So, The New York Times is starting to make some rather sane observations about the nature of our society:
We are living in the world’s most advanced surveillance system. This system wasn’t created deliberately. It was built through the interplay of technological advance and the profit motive. It was built to make money.
This development, which, barring sharp democratic intervention, only promises to intensify, was, of course, quite predictable quite some time ago. We here at TCT saw and named it in 2003, when the TCT book emerged. The pertinent phenomenon is “market totalitarianism.”
The NYT being both a major commercial enterprise and a major ideological organ of TPTB, the true origin of this deep reality has to be denied, of course.
Hence, a phenomenon which springs directly from corporate capital itself — itself a phenomenon which sprang straight from Adam Smithian capitalist normalcy — has to be attributed instead to mere bad apples:
The greatest trick technology companies ever played was persuading society to surveil itself.
[NYT, emphasis added]
In this preposterous but ascendant misreading, market totalitarianism is just a trick played by one rogue sector within our dominant socio-economic order. One question that willfully silly excuse begs is who buys all the data and for what purpose?
Have you heard about “smart cities”? Guess what? They are a marketing research operation.
This, of course, is no surprise to those of us hip to what corporate capitalism really is. By its nature, it fuels an ever-growing marketing race, which itself requires more and more spaces, places, experiences, and entities to become platforms for commodity-promotion.
Here is how Intersection’s Chief Revenue Officer describes LinkNYC, which, again, his firm runs:
With award-winning products like LinkNYC, the largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi network in the world, Intersection connects the digital and physical worlds, enhancing people’s journeys through their cities and offering brands the opportunity to drive more relevant and engaging advertising, rooted in real-world context.
Source: Advertising Age, June 20, 2019
So, yes, sports fans, the moment has arrived: American towns and cities are now themselves data-gathering tools for our behavior-engineering overclass. Big business marketing is now bigger than the biggest metropolises, which it now treats as just another deployable asset.
“It’s pretty scary,” Scott Hagedorn tells Advertising Age.
Who is Hagedorn, and of what is he afraid?
“We are not reaching young audiences effectively,” says this CEO of Hearts & Science, the marketing agency that describes its work for “the world’s biggest brands” thus:
Our clients shift from brands that push content out to brands that pull people in. We’re creating new relationships between brands and people like never before.
The crisis to which Hagedorn refers is the fact that:
a growing audience of people who aren’t tracked — and therefore can’t be targeted or measured — with traditional tools and platforms. They consume media on mobile devices and OTT. They’re “cord cutters” and “cord nevers.” And they represent tremendous buying power for brands. The stakes are high—47% of Millennials and Gen X appear “unreachable” within standard planning tools, and 66% of their media consumption isn’t tracked, either.
And if it can’t be measured, it can’t be properly targeted or planned against as part of a cohesive, cross-platform campaign.
“Planned against.” Write that down, TCT readers.
Meanwhile, not to worry, overclass. Answers, as always, are being perfected by heroes like Hagedorn. Thanks to the emerging standard practice of “integrating code to measure in-app content and ad consumption…on literally every [video-watching] platform, device and client app,” the crude surveillance methods of the past are on their way out.
The days of yore wherein the [Nielsen] panel served as the proxy for an audience — setting behavior, reach, and cost estimates — fall out of the picture. Google and Facebook , along with telecom “pipes” like AT&T and Verizon , and retailers like Amazon, have massive install bases that are logged in across screens, making identity-based marketing not only feasible, but the most accurate solution to capture these new consumer behaviors.
We’ll no longer need the panel as proxy for an audience, as we’ll have a deterministic view of the people in the audience. Identity-based marketing becomes the solution that holds consumer identity as the currency against which we measure, plan and buy media across devices and platforms.
