Let Them Drink Sugar

stuffer Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.

Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.

For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:

Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”

*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.

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”?

Pokemon Go and the Frontiers of Corporate Spying

pokemon logo Advertising Age today includes a typically comico-chilling observation from an ad industry worker. Speaking about big business marketers’ growing ability to gather data about cell phone users’ movements, locations, and behaviors, here’s what “Kirsten McMullen, chief privacy officer at mobile ad firm 4Info” tells AdAge:

Marketers and consumers have both become “way more comfortable with location data being used,” Ms. McMullen said.

The punchline and payload?:

[S]he also added, “Consumers remain largely unaware of it.

Of course they do, but it doesn’t stop the professional DoubeThink required for Ms. McMullen to keep doing her job.

Meanwhile, as its design ensures, corporate capitalism continues its bold march toward stronger and better market-totalitarian behavioral engineering:

While 4Info argues that using store visit data to gauge ad effectiveness is less relevant than measuring actual purchase transactions, which the company does for most of its packaged-goods advertiser clients, Mr. Moxley acknowledged the value of mobile location data for measuring mobile ad campaigns.

“The key to the mobile device is it goes everywhere,” he said. “Nobody carries their TV into the store.”

Quite so, and, as TCT always says, history’s state totalitarians must be looking up from Hades purple-faced, jealous over this deniable system’s ability to keep on rolling. Soviet citizens in 1982 would never have blithely walked around with little Brezhnev boxes in their pockets, or would at least have known who they were serving by doing so. Here, it’s “freedom.”

Behavior Changers

In today’s Advertising Age, another admission of the true nature of corporate marketing:

“Skincare is an interesting category for us because it’s one a decent number of men aren’t even using today,” said Dollar Shave CMO Adam Weber. “It allows us to do what we’ve done in some other categories, like butt wipes, by thinking about what men are doing and how we can change behavior.”

Men’s skincare has been a big but largely unfulfilled dream for many marketers in the U.S., where it’s a $263 million category growing about 3% annually, according to Euromonitor. Globally, the category is $3.5 billion and growing more than twice as fast.

Pavlov’s Kisses

Big business marketers, being in the anti-rationality trade, see their targets not only as “targets,” but as animals-in-training.

Consider, then, this contraption, the Hershey Smile Sampler:

Hershey machine

This thing is installed in grocery store aisles, and dispenses a candy when somebody smiles into its facial-recognition camera. Part of a trend called “shoppertainment,” such devices boost brand loyalty to their owners’ wares. How much marketing data gets derived from the facial images of the creatures who salivate on cue remains to be disclosed.

Ad Age reports on the logic of the Dr. Pavlovs behind the Smile Sampler:

The kiosk took up precious retail space, but retailers loved it because it drove foot traffic and loyalty, and for a brand like Hershey, giving up space was worth it if it meant means getting people down the aisle and driving just one potential sale, said Mr. Jimenez. “If I can get more impressions at retail that’s extremely valuable for us, expecially in a category that [benefits from] unplanned purchases. This experience allows us to do that. Retailers even offered to give us more space because of the idea.”

Wild Blue Technologies, which worked with Hershey on the push, validated the effort by asking people to tell them if they’d come back and use the “smile” machine and technology again. “We’re talking about validating qualitative [behavior] and using tech for that,” said Steve McLean, president of Wild Blue Technologies. “They were giving us realtime feedback. They said, yes I’d make those 20 paces for this treat.”