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Polis Report

Stall Tactics

By Laura Stuchinsky

You can study your toes, or close your eyes and meditate, but if you’re sitting in a public bathroom stall and look straight ahead, there’s an increasingly good chance your eyes will be filled with images of skiers swooshing down mountain slopes, hale fellows downing beer at a brewery, or birds wheeling above piles of garbage—an enticement to pursue a career in environmental cleanup. All because some advertising wiz has hung a poster-sized advertising billboard inches from your face.

"We can guarantee a captive audience," says Joan Cox, office manager of the San Jose-based California Indoor Advertising, whose claim to fame is that they introduced toilet stall advertising to Northern California. The company has hung their picture-frame ads in the johns of more than 100 businesses in the South Bay, including McDonald's, Spoons, Black Angus and 24-hour Nautilus. Response has been so good, she says, the company is moving into privvies in Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

One can only wonder what this might mean to traditional reading materials of the loo, to what used to be the sanctity of a few blank moments. Nothing, apparently, is sacred.

"It's pretty smart advertising if you ask me," offers David Smallwood, manager of San Jose's Hamburger Mary's who adds that he hasn't heard any complaints from patrons. In fact, people like the bathroom billboards so much the restaurant is having a hard time hanging onto them. Two have been stolen in two months.

So much for captive audiences.

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From the May 23-29, 1996 issue of Metro

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