Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Ad Age has a column in which a figure named Benjamin Duchek, “the principal of Socialgence and a former Army artillery officer,” argues that the military radically under-charges its marketing partners for use of its brands and images. “Why,” wonders Duchek,
do the government and its marketers give troops away at a ridiculously low price to any sporting organization or beer company that wants to parade them as a prop for an event? In 2012, the National Football League donated $800,000 to three military-related non-profits as part of a Veterans Day Salute to Service. That amount is nothing but a rounding error on the billions that the league brings in throughout the year. Yet it gives the league carte blanche to integrate armed forces branding into its website, TV broadcasts and apparel.
Quite so. The military could almost certainly insist on a much better deal than that, and its restraint in not doing so is, as Duchek argues, a subsidy from the public sector to big business marketing endeavors.
Of course, what Duchek misses is that it’s equally true that the military probably gets back at least as much as it concedes. Soldiers are certainly exploited laborers, but radically under-charging for military marketing services is not without benefit to the Pentagon, which is, after all, the entity making the call. In return for the near-free use of the “our heroes” and “support our troops” brands/tropes, the military receives free exposure for these crucial ideologies among a huge, highly suggestible, and important audience. All of which makes the next Pentagon budget and the next war that much safer.
Of course, one of the major target audiences for all the soldier-worship is the next batch of grunts. Judging by the inability of ex-soldiers like Duchek to perceive the systemic nature of their situation and labors, the in-kind marketing symbiosis seems to be working rather well, despite the extreme puniness of the purported benefits to the little people.
Monday, March 10th, 2014
So, to much fanfare, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is remaking Carl Sagan’s astronomy-and-a-bit-of-science TV show. Is television any way to learn science? Did Sagan’s Cosmos really turn anybody on who wasn’t already turned on, or about to be turned on? Is, as the Babysitter-in-Chief would have it, a passion for truth and bold thinking about new problems and limits really part of our national character at this point? Is it even tolerated, let alone promoted, by anybody in power?
Whatever your answers to these questions may be, ponder the more elementary fact that Tyson’s show is commercial, while Sagan’s was public. Hence, you have to wonder how much Tyson truly embodies his mentor’s spirit. Before giving up on PBS (not that it is anything like truly public), Tyson might have gone back and pondered the fact that Sagan fought an extended legal battle to prevent Apple from using his name to sell its products.
In any event, thanks to its commercialization, the first institutional task of the new Cosmos is greenwashing. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss some of the details of what things like “the Chrysler Brand” gain from such campaigns. We’ll also keep notes on how the sponsors impose limits on what makes it into Tyson’s scripts. Don’t expect much fearless talk about the main tasks of science at this point in human history.
Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Cadillac’s extra-obnoxious “Poolside” ad was, it now says, this:
The “Poolside” spot, created by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a “brand provocation,” according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director.
Of course, the deeper story is the usual one. The ad is a piece of flattery designed to push the marginally comfortable into proving their upper-classiness by buying the $75,000 monstrosity it promotes.
Advertising Age interviewed Cadillac’s Mr. Bierley on the strong reaction to the spot. He said the spot’s been “misconstrued” by some viewers. He wanted to set the record straight. Among the misperceptions:
It’s aimed at the richest 1%
Not so, says Mr. Bierley. Rather than millionaires, the spot’s targeted at customers who make around $200,000 a year. They’re consumers with a “little bit of grit under their fingernails” who “pop in and out of luxury.”
Friday, February 28th, 2014
As investment outlets outside the financial casinos get harder and harder to find, and as almost all new wealth continues to pile up in the coffers of the hilariously/Orwellianly self-proclaimed “job creators,” the reality is that corporate capitalism is getting increasingly dependent on selling increasingly ornate luxury goods to the elite and the merely comfortable.
Consider the latest news that the size of new houses being built has returned to its pre-crash trend of steady, record-breaking increases. Why is that? Is it some feature, as many “consumer culture” analysts would surely have it, of national character, of collective greed and psychosis? “Americans love bigness!”
Not so much. “To get an answer, just take a look at WHO is buying new homes,” says the NAHB itself. Here’s the click-to-expand graph:
Hence, another always stratified and divisive core capitalist product has generally gotten much more stratified and divisive.
Friday, February 14th, 2014
Per today’s Advertising Age:
Acceleration of addressable advertising
One of the biggest obstacles to ad targeting at the household level has been a lack of broad reach, which makes running campaigns across multiple operators a clumsy and inefficient effort. The merger should eventually help expand the addressable universe to the kind of scale that advertisers desire and speed up advances in areas such as dynamic ad insertion.
And increasingly, Comcast will have the data to make addressable smarter. With about 30 million set-top boxes, it will have an even bigger trove of ratings information, viewing habits and personal data. Combined with marketers’ own data, that will help planners and buyers laser focus their media selections, Mr. Kanefsky said.
Thursday, February 13th, 2014
The filters that govern mainstream journalism sometimes produce sentences that are simply hilarious. Reporting today on the proposed merger between the Comcast and Time-Warner media profit fiefdoms, The New York Times notes that “the deal, if completed, could have impacts on consumers across the country, though it is unlikely to reduce competition in many markets.”
To be sure, you can’t really reduce what does not exist, can you?