Farewell to an Empty Soul

Lee Clow image Very sorry, but TCT just has to ask it: At what point did he drop the “n”?

The marketing press just now is abuzz over the retirement of Lee Clow, the Chiat/Day agency bigwig whom Advertising Age breathlessly describes as “the creative mind behind ads like Apple’s ‘Think Different’ and Adidas’ ‘Impossible is Nothing.'”

Marketing honchos provide an interesting window into the psychopathology of excessive privilege. Having spent their years creating particularly shameless forms of propaganda, they are usually, upon such occasions, extra loquacious about their own endeavors.

To celebrate his own retirement, Mr. Clow, who obviously fancies himself something of a hippie/rebel, has released a “love letter to advertising.”

What’s in it? Apart from triteness and narcissism, very, very little.

Fascinating, meanwhile, that the big farewell of a supposedly major brain who retires the same week as scientists warn about the impending extinction of all insect life on Earth has nothing to say about the various wider effects of an industry that exists to “make people…maybe even buy something.”

History, should we figure out how to continue it, is very unlikely to smile upon the solipsism of such multi-millionaire clowns.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting if we were somehow able to debate how much creativity really went into “Think Different” and “Impossible is Nothing.” Doesn’t seem all that impressive, does it?

Games and the System

Bosch image According to Nielsen data reported by Advertising Age, in the year 2018, “live sports generated 89 of the year’s 100 largest audiences” on “live plus one” TV in the United States.

This explains why there is so much money flooding into professional and quasi-professional sports now. The inherent suspense and ease-of-understanding in live athletics is now pretty much the only thing that can get large numbers of people to watch television on advertisers’ preferred terms — meaning with low control over their own exposure to ads and in-broadcast marketing messages.

Noam Chomsky is a doubly good source for making sense of the huge meanings of this news about the evolution of big business marketing, which remains by far the main engine of American off-the-job culture, aka “free time.” First, the Herman-Chomsky model of corporate capitalist media has much to offer anybody trying to figure out the filters that affect not just news reporting, but also broadcast entertainment content. Second, Chomsky has sharp and powerful things to say about the socio-political logic of sports fanaticism.

Facebook Ain’t Going Away

The question of the week comes from marketing guru Rich Greenfield, who just said this to Advertising Age about the status of Facebook, following more (mis-reported) revelation of its core business practices:

“Why would [an ad agency] advise clients not to use Facebook?” Greenfield asks. “It’s not like there are a lot of good alternatives.”

That is what they call, in academia, “instrumental morality,” i.e. the ends justifying the means.

Big businesses will, in other words, keep doing what they need to do to achieve their end, come –ahem — hell or high water.

Still No Such Thing as “Consumer Culture”

house built on sandOrdinary people — not even “middle class” Americans — did not spontaneously demand the material infrastructure that is, as it continues to enrich its primary beneficiaries and true designers, presently killing the human biosphere.  They just did not.  Acceptance and adaptation are not the same thing as invention, design, and promotion.

Nonetheless, the harebrained concept of “consumer culture” still easily addles the minds of those who claim to want to demystify and rescue the world.  Consider, for instance, this august statement.  Every single work cited there is a positive offense to the cause of rational explication of pertinent relationships and processes.

To say it again, here’s why:  “Consumer culture,” as a concept, is irretrievably terrible at both ends.

Ordinary people are product-users, not consumers. The destruction of goods and services — “consumption” — is neither our intended purpose nor something that is in our interest.  Eliding this point is eliding a huge swath of reality.

Meanwhile, saying our problem is “culture” implies that pre-existing popular desire usually draws forth capitalist planning and investment, rather than the reverse.

Although it is anathema to say so, the simple fact is that, in the making of the modern material world, right from the start of the corporate epoch, capitalist planning has consistently, easily, and probably (given the stakes and we-should-know-better-now factor) increasingly dominated popular desire.

It has really been no contest, if you attend to the actual evidence.  And, despite American Exceptionalism’s continuing “bi-partisan” promotion, elite domination of product-usage has been most pronounced in the United States.  You could look it up (though doing so would take great effort, given the almost complete inattention to the issue even among our critics).

Luke Wilson Sells Oligopoly Toothpaste

Luke Wilson image Actor Luke Wilson has an estimated net worth of $30 million. Nevertheless, for some reason, he will soon be fronting the Colgate-Palmolive corporation’s latest effort to use advertising to extend its oligopolistic market share: 42 percent of the global toothpaste market, according to its investor come-on webpage. With the help of fellows like Wilson, C-P uses its power to hawk over-priced, over-hyped, possibly harmful forms of old-tech commodities that long ago hit their right walls of objective improveability.

turd-trophyFor this ignoble move, Mr. Wilson hereby receives the highly un-coveted Golden Hicksie.

Colgate-Palmolive? Their gross profit margins on their employment of Mr. Wilson and many other, rather less well-remunerated persons?

60 percent.

Innumeracy and Class Domination

Book coverThe psychic effects of wealth are as fascinating as they are crucial, as shown here and here.

One major dimension of the mental distortion that tends to plague those who make it to the top in our radically unequal world is, ironically, innumeracy.

Consider the prevalence of the very strong tendency of tax resentment to increase as zeroes get added to incomes and wealth stocks. People who never would bat an eye at having taxes withheld from $50,000 incomes become irate crusaders when the base sum becomes $5,000,000 or $5,000,000,000.

Meanwhile, consider the patent stupidity of the latest pose being struck by the supposed genius, Jeff Bezos. $2 billion dollars for a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities”? Jeff, honey: How many top-shelf schools do you imagine can be built and staffed for $2 billion? There are 8 million households living below the official poverty line, in many hundreds of communities. I hate to tell you, but you are therefore off on this one by at least one order of magnitude — and that’s presuming you’d be giving this $2 billion every year (schools, you see, need to keep going once they open), which you are not.

But, of course, this kind of wild innumeracy is part and parcel of the capitalist creed. We need, they say, to let our creative entrepreneurial class have an unspeakable amount of wealth, so that they will turn around and use it to help the rest of us. Simply putting limits on them and doing what needs doing ourselves wouldn’t work, they say, despite the Nordic countries’ existence and apparent thriving.

Stupid is as stupid does. (Not, of course, that the corporate media will ever mention it in their predictable paeans to private power.)