Signs of the Times

Diving under the Brisbane River
Diving under the Brisbane River

We have a new tunnel. It dives under the Brisbane River, linking the south with the north and bypassing the city centre in a most convenient way.

When the tunnel opened, the toll was suspended to allow motorists the opportunity to test drive (and hopefully get hooked on) the new route. When the toll was imposed after the trial period, traffic through the tunnel dropped off. Actually it plummeted, despite a well considered discount. Within days, stakeholders and the media began to make remarks that sounded a little panicky.

Die? A split second decision
Die? A split second decision

Approaching one of the tunnel onramps the other day, I saw an enormous electronic sign with the message No tag? It then changed to We will bill you. Think about that. Those two sequential messages can be taken as a threat. They aren’t encouraging you to use the tunnel by saying that if you don’t have an e-Tag, it’s not a problem and they’ll catch up with you later. They are warning you, yes warning you, that if you proceed into the tunnel they desperately want you to use, they will bill you. And being billed is not perceived as a pleasant experience by most of us.

Sign writer on drugs
Sign writer on drugs

I regularly write about words, and how many of the words we use are often unnecessary. However, sometimes we need to add words to clarify a meaning. The tunnel operators were attempting to encourage users with their words, but their brevity terrified, albeit subliminally. What if the sign had flashed an in-between message? No tag? … No worries … We will bill you.

Of course, over the following days, I started looking at signs more closely. One at our local cinema encouraged me to join the movie club with the words, You’ll never pay full price again, unwittingly omitting to inform me that the discounted price was dependent on my continuing to pay the club subscription.

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, is a really cool exhibition currently showing at the Queensland Art Gallery – a must-see by the way. The huge sign advertising it in South Brisbane makes it unclear as to whether the exhibition is exclusive to Brisbane, or free only in Brisbane.

This way to the picnic area
This way to the picnic area

And then, as I began to notice more and more anomalies, it struck me. Some advertisers are investing huge dollars in clever imagery, but, without considering their words carefully, are failing to get the message across.

What do you think? Seen any interesting signs around the place?

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One Response

  1. Haha, love the last one…. YOU COULD DIE!!!!!!!!!! Yes makes me want to go visit that particular picnic area. Think Ill stick to Suttons Beach 🙂

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