Advertising, along with other forms of popular culture, promotes public discussion. The Super Bowl ads that were perceived by some viewers as anti-gay, anti-restaurant worker, and pro-suicide took a lot of heat in the public forum; so much heat that the ads were pulled from rotation. Suicide apparently has become a theme in contemporary advertising as the GM robot's demise was followed by a Volkswagon spot that featured a depressed man teetering on the ledge of a building. Then there is a Washington Mutual bank ad that also depicts a man who threatens to jump off a roof if the bank doesn’t stop offering free checking, and there is a current CareerBuilder.com spot that depicts office workers diving off a cliff. That’s a lot of suicide, don’t you think? And, no doubt the various groups out there concerned with the prevention of suicide have advertisers directly in their sights. What’s going on in these ads must be more than “shock and awe,” a trend we have seen of late: you know those VW ads where two guys are driving down the street and suddenly a car crashes into them? The ads are meant to demonstrate the automobile's ability to withstand such a crash, but the startling way the advertiser accomplishes it is a little over the top for some. I suggest that these “suicide” ads may also be considered within this current trend, but they are much more. As I wrote about in a previous post, ads that get talked about are considered successful. And, in advertising as in show business, it’s not what they are saying about you that matters, but that they are saying anything about you at all. In an world of multi-tasking and inattentiveness to advertising, ads that get talked about are those with which we are engaged. Conversation extends the life of the ads. It is in this way that such extended conversations make advertising a part of participatory culture. But participatory advertising is such that meanings are extended beyond the advertiser's intended message through public discourse and individual deliberation of the rightness or wrongness of such depictions. This is high risk business on the part of the advertiser; somewhat calculated, however. But this newer leap--excuse the pun--into the dark side of life raises the question what is advertising today competing against? Are ads like this necessary to distract people from real events, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? As a spectacle advertising does draw our attention from the important and redirects it to the less important aspects of life. I guess talking about two men kissing while eating a Snickers or watching a group of people jump off a cliff (especially when you know it isn’t real) provides a diversion from all the misery of daily life. Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz. Oh what a relief it is! Advertising, that is.