Ralph Nader Thinks Advertising Doesn’t Work?

Ralph Nader has a new interview with Advertising Age. [It may be pay-walled, so TCT refrains from linking; you can find it.]

In the interview, Mr. Nader muses on “advertising inefficacy.” Commenting on the timeless fact that marketing remains something far less efficient than computer programming and that marketers are never sure which parts of their efforts are the ones that produce behavioral changes, Nader is apparently trying the tack of taking all this as proof that advertising is entirely ineffective, a mere vehicle for “misbehavior” by those who plan and sell it.

Nader’s underlying theory seems to be that, if he can only implant the news that advertising is a pointless waste, then TPTB will move against its ever-increasing importance in our lives. Here is Nader’s explanation of his motive:

“The more attention paid to advertising inefficacy, the more the FTC is going to wake up, and the more they wake up, the more Congress may wake up.”

Not only is this stunningly naive in political terms, but it simply ignores the serious evidence on the way marketing and advertising produce their intended results.

If we really want to address the galloping commercialization and commodification of our world, we can’t indulge cavalier opportunism, no matter how venerable the source. Delusion will get us nowhere. We need to describe reality if we want to exert some reasonable control over it. We are up against deep — and deeply logical — institutions. They will not yield to frippery.

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.

State Planning

Vincent Price with funnel The latest Bloomberg Businessweek has an edifying report on how the U.S. government helps dairy farmers literally, consciously shove more cheese down people’s throats. Titled “The Mad Cheese Scientists Fighting to Save the Dairy Industry,” BBW‘s (pardon the unplanned pun there) story tells how the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service collects a small producer tax on each 100 pounds of dairy sold by farmers, then spends the money on things like Dairy Management, Inc., a non-profit agency that deploys big business marketing techniques to “increase sales and demand for dairy products.”

Hmm…

Let’s imagine we’re health czar, shall we? Looking at the present health trends in the U.S. population, how near to the top of the list of recommendations for improving public health do you think you’d rank “Eat more cheese.”?

Indeed, isn’t goading today’s Americans to eat more cheese actually a not-very-roundabout way of KILLING a rather appreciable number of them?

Et voila! According to BBW (again with the pun), here is what happens when the government trains and embeds cheese-pushers inside poor, suffering multinational corporate properties like Taco Bell, to help them figure out how to make and sell “Quesalupas”:

Americans [now] eat 35 pounds of cheese per year on average—a record amount, more than double the quantity consumed in 1975.

Such mass murder is just fine, though, because there are “industries” to be rescued from themselves, and the externalities of the rescue are so wonderfully profitable to the ballooning medico-industrial complex, too.

And the glorious work must, of course, continue: “The cheese glut is so massive (1.3 billion pounds in cold storage as of May 31) that on two separate occasions, in August and October of last year, the federal government announced it would bail out dairy farmers by purchasing $20 million worth of surplus for distribution to food pantries.”

And there’s an added bonus! The National Football League can then, also under USDA/DMI suggestion, not only feign concern over childhood obesity but also lend its logos and heroes to the effort to “Fuel Up” for the phony remedy with — wait for it — “nutrient-rich foods that students like to eat — like so-called “comfort foods”— including pizza and macaroni and cheese.”

Obummercare in Action

Over 30 million residents of the United States are still uninsured, as planned by the architects of the Heritage Foundation’s successful plan for averting civilized behavior public, single-payer medical insurance.

Those few who gain insurance under RomneyObamacare generally gain shitty insurance with high “deductibles.” According to The Wall Street Journal:

“[T]he share of the population with high-deductible insurance plans has grown significantly since 2009. That year, around 22.5% of respondents had private coverage that required them to pay a larger share of their upfront coverage costs in exchange for a lower premium. In early 2014, some 36% had plans with an annual deductible of at least $1,250 for an individual or $2,500 for a family.”

And those who get this magical gift of terrible coverage for access to the unrestrained U.S. medical racket profession? Here they are in the Soviet pose that comes with their victimization ability to seek new insurance:

line for insurance

And the other big result of RomneyObamacare? Also as planned by Heritage, per today’s New York Times:

“[S]ince the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.”

And they say planning can’t work…

Coke Cares!

“Drive safely,” say the car capitalists.

“Drink responsibly,” say the beer bourgeoisie.

“Eat well and exercise,” say the sugar-water sultans:

“We have to have discreet and visible ways to demonstrate we care. …We want to put our marketing prowess and muscle behind it,” said Wendy Clark, senior VP-global sparkling brand center at Coca-Cola, to Ad Age.

Yes, “discreet.” Wouldn’t want to set off an actual discussion of the place of soda pop in modern society now, would we?

A Very, Very Small Victory

quixote Today, a law that prevents toys from being included in children’s meals that exceed 600 calories and lack fruit or vegetables goes into effect in the City and County of San Francisco. Pushed by liberal lobbying groups like the oxymoronically-named Corporate Responsibility International, the idea behind such ordinances is that regulating happy meal giveaways is somehow a “step forward” in the effort to end childhood obesity and type II diabetes.

The entirely predictable response by fast food marketers? Per Advertising Age:

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, will stop giving out Hello Kitty figurines or any other toys with its Happy Meals in San Francisco starting tomorrow because of a new city ordinance.

“A law was passed recently that means we cannot give away a free toy with our Happy Meals” at the 19 McDonald’s stores in San Francisco, [McDonald’s] spokeswoman Danya Proud said in an e-mailed statement today. Parents can buy a toy for 10 cents along with a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal, she said.

Wow! The revolution is upon us now, isn’t it?

But, seriously, what a mess. In the name of the patently silly idea that free toys are a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, activists have succeeded in enacting what will amount to a ten cent tax on poor people. Meanwhile, those same poor people will absolutely continue to buy happy meals, for the same old reasons, which are far larger and deeper than the mere unawareness attributed to them by the gesturing activists lobbying for addlepated regulations.

Personally, I’d wager the dime charge might actually do the very opposite of what the toy-banners thought they were accomplishing. By raising the topic of whether or not to get a toy and by associating it with a price, mightn’t the new arrangement make the toy forbidden (but not really) fruit, and hence an even better vehicle for inculcating brand loyalty?

In the process, the contortions needed to pretend that the SF happy meal law is anything but a pointless pose forces otherwise excellent people to become liars:

[McDonald’s move to offer toys for a dime is] “Proof positive, and completely admitted by McDonalds, that no customer will buy a Happy Meal unless it comes with a toy,” Dr. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, told CBS News in an email.

Dr. Nestle, people aren’t stupid. If the toys were absent, a great many people would most certainly still buy happy meals. So, why insist the contrary? Are you trying to discredit the idea of creating a better society?

The prevalence of fast food is a symptom, not the disease.