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”?

Update: People Use Monopolists’ Products

…including famous people.

Ergo, those products are justified. Or so the story goes, judging from the second wave of Microsoft’s campaign to alter the public perception of its over-priced, under-performing, important-only-because-they’ve-already-been-pushed software products.

It’s quite telling that Microsoft’s marketers have conducted massive marketing research operations to prepare this pathetic advertising push, and yet have found literally nothing new or creative to say. Their claim is “people use Windows.” That’s it.

Well, of course people use Windows. Take me, for instance. I teach college and work in a law office, which dually compels me to use both Windows and MS Office. Why? Is it because of the superiority and/or the cost-savings?

Not so much. I must use MS Office only because most of my students and clients use it, and because it is designed to be as incompatible as possible with other word processors (purportedly but falsely by always being “more advanced”). And, of course, there is no Linux-friendly version of MS Office, for the obvious reason, so using MS Office in turn compels me to use MS Windows, despite the cost, inefficiency, and gross security risks of doing so.

And why do my students and clients “prefer” Windows and Office? Overwhelmingly for the same reason I do: Because they know it’s the most widely used software out there and that it’s basically closed to use with other platforms, so one needs to own and use it if one wants to play nice with others/get or keep one’s job.

So, Microsoft is “popular” because it’s already widespread and not having it is a risk to one’s career.

Not exactly the stuff of true genius, is it?

As usual in big business marketing, the truth — that the private software industry is a bloated, monopolistic, increasingly outdated racket — is not only nowhere to be found in Microsoft’s pitiful charade, but the weakness of the whole thing shows just how thin and vulnerable its whole business is. Like corporate capitalism in general, Microsoft is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.

In reality, the fact that MS is not better than Apple is a superficial, distracting point. The deeper point, the one that MS fears the most, is that neither Microsoft nor Apple are now better than open-source products. Their software empires are now all emperor and no entrepreneur, despite the infamous Gatesian claim to the contrary. Hence, we get this desperate, expensive attempt to distract attention from the most basic facts. Meanwhile, the billions-for-nothing continue to roll in to already disgustingly over-stuffed pockets.

Open-sourcers and public industrialists unite! You have nothing to lose but your indoctrination!