It’s not easy to catch New Yorkers off guard. Walk down the street and prepare to be accosted by promoters dressed as foodstuffs, cellphones, or whatever odd item they’re trying to sell. Take a ride on the subway, and be regaled by impromptu performers as diverse in musical form as in talent. Deposit your empty coffee cup in a garbage can and jump back as an over-excited resident squirrel launches itself into the stratosphere.
Nevertheless, there are those rare instances when, confronted by something so wonderfully zany and unexpected, you’re forced to stop and take notice. I experienced one such moment earlier today, as I made my way through Flatiron North Plaza, the site of Madison Square Eats (if you didn’t get a chance to check out the yearly mouth-watering market, find out what you missed here).
Along with the familiar sights, sounds and smells, I spotted a most unusual tableau unfolding: grown men and women (and assorted canine companions) equipped with beach shovels rummaging through a sandbox, seemingly in the midst of some urgent treasure hunt. Standing watch over the proceedings were three lovely young ladies decked out in full archaeological attire.
Naturally, I had to find out what mystical force could compel serious business people to get down on all fours and dig around in a sandbox. As it turned out, the whole affair had nothing to do with searching for fossils. Rather, it was a marketing stroke masterminded by Philips Sonicare, an oral hygiene company specializing in high-end electric toothbrushes.
Flatiron Hot! had a chance to chat with Heather Salvatore, PR Manager for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, who enlightened us as to the purpose of opening up a faux-excavation site next to Madison Square Park.
“The idea behind this event is the fact that there’s a technology gap in the way people are looking at their everyday use of oral healthcare,” Salvatore said.
“A ton of Americans use 5,000-year-old technology. So, we look at other technology like a beeper, like old cellphones – you probably have a smartphone now – and there’s tons of other ways we’ve upgraded technologies in our lives.”
So what does this have to do with selling electric toothbrushes?
“People are still not upgrading their oral healthcare techniques,” Salvatore lamented.
“So, in this dig here, there are tons of “ancient artificacts,” meaning you can uncover VHS tapes, cassettes, beepers, old cellphones, manual toothbrushes. Depending on what you find in here – the oldest technology is actually the manual toothbrush – you can bring these technologies back through the site here and receive your prizes.”
O.K., so the historical reasoning may be a bit sketchy, but anything that gets New Yorkers digging around in a sandbox with nary a thought of catching a disease or, worse, staining those expensive designer jeans, is worthy of a Flatiron Hot! shout out.