Why the Internet?

maze The official story is that the spread of the internet and wireless communications is about the spread of democracy. I take that to be patently preposterous, given the pertinent realities.

Meanwhile, consider the great marketing advantage to it all: By getting us all to participate 24/7/365, the behavioral engineers gain not just an array of spy-cams that make Big Brother purple with envy, but written, quantifiable records the ever-expanding field of “consumer behavior.”

Hence, here is marketing consultant BlueKai Analytics bragging about how its “Intent Data outperforms other data sources by 200 to 300%”:

BlueKai Intent™ is the single, largest source of Intent data qualified by in‐market actions and keyword searches in the world. It is aggregated, real‐time data from top tier websites with unique access to purchase, shopping comparison, and product research behavior from their users. Intent behaviors extracted from these sites include: price search by make and model, destination city for travel or activity on loan calculators, product comparison, or specific keyword searches. Time and again this type of data is highly correlated to consumers who are ready to buy.

Unmatched scale of over 160M in‐market shoppers across 7 key verticals

Strict Intent data qualifications

Data transparency means exact targeting without guessing

Thousands of in‐market attributes provide unparalleled targeting granularity and specificity

Intent data providers include 80% of the top 20 sites in each vertical

In case you feel like making the gesture, here’s the link to BlueKai’s “opt-out” process. [Note: I think it’s broken!]

Toleration Research

Noam Chomsky once said this to Bill Moyers:

MOYERS: Corporations? [Isn’t] the capitalist business system’s first priority profit-making for the general welfare, as its defenders say?

CHOMSKY: The chairman of the board will always tell you that he spends his every waking hour laboring so that people will get the best possible products at the cheapest possible price and work in the best possible conditions. But it’s an institutional fact, independent of who the chairman of the board is, that he’d better be trying to maximize profit and market share, and if he doesn’t do that, he’s not going to be chairman of the board any more. If he were ever to succumb to the delusions he expresses, he’d be out.

The same fiction-fact relation applies in marketing research.  Question any big business marketer in public, and s/he will swear marketing research is all about discovering people’s true wants and needs.

That’s a howling lie, of course.  In the real world, marketing research is about finding buttons to push and then ascertaining how much force, in what forms, can be applied to the found buttons.

Consider this important Advertising Age bulletin about the ongoing overclass push to finish subordinating the internet to corporate broadcasting/big business marketing/market totalitarianism:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — The web is about to get a little more like TV — minus the ad-skipping. ABC.com has started to peddle research that shows online viewers will tolerate shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” with ads from multiple sponsors, much like TV.

Albert Cheng, exec VP of Disney-ABC TV digital media group, talked about ABC’s research, conducted by Nielsen Media Research, on a panel at this year’s National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas. ABC spokesperson Karen Hobson said the network is showing the data to agencies in hopes of getting them to buy into the concept.

Network programming on the web, whether on ABC.com, CBS.com, TV.com, Hulu or any other distributor, has typically had a single sponsor. Sometimes ABC has featured one national advertiser and one local advertiser. Online programs have also generally had one ad per break, in part to keep viewers from clicking away, and in part to lure marketers to try what was once a new concept.

As a bonus, the networks disable the fast-forward button, so ads can’t be skipped, and since ad recall is higher, they’ve been able to charge higher cost-per-thousand rates than TV. But because there are many fewer ads, online revenue per viewer for the networks is still far below that on TV.

Boosting ad loads
ABC.com has been making noise for some time about boosting ad loads to bring the amount of revenue earned from viewers more in line with TV, and started conducting research early in 2008. “We can actually increase deliver, reach and frequency by looking at a model that will have more sponsors and more ads,” Cheng said at NATPE, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The ABC/Nielsen research concluded that adding multiple sponsors per ad break had “a minimal effect” on recall and did not affect purchase consideration or ad attentiveness. ABC said the data show that doubling the number of ads within a show from four to eight “did not affect the viewers’ overall experience with the ABC.com player.”

If ABC.com is successful, expect other online players to follow, since demand for online spots in network shows generally outstrips supply. The danger, as MediaVest Worldwide’s Donna Speciale so aptly put it, is finding “that very fine line and balance before we push them over the edge of being pissed.”

The title of this report?

“ABC Says Web Viewers Will Tolerate Twice the Ads”

Nuff said.

Big Brother was an Amateur

In his fantastic new book, Reinventing Collapse, Dmitry Orlov observes that the US overclass now enjoys “an arrangement over which Soviet central planners would surely have salivated profusely.”

