Trouble in the Ministry of Truth

Big Brother poster 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”?

An Especially Disappointing Golden Hicksie

Stephen Hawking undoubtedly knows better:

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

So, what in the universe is he doing here?:

Not only is this an ad for the machine that is, barring sharp and unlikely new forms of popular education and intervention, virtually certain to finish completing “the second option,” but it is for an “SUV” version of said machine.

So, alas, Professor Hawking, to go along with your Lucasian Chair, etc., you hereby receive the un-coveted Golden Hicksie.

Meanwhile, the ad itself is a rather pristine exhibition of the profound adolescence of the contemporary overclass mind:

“Have you ever noticed how some people in life seem to get away with everything?”

and

“We live our lives from an elevated perspective. We keep our head [is this a British sic, or a grammatical match with the time-honored royal we?*] in the clouds.”

Wow.

*Either way, it’s funny.

Pure Propaganda

Teads.tv, aptly near in several senses to Turds.tv, has the chutzpah to vocalize corporate capitalist dogma without a shred of shame. According to these hawkers, not only is the present content of the mass media in the United States “great,” but only through the current system of advertising-based production and distribution could we get any content at all. Take a look:

Beneath this amazing video, Teads tries to complain about public ignorance and ingratitude:

According to Teads research, 68% of consumers underestimate the amount of revenue that advertising contributes to media sites. The tendency to devalue the significance of ads might relate to the fact that many display and video units are designed without regard for the user-experience. Such units are interruptive to online activities, and too many of them can severely compromise a website’s look and appeal. To avoid these types of ads, many users have installed ad blockers—a move that removes frustrating online ads, but also cuts off the revenue that online content producers need to keep publishing great content.

Of course, the other way to read that 68% number is as evidence of overclass success at keeping the nature of its totalitarianism out of the public eye. Are folks ungrateful for capitalism’s great media gifts, or do capitalists want nothing to do with public consideration and supervision of basic media policies and practices? When people learn the facts about “the significance of ads,” do they get happy, or pissed off?

TCT suggests that the Teadsters may have swallowed their own bullshit a bit too deeply. As more seasoned and mature overclass forces know all too well, when it comes to the core institutional facts about big business marketing, an informed public would be an irate public.

As for the supposedly advertiser-desired open and honest debate of how our media works and the universe of alternatives, TCT says bring it on.

And while we’re at it, anybody want to make the video for “Imagine the Future if Advertisers Continue to Rule”? It ain’t a pretty picture.

How Irrelevance Serves Monopoly

In the United States, our overclass has used its ownership of politics to prevent serious regulation of communications infrastructure, to say nothing of public ownership. As a natural result, we get the highest prices and worst services in the supposedly developed world.

Of course, a small part of the gargantuan cash geysers the overclass reaps from such a sweetheart set-up is used in marketing the overpriced, inferior products underlying its profit ranches.

Having no rational product differences or genuine technological breakthroughs to describe, such marketing is always mere empty manipulation.

Consider this perhaps familiar example:

How, one might wonder, could such unfunny and ham-handed irrelevancies be profitable to AT&T? What’s the business rationale? Is AT&T stoned?

Turns out, as always, not in the least.

Per an Ad Age story titled “How Big Data Shapes AT&T’s Advertising Creative,” there’s rather rigorous method to the apparent superfluity:

It’s Not Complicated” may have been its name, but the insights that drove one of AT&T’s most successful ad campaigns ever were based on a massive three-year big-data project that was plenty complex.

The campaign featuring comedian Beck Bennett and little kids in a classroom was the product of a three-year project. It involved an analysis of 40 copy-test variables and tagging 370 AT&T and competitive wireless communications ads on everything from the type of humor used and how characters interact to type of storyline.

The BBDO-created campaign that resulted from the analysis generated an additional $50 million in sales in AT&T’s estimation, said Greg Pharo, director-market research and analysis for the telecom in a presentation at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:Think 2014 conference in New York today.

Here’s how that happens, per Ad Age‘s report:

Mr. Pharo and AT&T Senior Data Scientist Damon Samuel, who made the switch from working on the telecom company’s marketing-mix analytics team to working on the project, delved into sometimes surprising details about what works and what doesn’t in their ads and those of rivals. Among the lessons:

-Ads with storylines are very effective

-Informative demonstrations boost ad performance

-Simple outperforms complicated

-Slice-of-life and transactional or promotional ads can both work

-Humor is effective at driving recall, brand favorability and likeability, but not all types of humor are equal

-Character interaction matters a lot

Of course, some of those lessons have guided TV advertising since Mrs. Olsen was pouring coffee for Procter & Gamble Co. and Folgers in the 1960s. But AT&T’s analysis has helped delve deeper into exactly how elements work, particularly humor.

The team, along with its market-research shop Added Value, painstakingly code commercials for such things as the type of humor. And they found, according to Mr. Pharo, that ads featuring humor deemed clever, sarcastic or snarky tend to outperform ads with silly humor (though Mr. Samuel noted that ads with darkly sarcastic humor tend to underperform).

While ads with storylines do better generally, those with complex storylines, too many scenes or vignettes and complicated visual montages “underperformed very significantly,” Mr. Samuel said. “Thirty seconds is just not enough time to share all the story elements and come to a resolution.”

Particularly effective are ads with informative presentations when a character explains the benefits and presentation of a product, Mr. Pharo said.

While people demonstrating product benefits works, just showing phones and benefits, or what Mr. Samuel termed “phone porn,” doesn’t. At best, such primitive product demos drive a shift in the mix of handset types sold without increasing total sales.

The rewards for AT&T are substantial, Mr. Pharo said, with the project showing that 25% of AT&T’s total sales are driven by media advertising and 10% from TV alone. Creative quality and tonality rather than media weight or placement account for a third of TV ads’ impact.

Such are the building blocks of our market-totalitarian culture.

Bad Behavior has blocked 709 access attempts in the last 7 days.