Corporate capitalism is totalitarian. Left unchecked, it leads to a society where, outside the shrinking, increasingly commercialized sphere of family and friends, everything is a trick, and tricking is the standard form of social relations. It is a recipe for disaster, as current events show.
When one edits a blog on cars-first transportation and a blog on market totalitarianism, news such as this poses the question of where to comment. Since marketing and market totalitarianism are the bigger, deeper phenomenon, I choose TCT.
Shopping, despite the obvious distracted driving portents, is about to enter the cockpit of the car in a serious way.
Here is a screenshot of General Motors’ initial version of its Marketplace dashware:
“Marketplace is not meant to be an in-vehicle digital billboard,” Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of global connected customer experience [ROFL!], says to Automotive News.
That, my friends, is a lie.
Let’s be honest, though, shall we?
Even if this familiar and petulant howler were actually true, maybe it would be because “our way of life” is largely an amalgam of outcomes engineered by $2,000,000,000,000 worth of corporate marketing operations. In America, in other words, our way of life is imposed upon us by our one percenters.
The Consumer Trap has several core theses. One is that corporate capitalism, through its constituent firms’ relentless expansion and refinement of marketing operations and campaigns, is every bit as totalitarian a social order as ever there was or will be. Another is that, thanks to its peculiar nature (it works in part by doling out pleasures and conveniences) and superior deniability (it is competitively and privately, not centrally and publicly, developed), market totalitarianism is far more successful and secure than state totalitarianism ever was or will be.
Consider then, the nature and logic of News Corp.’s “Home of the Future.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother’s police agencies enjoyed only telescreens in the homes of certain persons of interest. In Leonard Cohen’s 1998 “Tower of Song” lament, the complaint was about our system, but only that “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”
“Home is the next and most powerful marketing canvas,” said [marketing researcher Simon] Gosling. “The rules are changing … we are stepping towards a new ecosystem of machines, screens and devices, where brands can share stories with consumers in their homes.”
This is the explanation, per Advertising Age, of
“a 2,000 square foot ‘Home of the Future,’ created by News Corp. and ad tech company Unruly in partnership with marketers including Amazon Launchpad, PepsiCo, Heineken, eBay, Unilever, HTC, Nokia Health, and Tesco. The installation opening today in London has been created to give marketers and agencies a first-hand experience of the connected home, and a chance to think about how they might use it to engage consumers.
“Artificial Intelligence is hardest at work in the kitchen, which is stocked with brands from Unilever and supermarket chain Tesco. In this room you can give your AI system a budget and a license to search for deals from different brands and supermarkets. And cooking becomes simple, as your fridge talks you through every step of a recipe and then alerts the family when dinner’s ready. You might find a new item in your shopping basket that’s been placed there as a free sample, based on your preferences, and then let the AI assistant know whether you like it and if you would recommend it to friends.
“Much of the technology is voice-activated. ‘By January, Amazon had sold 11 million Alexa devices, and by 2020 Alexa is expected to have added $11 billion of revenue,’ Gosling said, as evidence that voice control will play a key role in interactions of the future. ‘This is about helping brands to understand new technology,’ Gosling said. ‘Normally there’s a lag where brands get into a space after the consumer, but we have identified where consumers will be in 2020 so we can get there before them. We are being disruptive in our own business.’ Asked if the future home will be for the wealthy, Gosling said, ‘Everyone’s got a phone. Everyone’s got a TV. And millions of people have got an Alexa.’
“News Corp. bought video advertising company Unruly for $176 million in 2015. News Corp. brands, including Dow Jones (which has created a hologram to bring the stock market to life), publisher HarperCollins, and foodie site Taste.com.au, are evident throughout the Future Home. So why is a video advertising company launching a home of the future? An Unruly statement said, ‘Unruly get brands’ videos seen, shared and loved. We do this on mobile and desktop… and we’ll continue to do so in the next era of advertising, which is the connected home… We’ve built Home to study the development of this new platform, enabling us to guide our clients in this exciting new frontier.'”
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.”