If You Market 'Nothing,' Everyone Will Want It

A New Zealand billboard spoof works a little too well

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The most recent evidence of advertising's raw power comes from Auckland, New Zealand, where 24-year-old graphic designer Fiona Jack last year concocted a bizarre billboard campaign to market NothingTM.

“I was thinking about advertising and all its strangeness, its coercive ability to sell the most completely bizarre things to people who usually don’t need them,” Jack told Adbusters (Winter 1998). “I realized that the ultimate nonexistent product would be nothing. [So I decided] to actually call a product Nothing and try to market it.”

Jack pitched her idea to New Zealand's Outdoor Advertising Association (OAANZ), which agreed to plaster the NothingTM brand on 27 billboards around the Auckland area as a market research project. The results? Several Aucklanders phoned the billboard company, anxious to learn where they could buy NothingTM—apparently unaware that they already had more than they could ever use.

“I think the NothingTM campaign proved the point that you can market anything if there's enough money behind it,” says Jack. “Money is basically the main thing that’s required to convince the public of something these days.”