Consider Quividi, the new marketing service that is placing video cameras inside the proliferating legion of video-screen being deployed to beam corporate advertising into stores, airports, bus stations, restaurants, etc., etc. etc.

Quividi describes itself to its prospective employers thusly:

With Quividi’s solution, however, the days of blind advertising are over: VidiReports and VidiCenter are the ultimate way to measure and to add value to public space media.
By deploying an inexpensive video sensor in the vicinity of the monitored media and by taking advantage of the extra, unused computing power of standard signage players, Quividi’s software provides you with key metrics on your signage installation:

* An estimation of the opportunity to see; (OTS)
* A precise count of actual viewers;
* Various aggregate inidces on viewership such as dwell time, attention time, “face minutes”;
* Precise viewership demographics;
* Precise correlation between viewership and content, via the inclusion of playlists in VidiCenter.

If you doubt the Orwellian nature of the endeavor, look here.

Marketers: Liars Who Lie About Lying

Deception is the very ether of big business marketing. As Gregory S. Carpenter and Rashi Glazer reported in their award-winning Journal of Marketing Research article, “Meaningful Brands from Meaningless Differentiation: The Dependence on Irrelevant Attributes”:

[M]any brands…successfully differentiate on an attribute that appears valuable but, on closer examination, is irrelevant to creating the implied benefit.

For example, Procter & Gamble differentiates instant Folger’s coffee by its “flaked coffee crystals” created through a “unique, patented process,” implying (but not stating) in its advertising that flaked coffee crystals improve the taste of coffee. In fact, the shape of the coffee particle is relevant for ground coffee (greater surface area exposed during brewing extracts more flavor), but it is irrelevant for instant coffee: The crystal simply dissolves, so its surface area does not affect flavor.

Similarly, Alberto Culver differentiates its Alberto Natural Silk Shampoo by including silk in the shampoo, and advertising it with the slogan “We put silk in a bottle” to suggest a user’s hair will be silky. However, a company spokesman conceded that silk “doesn’t really do anything for hair” (Adweek 1986).

Consumers apparently value these differentiating attributes even though they are, in one sense, irrelevant.

Although they claimed in their article to find such results “disquieting,” Carpenter and Glazer proceeded to

propose a set of hypotheses about when consumers will value this additional attribute, and tests in two experiments support our explanation.

Thus, we suggest that differentiation based on a unique, distinguishing, but irrelevant attribute, through the consumer inference process, can create a relevant and valuable perceived difference, leading to a meaningfully differentiated brand.

“A meaningfully differentiated brand,” is, of course, marketing success — a profitable stream of new, fraud-based product sales.

The struggle to discover new ways of deceiving buyers, of course, continues. Intensification, being the royal road to “more for ourselves,” is the only thing overclasses know how to do, in good times and bad.

But do practitioners often admit the evil nature of their own labors? They most certainly do not, even in the face of the most blatantly Orwellian tactics.

Consider the story conveyed by reporter Stuart Elliott in today’s New York Times:

NEVER mind brainstorms. These days, Madison Avenue is all about brain waves.

That may be overstated, but it is no exaggeration that agencies and advertisers are growing more interested in neuroscience in their never-ending efforts to improve effectiveness.

The ardor of the ad business to adopt the technical tools of biometrics — measuring brain waves, galvanic skin response, eye movements, pulse rates and the like — is increasing as consumer spending, the engine of the American economy, slows.

In other words, in hard times ads must work harder to move the merchandise.

“Instead of hypotheses about what people think and feel, you actually see what they think and feel,” said Joel Kades, vice president for strategic planning and consumer insight at Virgin Mobile USA in Warren, N.J.

“I’m not such a huge fan of ad testing,” he added, but measuring biological responses is “absolutely useful.”

After explaining some of the techniques already being used in major corporate marketing campaigns, Elliott raises the topic of criticism:

Some consumer advocates question the role of biometrics in ad research. They worry that blending “Weird Science” with “Mad Men” will give marketers an unfair advantage over consumers.

As usual, this prompts the hoary old “we’re only collecting votes” fib from the architects of the new tools for spying on sub-conscious response mechanisms:

“The role of neuromarketing is to understand how people feel and react,” Ms. Moses said. “It in no way sets out to meddle with normal, natural response mechanisms.”

Yes, sure, right. Big businesses are spending millions studying people’s brains, pupils, and sweat glands only for reasons of pure science?

