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”?

Cookie Smash!

shot cookie Viva the European Union’s Cookie Directive! This thoroughly fantastic law takes effect in Europe starting this Saturday. All U.S. activists should start demanding that it be copied here in the USA!

Meanwhile, the marketers are quite beside themselves over it, naturally. Over at Advertising Age, one Shaina Boone, VP of Marketing Science at Canadian ad agency chain Critical Mass, foresees doom ahead — and for the commoners! Boone’s view:

What’s at stake when all cookies in Europe must be opt-in? Poor brand experiences online, even-more-terrible customer experiences, hobbled e-commerce, and the ruin of digital advertising and marketing as we know it.

The law, as it stands, does not consider its impact on the industry. Forcing these requirements on marketers will lead to huge erosion in the quality of web experiences for consumers — the very constituents it hopes to protect.

When customers opt out of sharing their data, they take away our ability to improve products and services. This law will result in websites becoming, well, dumb again.

The chutzpah, delusion, and sheer demagogy of this diagnosis are obviously epic in scale. The basic claims being made — that what’s best for capitalists is best for media and product users, that wall-to-wall commercialism leads to better media experiences, that marketing is about improving products — are as flimsy as they are typical. TCT almost feels sorry for Ms. Boone. True believerdom is no way to go through life, Shaina.

Meanwhile, huzzah and good health to the new cookie-smash law! Occupy, are you watching?

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