“The American Dream”: Hidden History, Current Absurdity

Turns out the odious phrase “the American dream” was coined in 1931, during corporate capitalism’s Second Great Depression.

This invasive, oft-injected mental virus is highly adaptive, too, according to the most recent polls of citizens living during this present Third Depression.

Somehow, this Satanic distraction fuses the polar notions that having a chance to become a billionaire and “having a roof over your head and food on the table” are not only one and the same thing, but also acceptable dreams about the highest possible outcomes history’s richest, most powerful empire might possibly produce.

As Barry Glassner suggests to The New York Times, it’s absurd, this deeply corrupted, business-boosted culture of ours.

Market Totalitarianism Primer: “Place-Based Media”

Quividi’s insertion of spy cameras on telescreens on behalf of marketers, which I briefed yesterday, is but one aspect of the ongoing explosion of what big business marketers call “place-based media.”

Today, The New York Times‘ Stuart Elliott files a report on this important aspect of market totalitarianism. Elliott reports:

The ardor to reach consumers outside the home — and outside the realm of traditional media like television — continues to grow among marketers.

Out-of-home media was once commonly known as outdoor media, reflecting its roots in billboards, posters and signs. The term has been changed to reflect the expansion into places like airports, offices, malls, schools and health clubs, where the ads are inside but not inside the home.

That has also inspired another advertising term, place-based media. The new places for ads — as well as the addition of digital and video capabilities to signs, bus shelters, phone kiosks and other sites — are among the reasons ad spending in the out-of-home category are second only to online advertising in growth.

The goal is to engage consumers “during the course of their daily lives in places they go on a frequent basis,” said Rick Sirvaitis, president at StoreBoard Media in New York, which puts ads on the security pedestals at the entrances and exits of retail outlets like drug stores.

“In 36 years in advertising, for the first time I can look people in the eye and guarantee every consumer will be exposed to the message,” Mr. Sirvaitis said, referring to a StoreBoard sign, “because you can’t miss it.”

“We’re always looking for places where ads are not expected,” said Greg Corradetti, director for account services at Serino Coyne in New York, an agency owned by the Omnicom Group.

In other words, as this doomed system continues its suicidal “development,” it becomes less and less tolerant of any and all still-uncommercialized off-the-job space, the existence of which stands as a threat to further profits for the overclass.

Junk Mail on Steroids

Big business marketing and advertising are much more Pavlovian and much less magical and postmodern than most critics have claimed.

If you doubt this, consider how television advertising, the endeavor that funds and delimits almost all the program “content” on US television, actually functions. Here is long-time marketing consultant Erwin Ephron describing it:

For example, a shampoo brand buys daytime TV at $10.00 for a thousand 30-second exposures.

Since each incremental unit of shampoo sold makes a $2.00 contribution to profit (i.e. wholesale price minus marginal cost), then fewer than five incremental sales can cover the cost of the advertising.

And also the cost of talking to 994 other potential customers who may be in the market next week!

Micro-marketers who argue that exposures not resulting in a sale are wasted, are as wrong-headed as people who argue that advertising shouldn’t be expected to sell at all. Some exposures sell, but all exposures build broad market awareness, shift attitudes and help create the brand value, which is the foundation for the next sale. These are the hard and soft effects of TV advertising.

The economics of network television for a super-upscale brand like Mercedes are even more remarkable. For Mercedes, one incremental sale can pay the costs of network messages to a million men and women.

True, most of them will never buy the car, but those messages are not wasted, either. They help to create the broad-market perception that Mercedes is special, which makes owning a Mercedes one so attractive to the small group of consumers who have the money.

For super-upscale products, value to the purchaser is often in the eye of all those millions of non-purchasers.

In other words, considered from the point of view of its sponsors, television is junk mail on steroids.

And we’ve long since surrendered our civil society to this inherently discombobulating and addictive force.

This great surrender, of course, remains completely “off the table” of mainstream politics and media coverage, despite its extreme threat to us, our democracy, and the world our rampaging sponsoring class is still bullying.

McDonaldization: A Mickey-Mouse Theory

Yesterday, I commented on how pathetic sociology is on the topic of big business marketing and its ongoing commercialization and commodification of modern life.

The most renowned sociologist trying to discuss matters in this vital area is George Ritzer of the University of Maryland.

Ritzer has started a mini-industry around his contention that “McDonaldization” is the proper concept for comprehending the course of events.  The basic idea is that McDonald’s restaurants are somehow (Ritzer has no empirical evidence of McDonald’s-copying; he merely asserts that it is happening) the driving essence of what’s happening to us.

Ritzer would have you believe that it’s all a question of runaway rationalization, a.k.a. generic bureaucracy, and that Max Weber, not Karl Marx, is the deepest theorist of our hyper-commercialized reality:

McDonaldization is an amplification and extension of Weber’s theory of rationalization, especially into the realm of consumption.  For Weber, the model of rationalization was the bureaucracy; for me, the fast food restaurant is the paradigm of McDonaldization.

And “McDonaldization,” a.k.a. bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy itself, is supposed to be “the paradigm” for “consumer culture,” a.k.a. the dominant trend in contemporary American life…

What a sophomoric mess! Ritzer seriously argues — and consequently draws along a substantial following of supposedly smart social critics — that everybody is running around inspired to be like McDonald’s, which he treats as a mere bureaucracy, rather than a profit-seeking business. All the while, not only does Ritzer uncritically adopt the rank capitalist bias-words “consumer” and “consumption,” but labors (and belabors) to extend them into even-worse conceptual morasses like “consumer culture” and “consumer society.”

The reality, of course, is that not only is the McDonald’s Corporation itself driven by marketing, but it is the 2-trillion-dollar-a-year (in the USA alone) discipline of big business marketing, not some random bureaucracy fetish, that is driving things forward across the whole society.

And corporate marketing is all about capitalism, not bureaucracy:

[M]arketing is both an art and a science, and like any other investment activity, it must be grounded in research, planned carefully, and measured and evaluated based on return on investment.

Ritzer not only understands none of this, but covers it all up with a deeply misleading shaggy dog story.  As a result, today’s sociology, supposedly the art and science of demystifying the institutional conditions of human life, could hardly be less helpful to those hoping to explain and redress our capitalist-dominated, market-totalitarian culture.

Big Business Marketing’s Simple Methods

Big business marketing was a trillion-dollar-a-year juggernaut by the early 1990s. It is almost certainly now a TWO-trillion-dollar-a-year juggernaut.

Big business marketing provides almost all the money for commercial television, which remains far and away the #1 shaper of people’s “free time,” mental databanks, and worldviews in the United States.

Contrary to academic jibber-jab about the complexity of “reading” advertisements, ,as a communications-maker, big business marketing operates almost exclusively via these 4 classic coercive behavior alteration tactics:

1. Lies (of both commission and omission)

2. Flattery

3. Threats

4. Brain-Conditioning (think Pavlov and his use of repetition and titillation to reform mental agendas)

Marketing is now so dominant, these tactics have come to govern not just the ads and promotions, but the actual TV shows, as well. These days, very few prime-time TV shows are NOT 100% intentional button-pushers, with underlying dramatic designs taken wholly from corporate marketers’ radically shriveled and demeaning approach to audiences.