Ad Age today has a thought piece by one “Tim Leake, senior VP-chief marketing officer at advertising agency RPA.” Mr. Leake says using natural disasters as marketing opportunities is “the icky thing to do.” Of course, he also answers a clear “no” to the the question “Should we just stay away?”
So, here’s what you do to make sure that devastation and sorrow make a contribution to your brand’s further implantation into targeted minds:
How should we say it?
Sometimes, to stop acting like a brand and start acting human, it helps to purposely do things that the brand wouldn’t normally do. A high-end production is likely to feel like an ad. A CEO speaking to her webcam is likely to feel more genuine. Or, if the brand’s Twitter stream is normally filled with product-centric messages, maybe share a screen-shot of a note from the people behind the brand. This will help put some distance between how you “normally act” and the gravity of the current situation.
Capitalism thrives, as classically observed by by economist Joseph Schumpeter, on “creative destruction.” Naomi Klein has commented on how the system’s love of wreckage includes things like war, natural disasters, and anthropogenic ecological crises.
Witness, this week, the shipment of more BudWater, the latest effort of beer oligopoly AB InBev, the current manifestation of the former Anheuser-Busch corporation, at “creating marketing magic in difficult times.” Does anybody believe that this firm, which so ostentatiously played the 911 card, is shipping Florida a few trucks of water for altruistic reasons? Dollars to donuts (this is admittedly a bit of a dated quip) the national ads are already being filmed, if Hurricane Matthew does its part and creates enough newsworthy suffering.
Over at CounterPunch, Ralph Nader, he of the macabre number-fudge, turns his attention to advertising. His findings?
1) Advertising really doesn’t work:
Ask yourself when was the last time you saw any of those tiny ads on Google and Facebook and rushed to buy the products or services. For that matter, ask yourself whether any radio or television advertisements prompted you to go out and buy the product. Sure the newspaper ads announcing short-term sales for clothes or household goods may get you to the market, along with the supermarket specials for foodstuffs. But generally speaking, you must wonder what the business community gets for its tens of billions of dollars annually pouring out of their advertising budgets. I can almost hear the chuckles from Madison Avenue reacting to this skepticism about whether ads are worth their price. Such doubts are almost never publically [sic] discussed.
2) Consumer Reports is a rational form of resistance to marketing:
There is one organization that doesn’t lose any sleep over the question: “do advertising dollars work or are they largely wasted?” Consumers Union, through its monthly magazine Consumer Reports and its website services, gives you just the facts derived from its wide ranging honest testing programs. With over five million magazine print subscribers and three million online subscribers, more and more Americans are getting it the rational way. By the way, Consumer Reports has never carried advertising in its seventy-five year history.
That first argument is simply lazy and uninformed.
As for Consumer Reports, however useful it may be in a narrow sense, it is what it is — a magazine that blithely, if not gleefully, recommends corporate products, with zero criticism of whether we ought to be shopping for things like automobiles at this point in human history and zero coverage of political and macro-economic alternatives to corporate commodification.
We TCTers might also note the typical swallowing and normalizing of the “consumer” insult. Both “Consumers Union” and Mr. Nader continue to use “consumer” as a natural and even empowering label for product-users, again without the smallest hint that such a choice might be doing a piece of Big Business’s work for it.
Adweek is profiling what it calls “new model agencies.” Dig the poozers below, featured there today.
The latest hipster band? Aspiring novelists? Nope, the “cool” and “creative” mini-capitalists behind such stunningly important work as the Dr Pepper Social Program. Click the picture to see their amazing genius on display.
You have to hand it to these two yankers. Clearly, they’ve sensed that corporate marketers themselves love to be flattered as they “award” out their button-pushing assignments. Hence, the pomo-nerd “Code & Theory” moniker and the pseudo-intellectual/bored-ecstasy-dealer presentments.
Gavin McInnes doesn’t care about your product. This would be all well and good if the co-founder of Vice magazine—that bible of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y., hipsterdom—hadn’t gone and rebranded himself as an adman. But with Rooster, the four-person shop where he is creative director, McInnes has morphed into just that. Housed in a one-room office in SoHo, New York, within spitting distance of major agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi and Euro RSCG, Rooster produces gonzo comedy clips (think Jackass meets Banksy) that happen to be branded.
McInnes’ selling strategy? Advertising that strikes a pose of not being advertising. The reality? McInnes is just another whore tricking people into paying attention to things they don’t want to spend their time on:
[I]t’s a new way to advertise. People are dubious. People are sick of ads. When we did the Vans shoot, we didn’t brand it. And someone in the comments goes, “This better not be a fuckin’ ad for Vans.” People hate ads.
So, McInnes is even more of a liar than your standard marketing operative. Quite an achievement, and very hip, no?
What a culture. Ironic lying for overpriced tennis shoes.