Ordering Pizza Hut From Your Facebook Page

You know how I’ve been warning you that “social networking” sites like MySpace anf Facebook are Trojan Horses for new and improved marketing campaigns?

I won’t say I told you so…but I told you so.

This just in from Advertising Age:

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) — A number of fast-food chains are reaching across the digital divide to get young consumers to order via Facebook or their iPhones. And they’re building valuable databases of their customers in the process.

Pizza Hut, which recently crossed the $1 billion benchmark in online sales, is launching a Facebook application that allows fans to place orders without leaving their profiles. Although online ordering isn’t new — the chain has offered it in some form since 2001 — Bob Kraut, VP-marketing communications at Pizza Hut, said the bulk of that $1 billion in sales has come in the past 18 months. The chain is also launching text-ordering capabilities and e-gift cards, which can be purchased, exchanged and redeemed online.

Pizza Hut’s not alone: A number of the nation’s biggest fast-food chains are beginning to embrace text and iPhone ordering capabilities, at least as tests. Already for the three months ending in August, food marketers sent almost 1.4 million text-message ads, up 37% from the same period last year, according to ComScore’s M:Metrics data. Consumers seem to want the offers: of all the ad categories using SMS marketing, restaurants had the highest response rates, with 15.5% of consumers responding to the ads.

Subway spokesman Les Winograd said some of the chain’s franchisees have begun to offer ordering via text and iPhone apps. The chain has an unusually open policy that lets individual franchisees experiment with their businesses.

“Some of that is stuff that they’re doing on their own, but they share information,” Mr. Winograd said. “We’re constantly encouraging franchisees to think out of the box and try something new. You never know, it might take off.” (He said adding turkey to the menu was a franchisee experiment in the chain’s early days.)

Lessons learned

McDonald’s experimented with text-message ordering in Chicago last summer, with signs encouraging consumers to text in their late-night orders. Spokeswoman Danya Proud said there were “some very good learnings from this campaign about how to execute future viral campaigns.”

Chipotle is developing an iPhone-ordering application to complement its existing web- and fax-ordering platforms. The chain also lets consumers pay online, place group orders and save ordering information for return visits.

While shifting consumer behavior may be behind the move toward mobile ordering, it’s also lucrative. According to Mr. Kraut, online buyers spend more. “It’s a little more upscale demographic, and a lot of people use credit,” he said.

To attract those customers, Pizza Hut is launching a promotion with eMusic.com that gives customers 75 free downloads in exchange for buying a pizza online. The chain is hoping to boost awareness of its online ordering, up its cool factor and build its customer database.

Younger consumers

Mr. Kraut said the chain uses its database for targeted, sometimes monthly promotions, as well as market research. He declined to disclose the size of the database or how much it’s grown this year.

“We’re seeing that our customers are getting younger and younger,” said Mr. Kraut, adding that the eMusic promotion is a way to bring “people in from other source and offering them something extra.” Pizza Hut has done a variety of online promotions this year, including a partnership with Rockstar Games and its Midnight Club Los Angeles driving game.

Package-food companies aren’t sitting on the sidelines either. Kraft chief marketer Mary Beth West said the company has created an iPhone application for consumers to download recipes and shopping lists in the grocery store.

“Even in the current economy, people don’t have any more time than they had before,” Ms. West said. “They’re trying to get dinner on the table, and this is going to help them do that.”

Things like walking, daydreaming, and cooking, you see, are profit-killers. The ideal is the living-room conveyor belt-served “media chair,” in which people sit all day using and being sold corporate capitalism’s wares.

Big Brother would have 100 wet dreams if he’d ever been able to conceive of such an arrangement.

More Advances in Market Totalitarianism

Even (perhaps especially) in times of economic contraction, big business marketers continue their relentless search for new and improved methods of profitably controlling off-the-job behavior.

Here is a direct quote [via Advertising Age, September 15, 2008] that needs no further explanation:

“Now we have the ability to automate serendipity,” says Dave Morgan, founder of Tacoda, the behavioral-marketing firm sold to AOL in 2007 for a reported $275 million. “Consumers may know things they think they want, but they don’t know for sure what they might want.”

“We no longer have to rely on old cultural prophecies as to who is the right consumer for the right message,” Morgan says. “It no longer has to be microsample-based [à la Nielsen or Simmons]. We now have [total-population] data, and that changes everything. With [those] data, you can know essentially everything. You can find out all the things that are nonintuitive or counterintuitive that are excellent predictors. … There’s a lot of power in that.”

