Ralph Nader Thinks Advertising Doesn’t Work?

Ralph Nader has a new interview with Advertising Age. [It may be pay-walled, so TCT refrains from linking; you can find it.]

In the interview, Mr. Nader muses on “advertising inefficacy.” Commenting on the timeless fact that marketing remains something far less efficient than computer programming and that marketers are never sure which parts of their efforts are the ones that produce behavioral changes, Nader is apparently trying the tack of taking all this as proof that advertising is entirely ineffective, a mere vehicle for “misbehavior” by those who plan and sell it.

Nader’s underlying theory seems to be that, if he can only implant the news that advertising is a pointless waste, then TPTB will move against its ever-increasing importance in our lives. Here is Nader’s explanation of his motive:

“The more attention paid to advertising inefficacy, the more the FTC is going to wake up, and the more they wake up, the more Congress may wake up.”

Not only is this stunningly naive in political terms, but it simply ignores the serious evidence on the way marketing and advertising produce their intended results.

If we really want to address the galloping commercialization and commodification of our world, we can’t indulge cavalier opportunism, no matter how venerable the source. Delusion will get us nowhere. We need to describe reality if we want to exert some reasonable control over it. We are up against deep — and deeply logical — institutions. They will not yield to frippery.

Innumeracy and Class Domination

Book coverThe psychic effects of wealth are as fascinating as they are crucial, as shown here and here.

One major dimension of the mental distortion that tends to plague those who make it to the top in our radically unequal world is, ironically, innumeracy.

Consider the prevalence of the very strong tendency of tax resentment to increase as zeroes get added to incomes and wealth stocks. People who never would bat an eye at having taxes withheld from $50,000 incomes become irate crusaders when the base sum becomes $5,000,000 or $5,000,000,000.

Meanwhile, consider the patent stupidity of the latest pose being struck by the supposed genius, Jeff Bezos. $2 billion dollars for a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities”? Jeff, honey: How many top-shelf schools do you imagine can be built and staffed for $2 billion? There are 8 million households living below the official poverty line, in many hundreds of communities. I hate to tell you, but you are therefore off on this one by at least one order of magnitude — and that’s presuming you’d be giving this $2 billion every year (schools, you see, need to keep going once they open), which you are not.

But, of course, this kind of wild innumeracy is part and parcel of the capitalist creed. We need, they say, to let our creative entrepreneurial class have an unspeakable amount of wealth, so that they will turn around and use it to help the rest of us. Simply putting limits on them and doing what needs doing ourselves wouldn’t work, they say, despite the Nordic countries’ existence and apparent thriving.

Stupid is as stupid does. (Not, of course, that the corporate media will ever mention it in their predictable paeans to private power.)

Theses on Kaepernick

Nike Kaepernick ad 1. It is brilliant, well-researched and planned marketing. It will massively increase brand interest and loyalty while generating news for some considerable period.

2. If you watch regular TV these days, you see that “cause marketing” is rampant. Corporations now use marketing to portray themselves as charities.

3. It is a perfect example of how trivial and broken our society is.

4. It is about selling over-priced shoes and clothes.

5. It is about whether it is right for people to strike gestural poses about vague attitudes toward racial injustice and inequality, with the clearest suggestion being the thoroughly silly idea that police reform is both possible and would somehow make everything much better in that area.

6. Live sports is as hugely important as it is in modern society because it is, by its very nature, the most reliable and durable platform for attracting eyeballs and eardrums to corporate advertising campaigns.

7. Watching sports is a deeply childish activity, particularly in a world that is probably destroying the ecological basis for further civilizational progress.

8. All our politics are now like this. If it isn’t a tempest-in-a-teapot, it gets no mention in corporate media-and-politics.

The U-word

Notice he didn’t say “consumed,” though, in the same essay, he describes “production and consumption” as the “movement” of private property:

karl-marx-photo

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it – when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directly possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., – in short, when it is used by us. Although private property itself again conceives all these direct realisations of possession only as means of life, and the life which they serve as means is the life of private property – labour and conversion into capital….The human being had to be reduced to this absolute poverty in order that he might yield his inner wealth to the outer world. [emphasis added]

Let us say it again: To accept “consume” as a synonym for “use” is to adopt the terminology and worldview of private property rather than plain human beings. To do so is to truncate and distort one’s view of the very process one professes to want to elucidate, by conceding the hypothesis that human product-use activities are only interesting and important insofar as they serve their own “conversion into capital.”

Social critics of the world, unite and cease your use of the “consumer” vocabulary! Be precise and objective! There is still a world to win, or at least describe.