About Beinggirl…For Real

tampvampsm When you subscribe to insider business rags, you not only get access to some of the truths behind the lies, you also get a better sense of what’s really newsworthy to the minions of Mammon.

Today’s news flash comes via Advertising Age, which broadcast to its subscribers the word that “P&G Social-Media Strategy Increases Tampon Sales,” with the subhead “Marketer Conclusion: Much More Effective Than Advertising.”

Turns out the big news is that the Procter & Gamble conglomerate has created a website called www.beinggirl.com as a Trojan Horse for boosting tampon sales to girls entering puberty.

The site is described as “subtle” by marketing researcher Josh Bernoff.

Take a look, and see what’s considered subtle by our chief cultural engineers.

The only thing I see that looks subtle is the deceptions advanced on the obligatory “About Beinggirl” page, where P&G passes off its vampirical exploitation of pre-teen girls as a form of genuine human concern.  While the two and only two true purposes of Beinggirl are 1) boosting P&G sales, and 2) harvesting extremely high-quality marketing data on a key “market segment,” here is what P&G alleges to Beinggirl users:

Being a girl is like being part of a club where everyone knows what you’re going through…at least on some level. Girls have fun. Girls have opinions. Girls have a lot of questions about stuff like PMS, dating, their bodies and even serious subjects like addiction and abuse – just about anything you can think of that has to do with being a girl.

That’s why we created beinggirl – a place where girls can come together to learn, share, communicate with each other and have loads of fun with games, quizzes, polls and lots more. It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.

Beinggirl.com, for girls, by girls!

The only line here that’s not a calculated lie is “It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.”

Such “social-media” marketing is the future.  As Bernoff report, P&G reports this campaign has produce a marketing ROI that’s 4 times greater than it’s convention advertising efforts.

Without seeing P&G’s background research, one can only guess at the real business strategy on which this 4x profit result rests.  Based on my experience with such secret materials, my best guess is that P&G knows that kids generally aspire to be older than they are.  I’d wager that the real targets of this website are not the reported “12 and 13-year old girls just starting menstruation,” but the 10- and 11-year-olds aspiring to become cool, bleeding, sexy middle schoolers and asking mom to start stockpiling P&G tampons, etc., in anticipation of the big day.  Selling products to people who don’t need them, in other words.

Of course, there’s no way to know this is the real plan.  For reasons I explain in my book, corporate marketers are very secretive about their research findings and their resulting plans.  And Procter & Gamble is notoriously brutal about its secrets, even by the already tough standards of the trade.

Nonetheless, as Sherlock Holmes often says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  P&G is undoubtedly not simply serving girls, as it claims.  After all, there was no prior crisis of tamponless girls.  Hence, P&G has almost undoubtedly discovered some new way of manipulating their targets into buying more products for some irrational reason(s) known only to it.

To the extent corporate capitalism has time left, this is the kind of thing its planners will be spending their time promulgating, as the world and its pre-teens careen toward the abyss.

How lovely.

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions? (Robert L. Heilbroner)

“Made With” Lies

Big business advertising is the art and science of tricking people into thinking and reacting your way. Lies are an absolute staple of the trade.

One major form of lying in advertising is the use of sly linguistic insertions, such as the ubiquitous “up to” gambit — as in the verbal bait-and-switch “save up to [X] percent.”

A slim but dense volume could be composed on this subject.  And, as the late Robert L. Heilbroner once remarked,

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?

One of the most egregious new marketing campaigns in the blatant lie division is McDonald’s “See What We’re Made Of” series.

The ads are an attempt to portray McDonald’s fare as healthy and wholesome.  Not only do they deploy pictures like this:

They also do things like describe Chicken McNuggets as “made with white meat.”

The key phrase there is “made with.”

What is the full ingredient list of Chicken McNuggets?  It ain’t exactly white meat, bread crumbs and simple cooking oil:

Chicken McNuggets®:
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). [Link]

As Charlotte Gerson notes:

There are 38 ingredients in a McNugget; many of them made from corn. Further down the list there are the mono, diandtriglycerides, and the emulsifiers that keep the fats and the water from separating. More corn flour is used to make the batter, and the hydrogenated oil in which the nuggets are fried can come from soybeans, canola or cottonseed, depending on the market price.

It gets worse: a number of the ingredients come from petroleum products, to keep the items from spoiling or ‘looking strange’ after months in the freezer or on the road. If you are truly worried, look up these ingredients: sodium aluminum phosphate; mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are used to keep the animal and vegetable fats from turning rancid. Then there are “anti foaming” agents like dimethylpolysiloxene. According to the Handbook of Food Additives, this material is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigenic, and reproductive effector. It is also flammable.

The most alarming ingredient in Chicken McNuggets is “tertiary butyl hydroquinone,” or TBHQ, derived from petroleum. This is sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” Again, according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food. It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.” Ingesting five grams can be fatal.