A Rare Opportunity

The remarkable conquest of discretionary behavior by commercial television has to rank very high on the list of ruling-class victories in all of that class-divided phase of human history we are taught to call “civilization.”

Think of it: In the United States, we thoughtlessly squander the great bulk of our precious free time coming home and looking at a box that not only puts us into a mild catatonic state and makes us its addicts, but does so in order to implant mental and behavioral prescriptions designed to make the rest of our free time comport with the priorities of our super-rich corporate capitalist overclass.

Stalin, Hitler, and the other state-totalitarians never dared dream of enjoying such a dreamy arrangement.

Well, dear readers, here is something truly rare: In order to substantiate claims of legitimacy, the Federal Communications Commission is traveling the country holding hearings about the upcoming give-away of more parts of the ether to the market-totalitarians.

While I hold no illusion about this being anything other than a series of show trials, I still urge everybody to go out to your local FCC tour stop and let the assholes know what you think about sacrificing our democracy and the Earth so that the sponsors of things like Axe Deodorant Body Spray can keep their “third homes” and private jets.

“Maintaining Control”: The Richistanis’ DVR Crisis

One of the advantages of bothering to read big business marketing’s professional literature is that it very efficiently disabuses you of sponsored illusions about the “freedom” part of the so-called “free market.”

Consider the alarm expressed over the spread of digital video recorders (DVRs) in this week’s issue of Advertising Age:

By letting viewers skip ads, that pesky DVR has already gnawed away at the system media conglomerates have used for decades to score billions of dollars in ad revenue. Now it’s primed to become a phenomenon on the order of a locust — with an ability to multiply rapidly and do even more significant damage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for New York last week overturned a ruling that had blocked Cablevision — and by extension, other cable providers — from making use of a “network DVR” that would allow it to run a massive video-storing operation from a single location rather than installing individual DVRs in each subscriber’s home. Using the technology, consumers can record programs through their remote control without a new set-top box, conceivably turning every TV in the house into a machine that records TV shows — and can skip past the ads that support them.

“With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Court of Appeals has opened the door to a massive increase in the penetration of DVR capabilities,” wrote Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett in an Aug. 4 research note. “In short order, effective DVR penetration could now jump to north of 60% of cable households (that is, all digital cable subscribers) with an even larger increase in DVR outlets per home,” Mr. Moffett added.

Ad Age makes no bones about what this gnawing locust infestation means: It is a threat to corporate capacities for “Maintaining Control” over prospective cutomers’ off-the-job activities:

By letting viewers skip ads, that pesky DVR has already gnawed away at the system media conglomerates have used for decades to score billions of dollars in ad revenue. Now it’s primed to become a phenomenon on the order of a locust — with an ability to multiply rapidly and do even more significant damage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for New York last week overturned a ruling that had blocked Cablevision — and by extension, other cable providers — from making use of a “network DVR” that would allow it to run a massive video-storing operation from a single location rather than installing individual DVRs in each subscriber’s home. Using the technology, consumers can record programs through their remote control without a new set-top box, conceivably turning every TV in the house into a machine that records TV shows — and can skip past the ads that support them.

“With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Court of Appeals has opened the door to a massive increase in the penetration of DVR capabilities,” wrote Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett in an Aug. 4 research note. “In short order, effective DVR penetration could now jump to north of 60% of cable households (that is, all digital cable subscribers) with an even larger increase in DVR outlets per home,” Mr. Moffett added.

All this, of course, means that the underlying purpose of commercial television — attracting eyeballs and eardrums to corporate capitalist behavior modification campaigns, a.k.a. “advertising” — is being undermined by a rare opening for democratic preference.

No bones are made about what must be done in response:

The media companies’ objection to Cablevision’s video-storage technology is that they believe it infringes on their exclusive rights to air and reproduce the content in question. Those companies that create the content want to maintain a level of control over when and how it is viewed, in order to be able to monetize it by selling advertising against it. The networks have been reluctant to make their content available for new-media venues such as streaming online until they have the ability to have some sort of control over getting consumers to watch ads.

The media conglomerates have tried everything to keep the paradigm-shifting DVR technology from worming its way further into consumer life. Walt Disney’s ABC has made hit shows like “Desperate Housewives” available for cable providers’ video-on-demand offerings, but only in exchange for the cable company disabling viewers’ ability to fast-forward. Time Warner Cable has introduced features that let viewers “start over” a favorite show but the trade-off is they must watch the ads that accompany it.

