Milestones of a Dying Empire: $1 Million on TV Ads in One Day in Presidential Marketing Race

In the 1950s, megacorporations launched “the marketing revolution” by making conscious, scientific management of prospective customers’ off-the-job experiences the king of the managerial arts.

The political marketing revolution — the use of targeting, focus groups, and careful image-creation to sell what otherwise would not sell — has lagged only a few years behind its directly commercial parent discipline. At least since Bill Clinton, its role in the farces we call federal elections has been complete. Honest, spontaneous, open debate no longer exists in any degree in the selection of American presidents. Now, it’s all rehearsed restatements of “tested” product-differentiation tactics. The amount of honesty involved in the process is roughly the same as it is in the marketing of Enzyte, the once-daily tablet for natural male enhancement.

This is not really news, of course. But here’s something that is: the “major” (read: “safe”) image-bots competing for the nominations of our two quasi-rivalrous Business State “parties” have (along with the sad freakshow attending Ron Paul, the Texas “libertarian” who proposes state-fascist immigration policies) now produced the first million-dollar-day in U.S. political advertising history. Evan Tracey of Advertising Age magazine reports:

On Dec. 10, the 2008 presidential campaign hit a significant milestone: the first $1 million dollar day in TV spending. What makes this day so extraordinary is the majority of this spending is not from groups, but from the candidates. The spending is largely aimed at voters in just two states and the ads are, for the most part, positive. Further, this amount takes into account only broadcast TV.

So mark down Dec. 10 on the calendar; it will be something to win future bar-stool bets. It was the first day with $1 million-plus in TV political spending, but it won’t be the last. Submit your prediction now for the first $2 million dollar day. I have Jan. 2 in the pool.

All this 11 months before an “election” in which, despite long-standing public frustrations, virtually nothing is at stake — not war, not single-payer health insurance, not economic redistribution, not seriously increased educational spending, not substantial political reform of any kind.

The word keeps recurring around here: decrepitude.

Kleenex Expressions & the Depravity of Capitalism

The United States lacks national health insurance, universally good and equal schools, a sustainable transportation system, and a government that responds to popular wishes.

The whole human race suffers from mass poverty, illiteracy, looming unaddressed environmental and energy crises, a severe paucity of trans-national democracy, and still-proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, how are the good folks over at Kimberly-Clark, one of the original U.S. mega-corporations, directing their firm’s entrepreneurial spirit? How are they allocating the reinvested portion, whatever it is, of the $16.7 billion in book profits K-C reaped in 2006?

Here you go:

another capitalist technological breakthrough! It’s “Kleenex Expressions” folks!

This, you see, is the latest manifestation of K-C’s ongoing efforts to do — what? To “leverage the strong emotional bond forged by K-C’s trusted brands,” in order to “transform insights and technologies into innovative, proprietary and profitable solutions that deliver superior returns to our shareholders.”

Now, you might think the scandal here is old and confined to the shocking waste of human and natural resources — as Helen Caldicott says, “Kleenex” (long a synonym for all paper mose-blowing tissues) is founded on the K-C-cultivated false claim that cloth handerkerchiefs are unsanitary — inherent in corporate capitalists’ long-running efforts to peddle egregious junk like paper tissues.

But that’s only part of the story. The rest of it has to do with the criminal wastefulness that routinely occurs via the BBM sub-discipline of “product management.”

As I explain in The Consumer Trap book, product management is the art and science of viewing the end commodity itself as a bundle of marketing stimuli, as a collection of spurs to profitable “consumer” behavior. In PM, first you run a focus group to discover the weaknesses and irrationalities that exist in the “target” audience of potential buyers. Then, you build a production line to manufacture objects to convert those weaknesses and irrationalities into corporate cash flows. The ecological and financial costs of the process to the end-users and the human race? Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

So, here’s how Advertising Age reports on K-C’s latest PM endeavors:

Tony Palmer, CMO of Kimberly-Clark, at Ad Age’s Media Mavens event last week, answering a question about what he would like for Christmas. Mr. Palmer made it clear that he thinks marketers need agency partners that let ideas and consumer insights drive channel choices — rather than their existing departmental structures and revenue requirements. And he doesn’t think the industry is there yet, not by a long shot.

Mr. Palmer might sound like one of those change-agent types, but in the style of a good old-fashioned marketing man, he sat on stage and later wandered the halls of the Hilton proudly brandishing a box of his company’s Kleenex.

Or perhaps I should say an oval of Kleenex, for these were K-C’s “Expressions” in their tony, trademarked, almond-shaped container.

The oval might not sound like a big wow, but it was a significant innovation in the category. The move was designed to attract younger, design-conscious consumers who didn’t like having the old rectangular box sitting on their Kohler commodes. Reports suggest the boxes have been best-sellers and spurred some growth in a stagnant category.

But, as Mr. Palmer pointed out, they didn’t happen without ripping up existing processes, changing people’s job functions and investing heavily in a whole new production line. (Ad Age, December 3, 2007)

Beyond funding overclass financial speculation, offshore bank accounts, and third homes, this is how corporate capitalism now works. It picks the subconsciouses of deluded hipsters to “create” next-generation iterations of products that simply should not (and, under economic democracy would not) exist.  Such lovely stuff is what new factories get built for.  Not for feeding or housing the poor.  Not for restoring and modernizing the railroads.  Not for making parts for new schools.  Yes for “Hip Chick” Kleenexes.

Caligula and Nero were amateurs compared to this system’s murderous decrepitude.

My Last Click on Slate

Today, I have deleted my bookmark to slate.com, and, after checking out this link, I encourage you to do so as well. Let’s promise to boycott this bogusly “new” electronic shit-rag for the den of conventional immorality it has always been. This bullshit is just rank. Can you believe it? Applebaum’s pathetic McCarthyism is straight out of 1951 — except worse, because she never mentions the multiple elections Chavez has won (and the U.S. has attempted to subvert).

Clicking on slate.com generates incomes for the idiots who publish and write for it, as well as profits for their corporate sponsors. Don’t do it any more. To put it mildly, you won’t be missing much.

An Institutional Problem

Capitalism’s apologists have always portrayed their system as “the end of history,” the best of all possible ways of setting social priorities.

The classic statement of this claim came, of course,

Read moreAn Institutional Problem