Home as Marketing Platform

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The Consumer Trap has several core theses. One is that corporate capitalism, through its constituent firms’ relentless expansion and refinement of marketing operations and campaigns, is every bit as totalitarian a social order as ever there was or will be. Another is that, thanks to its peculiar nature (it works in part by doling out pleasures and conveniences) and superior deniability (it is competitively and privately, not centrally and publicly, developed), market totalitarianism is far more successful and secure than state totalitarianism ever was or will be.

Consider then, the nature and logic of News Corp.’s “Home of the Future.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother’s police agencies enjoyed only telescreens in the homes of certain persons of interest. In Leonard Cohen’s 1998 “Tower of Song” lament, the complaint was about our system, but only that “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”

consumer house Quite so, but now corporate marketers are turning their attentions to how to deploy artificial intelligence technologies to make the entire house a marketing platform.

“Home is the next and most powerful marketing canvas,” said [marketing researcher Simon] Gosling. “The rules are changing … we are stepping towards a new ecosystem of machines, screens and devices, where brands can share stories with consumers in their homes.”

This is the explanation, per Advertising Age, of

“a 2,000 square foot ‘Home of the Future,’ created by News Corp. and ad tech company Unruly in partnership with marketers including Amazon Launchpad, PepsiCo, Heineken, eBay, Unilever, HTC, Nokia Health, and Tesco. The installation opening today in London has been created to give marketers and agencies a first-hand experience of the connected home, and a chance to think about how they might use it to engage consumers.

“Artificial Intelligence is hardest at work in the kitchen, which is stocked with brands from Unilever and supermarket chain Tesco. In this room you can give your AI system a budget and a license to search for deals from different brands and supermarkets. And cooking becomes simple, as your fridge talks you through every step of a recipe and then alerts the family when dinner’s ready. You might find a new item in your shopping basket that’s been placed there as a free sample, based on your preferences, and then let the AI assistant know whether you like it and if you would recommend it to friends.

“Much of the technology is voice-activated. ‘By January, Amazon had sold 11 million Alexa devices, and by 2020 Alexa is expected to have added $11 billion of revenue,’ Gosling said, as evidence that voice control will play a key role in interactions of the future. ‘This is about helping brands to understand new technology,’ Gosling said. ‘Normally there’s a lag where brands get into a space after the consumer, but we have identified where consumers will be in 2020 so we can get there before them. We are being disruptive in our own business.’ Asked if the future home will be for the wealthy, Gosling said, ‘Everyone’s got a phone. Everyone’s got a TV. And millions of people have got an Alexa.’

“News Corp. bought video advertising company Unruly for $176 million in 2015. News Corp. brands, including Dow Jones (which has created a hologram to bring the stock market to life), publisher HarperCollins, and foodie site Taste.com.au, are evident throughout the Future Home. So why is a video advertising company launching a home of the future? An Unruly statement said, ‘Unruly get brands’ videos seen, shared and loved. We do this on mobile and desktop… and we’ll continue to do so in the next era of advertising, which is the connected home… We’ve built Home to study the development of this new platform, enabling us to guide our clients in this exciting new frontier.'”

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Tony Gets a Hicksie

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turd-trophy Anthony Bourdain is certainly somebody who would understand the immortal words of Bill Hicks.

Indeed, here’s what Mr. Bourdain said when General Motors/Cadillac slipped a product placement into one of his TV shows back in 2012.

But Bourdain’s principles end after a certain price arises, it seems. According to Advertising Age:

But this year another luxury auto brand, Land Rover, convinced Bourdain to give it prime product placement as part of its exclusive launch sponsorship of a digital extension of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” TV show. It represents the chef-turned TV star’s first brand integration deal with CNN.

Having a price point, alas, is no shield. So, an uncoveted Golden Hicksie hereby goes to Anthony Bourdain, the newest shill for this lovely little planet-killing phenomenon:

Ad Age: Some of the booming SUV market is driven by people who drive them in the city. Some might call them off-road posers. Do you target people who are actually taking the vehicles into rugged territory?

Kim McCullough, VP-marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America: We often use the analogy with high-end watches that are safe for 40 fathoms deep. Now, no one is going to go scuba diving that deep, but they want to know that they have something that is engineered to that level, so that is part of the appeal. In the Northeast when you have inclement weather, when you have a lot of rain or flooding, being able to know that, ‘Hey I can get out of this situation because I do have a capable product’ is absolutely part of the appeal.

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Sugar & Pets

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Mars, Incorporated, which makes profits from selling candy and pet supplies and services, wants you to see yourself as a hero of human civilization for keeping a pet dog. Of course they do!

In the process, you are asked to forget that George Washington was a major slave-owner, a fact that rather overshadows whatever love he may have had for dogs, and that it was certainly not snowing on October 4 in Germantown, which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Ah, but in the ongoing reign of Patriotic Correctness, it was always snowing on our ragtag tepeed pure-of-heart Heroes, wasn’t it?

“Follow the flattery,” says Leslie Savan.

“How strong, deep, or sustaining,” wondered Robert Heilbroner, “can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?”

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How Commodification Happens

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Tile-remote Corporate capitalism is history’s biggest and most successful form of totalitarianism. Properly defined, totalitarianism is any modern, industrial social order in which the ruling class endeavors to control the details of all three of modern, industrial life’s experiential spheres. These spheres are politics, the economy/paid work, and leisure.

In corporate capitalism/market totalitarianism, elite administration of leisure-time activities is carried out competitively, as a routine business activity, via marketing campaigns. The methods deployed in the effort are meticulous and lavishly funded. Given the profitability of successful redesigns of existing off-the-job habits, their pursuit is systemic and zealous. As the investing class continually seeks such successes, the outcome is ever-advancing commercialization and commodification of ordinary citizens’ personal lives.

One recent example of the basic process is the rise of the new product known as “Tile.” This is a radio-signal-sending tab that users attach to objects in order to be able to use their cellular telephones to find those objects when they become lost somewhere in the densifying galaxy of clutter that results from market totalitarianism’s normal operation. One example of Tile in action? Using your cell phone to find your television’s remote control.

The logic behind this (cough) great advance in human technology is simple. As Tile’s Chief Marketing Officer explains it to Advertising Age, “[W]e have roughly 90% share of this category that we created, but it’s still a low awareness category and there’s an opportunity to build a really meaningful brand in this space.”

Viewed sociologically, corporate capitalism abhors and moves to fill all un- and under-commodified spaces.

As noted by Tim Wu, the methods, results, and lack of countervailing attention and alarm enjoyed by the agents and primary beneficiaries of the process “would have made a Soviet-era spy blush.”

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Concentration and Centralization

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As the continuing Reagan Revolution reaches its Drumpfian apotheosis, the always-undiscussed actually dominant institutions continue their normal development, with all the standard, dire consequences. To wit, here’s a visual from my present work on cars-first transportation. The sources here are Fortune magazine and the U.S. Census Bureau. Please don’t reproduce this image without respecting the CC 4.0 attribution limits linked beneath it.

Note that I chose 1994 as the middle case because that was the first year in which Fortune included service-sector corporations in its “Fortune 500” reports. 1954, meanwhile, was the first year covered by such reporting.

fortune-500-growth

cc-license CC BY-NC-SA

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