None of this has weaned consumers, now accustomed to watching shows as they wish, from their ad-skipping addiction. “They don’t want to watch commercials, but they won’t pay to not watch commercials,” said John Senior, a partner-media and entertainment practice at Oliver Wyman.

In other words, here comes another big business blitzkrieg: Expect massive new efforts to block, favorably redesign, and/or sidestep DVRs, plus a redoubling of already intense ongoing efforts to insert advertising elements even more deeply and widely into all media “content” on all “platforms,” especially including the thing that was once quaintly known as the “information superhighway.”

Junk Mail on Steroids

Big business marketing and advertising are much more Pavlovian and much less magical and postmodern than most critics have claimed.

If you doubt this, consider how television advertising, the endeavor that funds and delimits almost all the program “content” on US television, actually functions. Here is long-time marketing consultant Erwin Ephron describing it:

For example, a shampoo brand buys daytime TV at $10.00 for a thousand 30-second exposures.

Since each incremental unit of shampoo sold makes a $2.00 contribution to profit (i.e. wholesale price minus marginal cost), then fewer than five incremental sales can cover the cost of the advertising.

And also the cost of talking to 994 other potential customers who may be in the market next week!

Micro-marketers who argue that exposures not resulting in a sale are wasted, are as wrong-headed as people who argue that advertising shouldn’t be expected to sell at all. Some exposures sell, but all exposures build broad market awareness, shift attitudes and help create the brand value, which is the foundation for the next sale. These are the hard and soft effects of TV advertising.

The economics of network television for a super-upscale brand like Mercedes are even more remarkable. For Mercedes, one incremental sale can pay the costs of network messages to a million men and women.

True, most of them will never buy the car, but those messages are not wasted, either. They help to create the broad-market perception that Mercedes is special, which makes owning a Mercedes one so attractive to the small group of consumers who have the money.

For super-upscale products, value to the purchaser is often in the eye of all those millions of non-purchasers.

In other words, considered from the point of view of its sponsors, television is junk mail on steroids.

And we’ve long since surrendered our civil society to this inherently discombobulating and addictive force.

This great surrender, of course, remains completely “off the table” of mainstream politics and media coverage, despite its extreme threat to us, our democracy, and the world our rampaging sponsoring class is still bullying.

You Are Inventory

Microsoft, the private oligopoly founded on purchased, publicly-nurtured ideas and pure luck, has just purchased Navic Networks, the proprietor of software surreptitiously embedded in 35 million “set-top” cable TV boxes in the United States.

Ever heard of Navic?  Know what it does?  Find any mention of it in your cable contract?

Didn’t think so, because it’s 100-percent something nobody would ever permit into their home, if they knew it existed.  Nonetheless, 35 million households have it.  I’d wager less than 1,000 know they do.

What is it that Navic has going?  It’s nothing that has to do with making your cable TV work.  Instead, it has to do with making your cable TV serve its primary purpose: extending corporate spying on behalf of big business marketers.

Navic’s main product, the great jewel coveted by Microsoft, is Admira, which Navic describes as follows:

Admira is a media placement service that optimizes television advertising by utilizing settop box measurement data to increase the value of inventory. Efficiently matching advertisers’ desired target audience criteria with media owners’ inventory.

In plain English, Admira is secret spying software that, without your knowledge or consent, constantly tracks everything you watch on TV, down to the minutest detail, and also cross-correlates it:

based on behavioral characteristics, real-time viewership data, program content, and geography.

And you pay money to the very same criminals who sneak this past you, and who are also doing this:

Project Canoe:

The addressable [i.e., household identifiable] advertising market has had major momentum in recent months in the wake of Project Canoe, a consortium of the country’s top cable operators whose mission is to create universal metrics for video on-demand ad opportunities to national advertisers. Part of Canoe’s initiative will be to introduce its own addressable and interactive ad products to the marketplace, with an additional data-and-analytics product to help advertisers assess the effectiveness of Canoe’s ad-serving technology. Just last week, the venture officially appointed its new CEO, David Verklin, former CEO of Aegis Media Group.

This is market totalitarianism. Rarely, if ever, has such a central and cancerous social process gotten so far without even being perceived, let alone debated.

We are in very big trouble…