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Bargain hunt goes bust - The Lowbrow Lowdown

Hey ladies, what would it take for you to bare your bosom in public? A nude beach? A necklace of cheap plastic beads? A few shots of Rumpleminz? How about 35 bucks, a bottle of champagne and some food, writes Kate Kaye.

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Come to think of it, a lot of us chicks have exposed more than our breasts after a dinner date and some champagne. So it's no wonder Austria's construction tycoon Richard Lugner was able to entice women to shop topless at his Lugner City mall in Vienna with an offer of a $35 voucher, a bottle of bubbly and a complimentary meal. Talk about getting clothes straight off the rack...

As featured in an October 22 AdWeek brief, Lugner is known for his off-the-wall promos. He once ran for the Austrian presidency on the slogan, "I'm not a big Catholic, but I am a Catholic."

As for this promotion, I find it to be udderly appalling. In fact, not only is it low-minded and degrading, it's completely discriminatory. I mean, why aren't men eligible for this promotion also? Don't they deserve some sort of incentive to shop at Lugner City? Then again, Lugner ought to charge them funny money just to get in the door.

Abuse of trust

Earlier this month, I attended a live taping of a radio interview at the Museum of Radio and Television in NYC. As I sat among the politely quiet audience, I wondered, "What would happen if somebody in here just started freaking out or yelling obscenities?" I settled on this -- maintaining some semblance of decorum in certain situations is an unsaid requirement, kind of like not picking your nose in public or not calling people who have children after 9pm.

It's too bad some advertisers can't curb their base impulses when necessary either. Take some pharmaceutical firms, for example. Last month, some of them began abusing the system of self-regulation by directly marketing drugs that fall under the same category of Schedule II substances as addict-faves like cocaine and methamphetamine. As featured in an October 17 National Public Radio All Things Considered broadcast, paediatricians are pissed off and a federal crackdown could be in the works.

The TV and print ads in question promote drugs used to treat attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD). One ad for an ADHD drug that appeared in Ladies Home Journal features a mother hugging her son and reads, "One dose covers his ADHD for the whole school day."

The problem is that "for 30 years drug makers voluntarily complied with an international treaty that bars advertising of Schedule II drugs directly to the public," as noted in the story. A representative of the US Drug Enforcement Administration believes, "Marketing will increase the supply of substances that are already sold illicitly."

So, all drug firms involved in the ad campaign have been contacted by the DEA, and a push for legislation that will prohibit companies from advertising ADHD drugs and other controlled substances is being planned.

As usual, when one disobeys the rule, the entire group gets penalised. Most of us learned this early on in grade school. Why can't advertisers get it straight?

I think that the controversy over the ADHD drug ads raises a broader question, though. Perhaps the problem isn't that these drugs are being advertised directly to consumers. Perhaps, instead, the problem is that directly marketing highly addictive substances intended for the undeveloped bodies and minds of children has become such a viable business strategy. If the market for these drugs weren't so huge, there would be no incentive to break the international treaty, right? I'm just waiting for the DEA to start outlawing direct-to-consumer ads for glue, correction fluid and permanent ink markers.

Potent quotables

Sometimes the recipient of appreciation is less than appreciative. Recently, Oprah Winfrey has grappled with this very notion. According to an unnamed newspaper article mentioned by Howard Stern on his October 24 morning radio show, the megalomaniacal personality (Oprah, that is) has become the object of some disdain put forth by the author of a recent Oprah's Book Club selection.

"I don't know if this guy's crazy or he's just a mad genius," marvelled Howard in reference to Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections. As noted in a statement, Franzen "is seemingly uncomfortable and conflicted about being chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection." One reason: he didn't want the Oprah Book Club sticker on his novel because it's a corporate logo.

"He turned down Oprah!" Stern exclaimed incredulously. "Doesn't that automatically work into millions of dollars when you're on Oprah's book club or something?"

Stern's partner in slime Robin Quivers affirmed his assumption, adding, "Because those drones have to buy every book she says is good."

Guest comedian Richard Jeni chimed in, "I never listen to anything Oprah says. Anybody who's 200 lbs overweight is not allowed to give me advice."

"Exactly," confirmed Howard.

Then again, Howard is the same guy who made a hit movie about how strong his marriage was and then proceeded to divorce from his wife, so he's no stranger to hypocrisy either.

That's not all. For additional commentary on these and other stories, visit The Lowbrow Lowdown.

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