Shame Has No Place in Marketing

vitaminwate The Coca-Cola Corporation peddles its “Vitamin Water” brand of sugar-water as a vehicle for harvesting dollars from the long-standing (and largely business-implanted) public over-estimation of what vitamins are and what they do for human health and performance. A decent society would ban this pointless, cynical landfill fodder, and fine Coca-Cola for planning and promulgating it.

Something milder than that has happened in Britain, according to Advertising Age. There, the Advertising Standards Authority (an unthinkable institutional possibility here in the USA, of course) has told Coke it can’t run its normal ads for Vitamin Water, due to their blatant, exploitative falsity (which, of course, is the same thing as the brand’s very purpose and plan).

The news there, though, is more about the shameless, laughable lies Coke presented in its losing attempt at self-defense. As reported by Ad Age:

One poster was headlined “More muscles than brussels.” The complaints challenged the implication that the drink’s health benefits made it equivalent to eating brussels sprouts — a popular U.K. winter vegetable. Coca-Cola claimed that the phrase was instead a reference to former action-movie star Jean Claude Van Damme, who is commonly labeled the “Muscles from Brussels,” referring to his origins in the Belgian city.

Another ad claimed, “Keep perky when you’re feeling murky.” It jokingly advised consumers that if you drink Glaceau Vitaminwater you won’t have to waste your sick days on real illness, and can use them instead “to just, erm, not go in.” Coca-Cola insisted that the “perky” claim was about mood rather than health, and that it did not imply that the drink could prevent illness.

The ASA also received complaints that the ads promoted the range of drinks as healthy, when in fact they contain high levels of sugar. Coca-Cola’s defense was that the products are clearly labeled, and that 7.5 grams of sugar in 100 milliliters is not a “high sugar” content. However, the ASA upheld the complaints because the sugar contained in one Glaceau Vitaminwater represents 26% of an adult’s recommended daily sugar allowance.

It would make an excellent project to study the course of other corporate defenses to ASA charges. These speak volumes about the depth of dishonesty and contempt at the very heart of big business marketing.

“Corporate Social Responsibility”: Another Hoax


In case you ever wondered what the real, insider definition is:

Corporate social responsibility is a hybrid PR/branding program that attempts to convert compliance into goodwill.

CSR attempts to align corporate needs (profits, revenue, growth) with social needs (people, community, planet).  In the end, CSR is a compulsory exercise designed to limit liability, boost morale and add to the branding story of the company.

From the obnoxious corporate cheerleader Tim Sanders, Advertising Age, September 17, 2009.

“Behavioral Guarantees”

eyes According to Advertising Age for August 26, 2009, we’ve entered the age in which media conglomerates are selling air time to corporate advertisers via “behavioral guarantees.”

In the words of marketing research firm TRA, it’s:

Finally true accountability for TV! TRA, a media and marketing research company, has America’s largest second by second national live and time shifted TV database of 1.5 million households and the largest ever single-source database of 370,000 households that matches TV ad viewing to actual purchases of the product being advertised.

Basically, what TRA does is track what individual households watch on TV and what they then buy in stores, with an eye on the households’ exposure to specific ads. TRA then reports its findings to the broadcasters, who promise the corporate sponsors specific sales results from the ads they pay to air. If the promised buying behavior does not materialize, the ad-placing corporation gets a “make-good,” usually more advertising time for free.

And as always, this new market-totalitarian capacity is but the beginning:

‘This is where the future needs to be,’ said Donna Speciale, [media-time broker] MediaVest’s chief investment officer. ‘Our ultimate goal is to figure out how to better reach consumers and get our inventory much more targeted, not just buy the typical demographic breakout. That’s where all the testing in these different areas is heading, to get much more granular research.’

Ah, the Mighty NHTSA…

mousedish The mouse that doesn’t even squeak, the Orwellian sop to Naderian special pleading, the organization that dares put “highway traffic” and “safety” not just together, but together in its very name…

So, let’s say the Congress wanted to find a way to give away some free money to help further bail out car capitalists by encouraging commoners to step up their anemic, Great Depression III automotive purchasing rates.  Which governmental agency would one expect the money to be managed by?  The Commerce Department, perhaps?

In reality, can you guess where the conduit lies for the federal government’s new Car Allowance Rebate System, a.k.a. “C.A.R.S.”, a.k.a. “cash-for-guzzlers” program?

Yep:  In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration!

This fact speaks volumes in several directions, not least as proof that the NHTSA, both by design and established practice, does nothing serious to make personal mobility safer in this market-totalitarian society.  It is a cover, a shield, a deflector for our massively deadly, dangerous, and irrational cars-first arrangement.  Hence, in a nation where 35,000-55,000 people die in car crashes each and every year, the NHTSA in the year 2009 has the time and staff to administer a complex program for passing out free money for even more cars!

Footnote:  If you watch any TV, you’ll have already noticed that, in local auto dealers’ aggressive come-on advertising, “cash-for-guzzlers” is most certainly not being explained in any substantial degree.  Judging from these ads, which (at least in my “market” of Portland, Oregon) are blatantly mis-labeling the program “cash-for-clunkers,” any reasonable person would conclude there are no requirements for obtaining money other than owning a clunker.

In reality, there are narrow rules based on vehicle age and gas-mileage ratings.

Hence, the actual main effect of the “cash-for-guzzlers reimbursement system” is to serve as a publicly-sponsored marketing platform for a new round of bait-and-switch selling on the nation’s car lots.  “Now that you’re here…”

Flattery on Wheels: “Motorsports”

High-Octane Schmuck

As part of my ongoing research on automobiles-über-alles, I just watched CNBC’s documentary on the business of NASCAR.

It includes some excellent quick glimpses of the truth behind the scenes of this shameful mega-enterprise/IQ test.  Thinking they’re talking to CNBC and hence other corporate overclassers, some corporate planners briefly tip their hand about their real motives.

For instance, this admission from Tom Murphy, VP of Media and Sponsorships at the Sprint telecom corporation:

This [NASCAR] is a superior marketing asset and we judge it in the ways any marketer would, no differently than when we buy TV advertising and airtime…newspaper or magazine advertisements. This is a giant, giant ad machine.

But, while watching, I also noticed that NASCAR’s major players go out of their way to call car racing “motorsports.”

That’s another great proof of Leslie Savan’s observation that much of marketing’s symbolism is a way of flattering the perceiver.

“Motorsports!” Yeah, driving a car is now a “sport.”

P.S. The photo above is the mega-dolt peckerwood Dale Earnhardt, Jr. standing outside the fake “old western town” he has had constructed on his North Carolina property.

Talk about an excellent advertisement for radically progressive taxation…