February 14, 2013


When WBEZ launched its new ad campaign, it knew it would push some buttons. As part of the station’s yearly member drive, WBEZ has been satirically urging listeners to “go make babies,” arguing that “interesting people make interesting people.” The idea is that WBEZ wants to get new listeners tomorrow, and the campaign saucily plays into that idea. Aimed at the “curious class” (the station’s pet name for its listenership), billboards and ads urge the WBEZ faithful to “do it…for Chicago.” Rick Kogan apparently just has an effect on people.

Although the station has never before delved into Jonathan Swift territory, it’s hardly the first tongue-in-cheek campaign from the local radio station. Last year’s summer fundraising campaignfeatured cat videos, having fun with the idea that cats are the superstars of the internet. The campaign’s tagline quipped, “Research shows that cat videos make people happy. Happy people donate.” One promotional video starred cats in wigs playing Terry Gross and Gene Simmons during a particularly tense interview, and others recreated segments with Bill O’Reilly and Kanye West as incorrigible felines.

However, while cats are politically neutral (although I imagine the dog lobby got barking mad), babies are different. The use of babies is inherently loaded, commenting on our national discourses on procreation, family planning and population control. In the past few weeks, the station has received concerned calls and emails from listeners who felt that the campaign promoted overpopulation and eugenics, and some were even concerned that the “Go Make Babies” message would inspire children to do the same.

Staff blogger Nico Lang challenges WBEZ to reexamine the local campaign they sponsored for parenting.