As many of these platforms own the consumer experience from end to end – not just identifying their audience at a granular level, but also creating the content being consumed – it’s only a matter of time until these identity-based currencies and identity-based experiences become the marketer’s art. [WSJ, 9/22/2017]
In the TCT book, we observed that big business marketing follows the most solid of iron laws. Due to the systemic pressures of corporate capitalism, the scale and detail of overclass management of personal, off-the-job life (a.k.a. big business marketing) must always grow.
Companies are increasingly enhancing the value of their products by creating customer experiences. Some deepen the customer relationship by leveraging what they know about a given customer to personalize offerings. Others focus on the breadth of the relationship by adding touchpoints. Our research shows that high-performing brands do both—providing what we call “total experience.” In fact, we believe that the most important marketing metric will soon change from “share of wallet” or “share of voice” to “share of experience.”
State-based totalitarians could never dream of getting this far. People wouldn’t tolerate it. But “the market” provides the ultimate cover for the oldest and deepest ill of “civilization,” doesn’t it?
Market totalitarianism is the creeping advancement of corporate capitalist control over all the details of modern life, in and across its three major spheres — work, politics, and personal life.
If you doubt this phenomenon is real, consider this fact, as mentioned, all the way from Australia, by TCT commenter Luis Cayetano: In May of 1958, Erich Fromm was interviewed at length on commercial television in the United States.
52 years later, that same thing is so far from being possible, it is almost unimaginable. Picture 60 Minutes, for example, devoting not just one but two segments (see the run-time of the Wallace interview of Fromm) to letting, say, Noam Chomsky explain his present view of the society and the world.
No fucking way that happens now, obviously. Sponsors these days, having grown all the more powerful and having learned well the dangers of unpoliced television, would never permit it, and the producers and reporters, knowing that, would never in a million years propose it.
The world of big business marketing is full of these types, these self-important “creative” (reach for your revolver when you hear that word) hipsters who think the sun shines out their portholes, even as they shovel new coals into the maw of the world-destroying juggernaut that is corporate capitalism.
This particular one here is Sam Gosling, the newest member of the team at Mindset Media. Mindset is a new arm of the renowned commercial spy agency, The Nielsen Company. Nielsen, of course, has a long history of helping corporate sales engineers use demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data to create “lucrative customer relationships.”
As I explained in The Consumer Trap book, big business marketers not only view their targets as means to an end (as “consumers” of their firms’ wares), but as so many Pavlovian beasts.
To corporate planners, we product users are much more manipulable and profitable when we are in the cognitive modes we share with frogs, dogs, chickens, and other sub-human species.
The great fear of big business marketers is that we might become humanly (and perhaps even humanely) conscious of the links between our life-environments, our natural proclivities, and our behaviors. We might see their hand on the lever, in other words. Hence, much of big business marketing comprises an effort to keep us down amongst the squirrels and fishes and lemmings in our triune brains.
So, along comes Dr. Gosling. What can he add to the ever-expanding art and science of for-profit behavior engineering?
Animal models are useful because they permit experimental studies of personality that would not be possible in humans. The first stage of our research program is to appraise the viability of assessing personality in non-human animals. The second stage is to develop appropriate assessment methods. The third stage is to implement the findings of Stages 1 and 2 to address questions in personality, social, and health psychology.
Golly, he forgot to mention commercial questions, didn’t he?
On the face of it, this kind of research sounds oh so amusing, and maybe even liberating. But, really, despite the kudos from the major purveyors of pseudo-sociology, what democratic or life-enhancing purpose could this stuff possibly serve? Who would ever care about gaining super-precise understandings of how humans share psychological reactions with the less-conscious animals? The one obvious answer is: our overclass of market-totalitarian behavioral dictators.
‘Personality science has a big role to play in ad targeting, and Mindset Media is at the forefront of the field, forging links between science and practical applications in real-world marketing contexts’ said Gosling. ‘Their approach is truly unique, and I believe it will soon have a big impact on how companies identify their audiences precisely and reach them efficiently.’
I don’t know about you, but the animal in me says “Grrrrr!” to that.