricity. Don't you think they'd want you to use more? Don't you think the greedy fat-heads who control the company would prefer an ad campaign more along the lines of "go ahead! Turn on all your electronic gizmos at the same time. Leave them on all day long. It's okay, we'll make more electricity!"

It just seems to me that their current campaign would be like MacDonalds telling you to watch your cholesterol intake. Or Doritos providing dieting tips. Or Exxon telling you to stay home this summer for a nice staycation. I know of no other industry that advertises itself by telling you how to use less of it's product.

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