Thursday, March 23, 2006

sound for sales

a few nights ago while walking along the bahnhofstrasse in zurich, in search of some delicious and strange luxemburgerli [word to the wise - don't pack them in your suitcase if you're hoping to present them, intact, to that special someone on the other side of the ocean.] i suddenly realized i heard birds singing, loudly. this might not have been too odd if there'd been any trees in the vicinity, but in fact there were not any trees in the vicinity. only clothing stores, shoe stores, fancy handbag stores and jewelry stores.

my brain tried to refute the information being absorbed by my ears, because there was simply no way that any birds could have possibly been residing nearby, let alone screaming at the top of their lungs in a brash, electronically-assisted voice.
what i then realized was that the bird songs were emanating from an urban outfitters-type two-story fashion supermarket. having introduced its new spring line-up the store had then enhanced the window displays full of mannequins sporting various greens, yellows, pinks and blues with over-driven bird calls, sirens of purchase, beckoning wayward shoppers into the store with all their might.

i was stangely excited about this discovery, while at the same time disgusted. i've never quite heard sound used so purposefully to publicly promote consumerism in quite this way (i mean pure sound, not advertisements or jingles) and so on one hand found it horrifying...but on the other hand, i had to admit - the idea was kind of brilliant. the birdsongs could be heard from over a block away, and right around the point where they finally faded away i was close enough to another location of the same store that i'd be able to hear its own bird chorus. and on a rainy, grey day in zurich, the cheerful bird calls added a surreal, sort of joyful element to the busy shopping district.

the more i walked around, encountering the birdsong loop from one shop to another, the more fascinated i became with sales tactic that was clearly making it's mark on my psyche. though i fear what may eventually happen if this sort of idea takes off as a slam-dunk advertising technique - can you even imagine the cacophonous mess that would bleed out onto store-lined streets? not to mention there'd be one more thing to check your pockets for, before leaving home - your earplugs.

i'm proud to say i resisted entering the bird song stores to purchase a new spring skirt to bring home to chicago. though i _did_ eventually find the luxemburgerli shop. have i mentioned they don't pack well??

it's good to be back. but that switzerland's one amazing country. small, but mighty. and direct democracy seems such a sensible way to run a place. if only they served more tofu over there...

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