The living dead stagger into government advertising
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10:09
The zombies are coming. Run for your brains.
Seriously, though. Between The Walking Dead, what seems like the hundredth addition to the Resident Evil series, and stoners eating the faces off of homeless people, it seems like we’ve been infected. Heck, even America’s Next Top Model got in on the undead action this season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tapping into the nation’s obsession with zombies. Between droughts in the Midwest and Hurricane Isaac, it has been a year of extreme weather. The CDC is encouraging citizens to prepare for natural disasters — er, that is, for the zombie apocalypse. Or, for both.
According to the CDC’s website, if people are prepared for the zombie apocalypse, they are prepared for a tornado, flood, hurricane, terrorist attack and most other disasters. The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response has created a “zombie blog,” “Preparedness 101” posters and a graphic novella to encourage Americans to plan for an emergency. An evacuation plan, fresh water, back-up medications and a flash light are a good start to any emergency kit, but ironically, those probably aren’t the first things mentioned in a “zombie plan.”
Let’s face it: Most of the people who are obsessed enough to prepare for an outbreak of zombies are building homemade tanks and trying to get their hands on some serious firepower.
Regardless of how futile the quest for anti-zombie weaponry may be, it is the fun part. The Internet is overrun with pictures of armored mid-size sedans and designs for shotgun-chainsaw hybrids. People aren’t interested in making sure they have enough imperishable foodstuffs to last for a while. They want to play Left 4 Dead in real life.
The CDC’s idea is cute, but I can’t speak for its efficacy. It attempts to capitalize on what appears to be a national interest, but the goal itself doesn’t have such far-reaching appeal.
I’m not a fan of zombies. I’ve never watched an entire episode of The Walking Dead and the first Resident Evil film was quite enough, thanks for asking. Assuming I’m not the only one in America who doesn’t think a zombie apocalypse would be great fun, the CDC has failed to appeal to an entire group of people.
If I had to guess, I would say that most devotees of the living dead are between 15 and 30 years old, which means a lot of them are probably college students. Convincing students to care about anything enough to take action is a Herculean task, and I doubt the CDC’s campaign can do that kind of heavy lifting. The nominal zombie fans won’t see the fun in buying extra batteries for the flashlight instead of stocking up on rocket launchers, and the serious zombie fans (you know, the ones with “legitimate” zombie plans) probably covered the basic emergency kit a long time ago.
If someone finds the national obsession with the undead to be ridiculous, the zombie-centric advertising might even discourage him or her from taking action, purely out of spite or a desire to avoid the “mainstream.” Would it be equally ridiculous for someone to ignore relevant advice because they didn’t like the way it was presented? Absolutely, but it wouldn’t be the first time packaging made or broke the success of a product. Sit down, Apple. This isn’t about you.
However, the campaign does feel a wee bit pandering, if you think about it. It has that “if you help your mommy by cleaning your room, you can be a hero just like Spiderman!” mentality. Maybe the CDC is trying to promote emergency-preparedness as a family affair, but I think most parents spend time convincing their kids that the monsters in the closet are not real, rather than taking them to Wal-Mart to prepare for the possibility.
OK, I know I’m being a bit of a stickler. It’s the government’s job to encourage people to be prepared for disasters, and they’re just trying to package the attempt in prettier, rotting-flesh paper. I can’t fault them for that, and maybe it has a “Hey, at least they’re trying” sort of appeal. The idea is good, the execution is a bit clumsy, but sometimes it’s the thought that counts.