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DQ goes to the head(s) of the class

No surface on earth, apparently, is safe from advertising. Not even the tops of our children’s heads.

As part of Dairy Queen’s launch of Orange Julius premium fruit smoothies and light smoothies, the company this month is promoting a custom-designed graphic for graduates’ mortarboards that reads: “Orange you glad I graduated?” (feel free to groan at will).

So now some of this nation’s best and brightest can receive their diplomas while wearing free advertising for the wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which last year had revenues of $162 billion. But a DQ executive explained that this is not merely a tactic to supplement the Warren Buffett retirement fund.

“We are sure that most graduates would like to decorate their graduation cap but with so much going on, they don’t have time,” said Barry Westrum, a DQ executive. “We are giving them a simple way to decorate their cap with an appropriate message.”

Busy graduates in the class of 2013 can have one of these ads on their mortarboards at absolutely no cost to themselves or their parents. All they need to do is download the artwork by visiting (My attempts to download it were unsuccessful, but that’s probably because I belong to the graduating class of 1964). The site even includes helpful tips for affixing the slogan and a DQ logo to the caps. Such as “use glue.” Or, “use tape.” Which probably will be helpful to those who might not be graduating in the top 98 percent of their classes.

While some might question whether turning graduates into walking billboards is “an appropriate message,” it’s all part of the great American marketing mosaic. Virtually everything in this nation, from t-shirts to race cars, is plastered with corporate logos.

In Massachusetts, a high school is selling naming rights to its principal’s office for $10,000. In Wisconsin, a high school food preparation area formerly known as “the kitchen,” now is the Kohler Credit Union Kitchen. In Texas, an entire town renamed itself DISH in exchange for a decade of free satellite service.

Sports teams that once played in venues with names such as Veterans Stadium and Tiger Stadium, now perform in Lincoln Financial Field and Comerica Park. (One of the few teams to resist this trend is the Cleveland Browns, probably because corporations question the wisdom of having their names associated with a team in the midst of a 49-year rebuilding program).

And, if nothing else, proud parents watching their graduates parade to the stage with smoothies ads on their caps will be able to tell each other, “At least they’re finally using their heads for something.”

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