The Marketing Race: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Every once in a while, a top corporate capitalist operative will publicly spill a deep truth about the system.

This time, it was J. Walker-Smith, President of Yankelovich, Inc., a subsidiary of the WPP Group, which employs over 100,000 people in its various marketing services operations:

“All of this marketing saturation that’s going on is creating this kind of arms race between marketers where they have to up the ante the next time out because their competitors have upped the ante the last time they were out,” Walker-Smith told CBS News. “And the only way you can win is to have more saturation — be more creative; be more outrageous.”

That is exactly correct. Its monumental implications are also still barely perceived, let alone combatted.

Corporate business normalcy spurs the huge firms that dominate the domestic and international economies to keep expanding and refining their marketing efforts.

One result is ever-increasing commercialism. Walker-Smith himself estimates that phenomenon in these terms:

“Well, it’s a non-stop blitz of advertising messages,” president of the marketing firm Yankelovich, Jay Walker-Smith said. “Everywhere we turn we’re saturated with advertising messages trying to get our attention. [There’s] a kind of super saturation of advertising that [people] are exposed to on a daily basis.”

Walker-Smith says we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today.

My own educated guess is that big businesses are now spending around $2 trillion a year on their marketing operations in the United States alone.

And we know that the sheer number of people employed in “sales engineering” is also huge and growing.

Advertising Age recently reported that:

U.S. media employment in December fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing-services — agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers — broke a record in November (769,000) [of 2007].

That record 769,000 number is important but also a serious under-estimate. It counts neither in-house corporate marketing personnel nor the huge number of freelancers not technically employed by agencies.

And, given that almost 100 percent of the US media are corporate, their central function is to serve as marketing platforms — eyeball and eardrum attractor/conditioners — for their corporate sponsors. Hence, it would only be proper to add those 886,900 media workers into whatever the real number of laborers in the marketing juggernaut may be.