Cadillac’s extra-obnoxious “Poolside” ad was, it now says, this:
The “Poolside” spot, created by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a “brand provocation,” according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director.
Of course, the deeper story is the usual one. The ad is a piece of flattery designed to push the marginally comfortable into proving their upper-classiness by buying the $75,000 monstrosity it promotes.
Advertising Age interviewed Cadillac’s Mr. Bierley on the strong reaction to the spot. He said the spot’s been “misconstrued” by some viewers. He wanted to set the record straight. Among the misperceptions:
It’s aimed at the richest 1%
Not so, says Mr. Bierley. Rather than millionaires, the spot’s targeted at customers who make around $200,000 a year. They’re consumers with a “little bit of grit under their fingernails” who “pop in and out of luxury.”
It includes some excellent quick glimpses of the truth behind the scenes of this shameful mega-enterprise/IQ test. Thinking they’re talking to CNBC and hence other corporate overclassers, some corporate planners briefly tip their hand about their real motives.
For instance, this admission from Tom Murphy, VP of Media and Sponsorships at the Sprint telecom corporation:
This [NASCAR] is a superior marketing asset and we judge it in the ways any marketer would, no differently than when we buy TV advertising and airtime…newspaper or magazine advertisements. This is a giant, giant ad machine.
But, while watching, I also noticed that NASCAR’s major players go out of their way to call car racing “motorsports.”
Why, then, the intrepid AV Clubber asks, such plain-Jane starlets on the show?
The answer is beyond simple, if you have any working knowledge of the controlling force behind this and all other commercial TV shows: big business marketing.
The marketing rationale for this apparent “mystery” is that “Sex and the City” is nothing more than a vehicle of flattering ordinary, average-looking women into believing they could, if only they were single and living in SoHo, be one of the friends of cigarette-smoking “Carrie,” the show’s supposedly “smart” and “sexy” central character.
You see, if the actresses were really as stunning as you would expect them to be, based on knowing how the real world actually works, they would be fantasy-killers and, thus, drive away viewers. Knowing this, the packagers of “Sex and the City” cast four comparatively homely lead actresses. The implanted reaction: “See? They’re not models. Neither am I! I could totally hang with Carrie!”
This implanted reaction was a piece of smart, effective, conventional marketing. The purpose of “Sex and the City” was (and is — it’s massively being re-run) to deliver the maximum number of female eyeballs to its sponsors’ advertising campaigns. To do this, its producers simply decided to make the lead characters “attainable” in both looks and behavior, so that the “girls” in the audience would indulge the show’s proposed fantasy of decadent, pampered, narcissistic shopping, dining, and man-chasing.
Of course, once the eyeballs get delivered, the more ordinary “aspirational” flatteries return: “Buy this cosmetic, and you will look like Halle Berry.”
The lesson here was stated well by my favorite ad critic, Leslie Savan. To understand corporate marketing, Savan says, “follow the flattery.” Once you do that, many “mysteries” evaporate.
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)
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.
If I were asked to choose the word that best describes the quality of daily life in corporate capitalist America, that word would be “thoughtless.” Ordinary people here aren’t often really consciously hostile to one another — just as they aren’t often conscious of real political and historical facts. Instead, they are simply heedless of anybody and anything that doesn’t reside or resonate within their bubbleworlds of home, car, workplace, and cell phone PIM.
The lion’s share of the blame for this rests not with ordinary people, but with corporate capitalism. This socio-economic order performs its function of further enriching the already rich by the constant growth of marketing and commodification. As this process unfolds, corporate media and messages, all of which are anchored in profit-making, increasingly crowd out non-commercial activities. As a result, the stuff of salesmanship — flattery, encouragement of navel-gazing and the acquisitive attitude, fear of a “mean world” beyond the supposed safety of packaged entertainments — increasingly erodes the social-psychological basis for thoughtfulness.
Sometimes, this crowding out is literally physical. Take the ongoing decline of automotive turn-signaling. This safety device (within our insanely unsafe corporate capitalist/autos-first transportation regime) is losing ground not just to continuing marketing-induced cognitive and ethical impairment, but to the cellular telephone itself, which, despite its peddlers’ denials, is now part and parcel of driving for growing numbers of ordinary Americans. The task of holding a steering wheel and a cellular phone simply leaves no hand free to flick the turn blinker.
Raymond Williams called this whole crucial process of decline “mobile privatization,” and knew it stemmed from the normal operation of modern capitalism. Alas, thoughtlessness is not just a core symptom of mobile privatization, but it serves as a very effective vaccine against criticism of it and resistance to it. It takes thoughtfulness to care about thoughtlessness!
Funny, isn’t it? In this supposedly “religious” society, institutional normalcy is killing the very basis of all but the pettiest, most selfish, least ethically relevant kinds of caring.