Imperial Decline

The New York Times today features a piece on the design of the workspace at the ?What If! [note: a fine nominee for the most annoying agency name ever] marketing agency, which “works to expand the markets of businesses like PepsiCo, Pfizer and Virgin.”

The theme is postmodern playground:


The new interiors recall the whimsies of larger creative campuses like Google. There are “stimulation” shelves for employees to display objects; white boards in the elevators (“Smiths or Cure?” read one line of graffiti the other day); a “library” with no books (just wallpaper that looks like books); and vintage stereo components that play vinyl.

Can you guess what the building housing all this behavior-engineering “play” on behalf of corporate sugar water and other forms of cash-farming used to be? Yep, a free-care hospital and a lending library.

For the umpteenth time, Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up.

But, Of Course

snake The latest trend, per Advertising Age? The “political” advertising agencies that run what we call “politics” are now being retained to work on regular commodity pushes:

[T]he sea change in marketing brought about by social media has undeniably made the core competencies of political agencies — speed and nimbleness — more alluring to brands. Now that brands are trying to execute an “always on” digital strategy to better engage with their consumers, while also avoiding being caught asleep at the wheel when a crisis unfolds, political agencies have a loftier position from which to pitch their business.

On the Romney side of the one-inch-wide “aisle,” those who manage “political agencies” think of them as “the ultimate beta testers.” On the Zerobama side, they are seen as as a “big data shop, from a CRM [customer relationship management] perspective.” Democracy in action!

The results:

Take Blue State Digital, the agency that made its name through its work on the first Obama campaign and widely cited as the backbone of the campaign’s hugely successful digital grassroots organizing and fundraising strategy. The shop was acquired by WPP in late 2010 and has substantially diversified its client roster, taking on “blended” assignments from brands such as Ford and Godiva that also work with other WPP digital shops.

Can’t you just wait for Campaign 2016? “Pledge your vote to Hillary (she promises to withdraw our troops from Tehran by 2025!) and receive 2 free movie downloads, a half-price electric car charge, and a Super Big Mac from Time Warner Comcast NBC Universal General Motors McDonalds!”