Anyone living and driving in L.A. the past few weeks has seen them. Looming over the city, black and ominous, the billboards and posters announce "You Have Been Warned" and "The Signs Are All Around You." Each is anchored with the date "6/6/06."
Drop the "0," and you get 666. That's "the number of the beast," according to the New Testament's Book of Revelation, just one of many interpretations though all of them are dark and frightening. For some Armageddon believers, it represents the date upon which the Antichrist will spread universal evil over the Earth.
For marketers, 666 has also become an ideal date -- to launch movies, records, books and other products or events, particularly those with religious undertones. In the case of 20th Century Fox, which is responsible for the omnipresent apocalyptic ad campaign, it's a once-in-a-century opportunity to unleash the remake of "The Omen," about a couple and their devil incarnate spawn. For Crown Forum publishers, it's a perfect time to fan the flames of ideological controversy with the release of provocative author Ann Coulter's new book, "Godless." For certain musical groups, it is the date to release records and, in the case of heavy-metal legends Slayer, their Unholy Alliance Tour -- Preaching to the Perverted.
"People have different reactions when they hear 666," said Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of marketing for 20th Century Fox. "It's partly superstition, partly fear, partly reality, maybe it's a little cultural. These numbers seem to have a significant impact."
A month ago, Fox first launched "The Omen" campaign with airplanes towing "You Have Been Warned" banners above key spring break cities. They definitely didn't go unnoticed -- 911 operators and the FBI fielded a flurry of calls from terrified, bikini-clad beachgoers. In Panama City, Fla., a fighter jet was even dispatched to escort one of the planes down.
Coulter's book probably won't have the military on alert, though it is likely to get political left-leaners up in arms. That won't have as much to do with the release date as what she's had to say about it. In an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News two weeks ago, the bestselling author of "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)" and "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right" said the release date of "Godless" was her "little tribute to liberals."
According to Crown Senior Vice President and Publisher Steve Ross, the release date was selected before the book was even named and was, predominantly, a marketing decision. June 6 falls on a Tuesday this year and Crown, which releases all its titles on Tuesdays, wanted to ensure that Coulter's "most explosive book yet" came out "early enough in the summer to be one of the summer books that people would be reading."
Now that June 6 has been construed as 666, Crown is, of course, happy to ride on Satan's, er, "The Omen's" coattails. 20th Century Fox, Ross said, "is doing our ad campaign for us."
Tuesdays are also the days albums are released. And while there are plenty of satanically unaffiliated artists' albums whose June 6 release date are entirely coincidental -- for example, electronic artist Paul Oakenfold's "A Lively Mind" and David Lee Roth's "Strummin' With the Devil" -- others, such as the death metal group Deicide, are taking full advantage. On June 6, the Florida quartet, renowned as much for a statement it issued in support of animal sacrifice as its music, will release "The Stench of Redemption."
Deicide isn't the only satanic group to celebrate the date. The online radio station Radio Free Satan, based in Chicago, is heading to Los Angeles, where it plans to celebrate its sixth year and also ring in the "sin-tennial" with Satan's Rockin' 666 Eve at Zen Sushi in Silver Lake.
The Anton LaVey-founded Church of Satan is hosting a satanic high mass at the Steve Allen Theater, during which Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore will bestow his blessing upon those assembled to, as Gilmore puts it, "champion reason, pluralism, skepticism and abundant joy in life."
June 6, 2006, is nothing to be feared, said Gilmore.
"It is just a day, like any other," Gilmore said.
"We think it's entertaining that it concerns people, but it is no more rational or plausible than avoiding stepping on cracks."