In an ecstatic essay at Advertising Age today, marketing creep Ben Elowitz can barely restrain his orgasm over how great the new powers of manipulation will be, once Facebook finishes releasing its latest spying tools to the owners of “the brands who spend $540 billion a year on advertising.”
As part of his report, Elowitz includes this rather remarkable little cartoon, which fairly speaks for itself:
Where did it all lead Mr. Brier? You guessed it: To starting a marketing consultancy specializing in coaching corporations on perfecting the art and science of commodity fetishism. Brier waxes passionate in Advertising Age:
Many…brands belong to the biggest companies in the world, and they are proven money-making machines. They manage global distribution networks and put products in millions of stores worldwide. What to post on Facebook hardly seems like one of the more difficult business decision they’ll face today. Yet, it turns out to be exactly that.
Teach your brand to speak….[Corporate planners] have to…have to think of their channels [means of reaching their targets with “marketing stimuli”] less as CRM and more as owned media. In a nutshell, they need to [have their brands] act less like brands and more like people.
Percolate [Brier’s new consultancy] helps brands identify and create content at scale. In a digital world, we believe brands can be signals. Pointing consumers to valuable information that is not necessarily about the brand directly, but speaks to the brand promise and consumer mindset.
The Coca-Cola Corporation peddles its “Vitamin Water” brand of sugar-water as a vehicle for harvesting dollars from the long-standing (and largely business-implanted) public over-estimation of what vitamins are and what they do for human health and performance. A decent society would ban this pointless, cynical landfill fodder, and fine Coca-Cola for planning and promulgating it.
Something milder than that has happened in Britain, according to Advertising Age. There, the Advertising Standards Authority (an unthinkable institutional possibility here in the USA, of course) has told Coke it can’t run its normal ads for Vitamin Water, due to their blatant, exploitative falsity (which, of course, is the same thing as the brand’s very purpose and plan).
The news there, though, is more about the shameless, laughable lies Coke presented in its losing attempt at self-defense. As reported by Ad Age:
One poster was headlined “More muscles than brussels.” The complaints challenged the implication that the drink’s health benefits made it equivalent to eating brussels sprouts — a popular U.K. winter vegetable. Coca-Cola claimed that the phrase was instead a reference to former action-movie star Jean Claude Van Damme, who is commonly labeled the “Muscles from Brussels,” referring to his origins in the Belgian city.
Another ad claimed, “Keep perky when you’re feeling murky.” It jokingly advised consumers that if you drink Glaceau Vitaminwater you won’t have to waste your sick days on real illness, and can use them instead “to just, erm, not go in.” Coca-Cola insisted that the “perky” claim was about mood rather than health, and that it did not imply that the drink could prevent illness.
The ASA also received complaints that the ads promoted the range of drinks as healthy, when in fact they contain high levels of sugar. Coca-Cola’s defense was that the products are clearly labeled, and that 7.5 grams of sugar in 100 milliliters is not a “high sugar” content. However, the ASA upheld the complaints because the sugar contained in one Glaceau Vitaminwater represents 26% of an adult’s recommended daily sugar allowance.
It would make an excellent project to study the course of other corporate defenses to ASA charges. These speak volumes about the depth of dishonesty and contempt at the very heart of big business marketing.