[Moses’] opinion was echoed by Robert E. Knight, the director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also the chief science adviser at NeuroFocus.

“We’re not trying to predict an individual’s thoughts and actions and we’re not trying to input messages,” Dr. Knight said.

Who in the world could possibly believe that? It is simply and obviously a huge lie.

And these lying liars who lie about lying are key employees of the “entrepreneurs” we continue to permit to boss our society…

The Genesis of Nine-Dollar Anti-Perspirant

secret with a secret The Procter & Gamble corporation has recently introduced “Secret Clinical Strength” anti-perspirant, which retails for $8.99.

This capitalist’s wet dream is a microcosm of big business marketing’s essential wastefulness and fraudulence:

Marketing Research: This blatantly undemanded and unneeded product undoubtedly had its origins in weaknesses and fears P&G marketers discovered, at great labor and expense, in focus groups.

Public Relations: After discovering these trivial fears and weaknesses, P&G launched a fake “non-profit foundation” to medicalize the fear of excessive sweating. This “foundation” is the International Hyperhidrosis Society, launched in 2004 with a budget of $945,000 and headed by one of P&G’s former marketing consultants.

And, hey, campers! Guess which product has just won the IHHS’s very first “Seal of Recognition”?

Packaging: While blitzing the public with claims about its alleged concern for the environment, P&G’s wondrous new anti-perspirant also speaks volumes about the huge percentage of corporate packaging that literally serves no purpose beyond marketing trickery. As Advertising Age for March 3 reports:

Most marketers have tales to tell about ingenious ways they’ve saved the planet by reducing packaging.

So why is the hottest segment in deodorants sold in paper cartons that never existed until about a year ago and seem to serve little purpose?

It’s all about justifying that $7 [sic] and up for “clinical strength” antiperspirants, which cost more than double the $2 or $3 for a regular stick of antiperspirant.

“It would appear that the outer carton signals the idea of clinical, high-performance products,” said Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever U.S. A P&G spokesman said: “It serves as the extra real estate to get [consumers] the information we think they need.”

It’s worked well. The Secret product racked up $46.6 million in sales through the 52 weeks ended Jan. 27, according to IRI, and accounted for all of P&G’s 3.1-point share gain.

Unilever’s Degree and P&G’s Gillette followed with their own versions. P&G then rolled an Old Spice clinical product in February. All in boxes.

But all those boxes take a toll. The Dogwood Alliance recently reported that 25% of trees cut down in the Southeastern U.S. each year are for product packaging.

Facebook Never Forgets

The second-most-emailed story today on nytimes.com is a report on the near impossibility of taking your personal data back from Facebook, the website that allows unwitting registrants to post bits of verbal and visual swag about themselves in exchange for letting Facebook “harvest” extremely precise and commercially valuable information about the users.

Turns out, once you walk into this trap, your data have no way to get out.

Are you a member of Facebook.com? You may have a lifetime contract.

Some users have discovered that it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook, setting off a fresh round of concern over the popular social network’s use of personal data.

While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely. Indeed, many users who have contacted Facebook to request that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records from the network.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’s customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Das’s empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network.

The Times reporter explains the reason:

Tensions remain between making a profit and alienating Facebook’s users, who the company says total about 64 million worldwide (MySpace has an estimated 110 million monthly active users).

The network is still trying to find a way to monetize its popularity, mostly by allowing marketers access to its wealth of demographic and behavioral information. The retention of old accounts on Facebook’s servers seems like another effort to hold onto — and provide its ad partners with — as much demographic information as possible.

As usual, the whole scam is cloaked in layers of dishonesty:

Facebook’s Web site does not inform departing users that they must delete information from their account in order to close it fully — meaning that they may unwittingly leave anything from e-mail addresses to credit card numbers sitting on Facebook servers.

And if you doubt the immense importance of this whole shebang to our overclass and its big business marketing juggernaut of behavioral and technological dictatorship, consider the fact that none other than Microsoft has already paid the creeps who own and run Facebook a quarter-billion dollars — for a mere 1.6% share!

Draw your own conclusions, but I will say this again: If our out-of-control overclass and its political representatives hadn’t been keeping the FTC in an induced coma over the past several decades, this kind of fraud and theft would be punished. As it stands, it’s all treated as a simple matter of “personal responsibility” — for those at the bottom only, as always, of course.

One hears the voices of mega-over-privilege tittering out from the “third homes” of the world: “Let them eat cookies, and caveat double-emptor! Forever.”