Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.
Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.
For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:
Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.
Apple has touched off a pretty major row in the halls of marketing. Apparently, the next version of its Safari browser will restrict the creation and retention of “cookies,” which are little computer codes that allow big businesses to collect increasingly rich data, without acknowledgement or permission, on internet users. Why Apple is expressing this glint of conscience is an interesting question. Far more interesting and important, though, is what the now-brewing fight confirms about the nature of big business marketing.
Corporate marketing is scientific management of off-the-job behavior. Advertising, a subordinate phase in that endeavor, is lying for money.
If you doubt that, take a look at the big advertising trade groups’ “Open Letter” to Apple. Here’s the operative paragraph:
Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.
Let’s translate this passage from
marketing-speak into truth, shall we?:
Apple’s unilateral and
heavy-handed independent approach is bad for reflective of consumer* choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love tolerate. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful it harder for corporations to harvest the data they need to keep manipulating people’s “free time” experiences. Put simply, Apple’s proposed machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice marketers’ existing dictates; they represent browser-manufacturer choice internet users’ clear, strongly-held preferences and best interests. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy micro-managing off-the-job behavior on behalf of the corporate overclass, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers corporate investors by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.
*Advertisers’ Thought Bubble: Ain’t it a great scam that we still get away with calling people “consumers”?
Ad Age today has a thought piece by one “Tim Leake, senior VP-chief marketing officer at advertising agency RPA.” Mr. Leake says using natural disasters as marketing opportunities is “the icky thing to do.” Of course, he also answers a clear “no” to the the question “Should we just stay away?”
So, here’s what you do to make sure that devastation and sorrow make a contribution to your brand’s further implantation into targeted minds:
How should we say it?
Sometimes, to stop acting like a brand and start acting human, it helps to purposely do things that the brand wouldn’t normally do. A high-end production is likely to feel like an ad. A CEO speaking to her webcam is likely to feel more genuine. Or, if the brand’s Twitter stream is normally filled with product-centric messages, maybe share a screen-shot of a note from the people behind the brand. This will help put some distance between how you “normally act” and the gravity of the current situation.
Play humble and concerned, in other words.
Lovely stuff, Mr. Leake.
Great news! For the low, low price of only $128, you could purchase this desperately needed corporate product. Yes, these are — in the phrasing of the corporate maker — “anti-ball crushing” pants! At last!
This begs the question of which is more telling and hilarious: 1) the claim that pants, in themselves, have ever harmed or even mildly disturbed anybody’s testes, or 2) the product’s pre-literate promise to crush anti-ball.
Either way, such is the stuff of late corporate capitalism. As burnt forest falls from the sky, the only problems getting solved are the shareholders’ pending quarterly claims.
Not, of course, that the corporate marketers will ever admit this. Consider this shameless lie from Lululemon, the wondrous seller of ABC Pants:
Why We Made This
You’ve got room to move in these quick-drying, four-way stretch pants.
If you believe that, I can also get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. LULU “made this” because, like all big businesses, it desperately needs to find new ways to commodify human perceptions and activities — i.e., to create phony needs.
“In the end, it’s a mindshare race. You want the customer thinking about your product as often as they can, for as long as they can.”
— Eytan Albaz, cofounder and chief strategy office of Social Native, and cofounder and chairman of Render Media
[Advertising Age, August 15, 2017]
Google is apparently heightening its censorship of news sources, in response to the Duopoly©’s “fake news” flap. Mirroring the Democratic© brand of the duopoly’s proposed answer to the latest worsening of the nation’s information-and-education climate, Google is running with the notion that “more authoritative content” is what is needed within the otherwise uncriticized structure and flow of the corporate mass media. “Authoritative,” of course, means “mainstream,” which, in turn, means what is squarely conventional within the usual logic of corporate media properties.
What does the political left have to say about fixing this blatant attack on free and open thought? Nothing. The #Occupy folks are too high on anarchist fantasy to maintain organizing efforts, let alone name detailed demands. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, remains too tied to the overseers and tactics of the Democratic© brand to dare mention the obvious remedy.
That remedy, by the way, is to empower the United States Postal Service to live up to its Constitutional mandate. This would involve modernizing the USPO, to make it a fully-funded and aggressively-managed provider of not just ISP and cellular access, but also secure, marketing-free, non-commercial search engine, web browsing, and social networking software/services.