I’m so glad summer is on its way out. Even though it’s still 80 degrees today, I can feel a (for once) cool breeze wafting around town, promising me that I may no longer have to be sweaty as I get dressed for work in the mornings. So it seemed like the perfect time to bring up this outdated billboard advertising Ocean City I saw the other day and I remembered how much I liked.
It was a great campaign. And not only because it was bold enough to catch your attention when you were stuck on the freeway in endless traffic, with nothing but muggy nights in the city to look forward to. Or because it featured “Rodney” - the Lifeguard Angel sent to fly you away to the beach and forget all of your troubles. Rodney reminds me of visiting Rehoboth Beach last year and catching the lifeguard tryouts on the beach. One wonderful, perfect vision of lifeguards running laps, swimming sprints, hootin’ and hollerin’ and encouraging one another in their red uniforms while the rest of us pale, fat suburban beachgoers gazed on admirably. Wonderful, but yet reminded me of how skittish I am to even go near the water nowadays for fear of jellyfish.
No, I think I love this ad most of all because it’s the exact opposite of what Ocean City actually is. Removed from it’s uppity siblings, stuffy Bethany and artsy Rehoboth, Ocean City is a beach eternally locked in a time warp from when you were thirteen. Awkward, unsure, so excited to be at the beach but so not supposed to show it … you’d put up with anything to be at a beach when you were thirteen. Anything just to get a chance to be out at night among teens you didn’t know, play games, overdose at Candy Kitchen, get your fortune read, and buy some ridiculous neon fad you’d never wear again. Ocean City is always reminding you of that feeling, with its endless supply of offensive t-shirt stores, black light paraphernalia, and chotchkey malls. Telling you it’s okay to be sunburned for a week. Encouraging you to start binge drinking fruity drinks at a young age, because all the bars pimp out their waitresses. And if you’re ever in doubt of your identity, there’s a t-shirt store around the corner that verifies what an ignorant, misogynistic racist you really are.
It’s hitting you over the head with nostalgia in such a way that makes you never, ever want to go back.
And yet, when I see campaigns like this I get excited that one day OC may shove off its identity as the cheap, sleazy younger brother of the east coast beaches and embrace a bolder, brighter, (cleaner) future as the BEACH THAT MEANS BUSINESS. The beach for those serious about BEACHING AND RELAXING AND NOTHING ELSE. That it will sweep away all the blinking, loud, screeching stores and remake itself as the BEACH OF ALL BEACHES. Yeah, then I’d go. And I’d have Rodney to thank for it.