“Social” Networking?

facebook-logo1 I like the idea of trying to out-compete capitalists, especially if that were ever to become a policy and practice of nation-states and world government. I also like open source software, which is a pretty impressive example of the viability of the project. But, with all due respect and solidarity, I find ZSocial, the putative Facebook competitor, to be a hugely quixotic endeavor.

It doesn’t take much looking at Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to notice that “social” is hardly the essence of those operations, even from the user’s side. Legitimate information trading is certainly there, but also obviously a far-distant second to the dominant motive on display. That motive is vanity, bragging, “personal advertising.”

As such, TCT suggests that “social networking” is but a symptom of very-late-capitalist culture. It will have no place in a future progressive-survivalist socialist world. It is not just a trick to advance the penetration and power of big business marketing, but also a pure waste of time and electricity.

How and why does Z miss this basic point?

A Remarkable Letter

omerta Microsoft, undoubtedly trying to exploit overwhelmingly clear public preferences to boost its market share, is apparently planning to release the next version of its web browser with “do not track” as the default setting.

In response, the Association of National Advertisers has sent Microsoft an open letter of omerta protest. It is well worth your study, as it speaks volumes about the true nature of the relationship between corporate marketers and so-called “consumers.”

Notice, first of all, that the ANA and the Fortune 500 signatories accuse Microsoft of “Making the Wrong Choice For Consumers.” Go back to the right choice for consumers, is the message. Making choices for consumers is (of course) just fine, so long as they are the correct ones. And by correct, we mean the choices that the signatories know are best for “consumer interests” and “society as a whole.” Never mind that, even with zero political leadership on the topic, 86 percent of “consumers” expressly disagree with what the corporate overseers dictate.

Also contemplate the spectacle of these overclass warriors daring to speak of the concealment of choices about how the nation’s media run! Why is it that virtually all mass media operations in the United States are dependent on corporate advertising sponsors for their budgets? Is it due to robust public debate and preference? Or is that outcome also a “choice” that has not been, and cannot be, left to the “consumers”? The sponsors of ALEC’s efforts to kill public internet service want us to pretend it’s the former, rather than the latter. Cats everywhere are laughing up their lunch…

Finally, dig the pure Don Corleone closing to this rather amazing letter:

ANA’s Board is prepared to engage in direct conversation with Microsoft. Representing thousands of brand owners that are responsibly pursuing productive pathways to consumer engagement, we believe in a far different course of action. We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10. We look forward to your response to our invitation.

Paired with the fact that this thing was broadly released to the marketing trade media, the only conclusion you can draw is that this precedent is a dire threat to the system, so the threat to Microsoft must be proportional to the danger of its planned policy.

Meanwhile, from the citizen’s —not “consumer’s” — perspective, it’s immensely sad how such a fragile, inch-deep power structure remains so thoroughly safe from public ire. As we work and wait for some adequate penetration of its prevailing national hologram, we can at least keep ourselves up-to-date on its true nature. This letter is a keeper in that regard.

Cookie Smash!

shot cookie Viva the European Union’s Cookie Directive! This thoroughly fantastic law takes effect in Europe starting this Saturday. All U.S. activists should start demanding that it be copied here in the USA!

Meanwhile, the marketers are quite beside themselves over it, naturally. Over at Advertising Age, one Shaina Boone, VP of Marketing Science at Canadian ad agency chain Critical Mass, foresees doom ahead — and for the commoners! Boone’s view:

What’s at stake when all cookies in Europe must be opt-in? Poor brand experiences online, even-more-terrible customer experiences, hobbled e-commerce, and the ruin of digital advertising and marketing as we know it.

The law, as it stands, does not consider its impact on the industry. Forcing these requirements on marketers will lead to huge erosion in the quality of web experiences for consumers — the very constituents it hopes to protect.

When customers opt out of sharing their data, they take away our ability to improve products and services. This law will result in websites becoming, well, dumb again.

The chutzpah, delusion, and sheer demagogy of this diagnosis are obviously epic in scale. The basic claims being made — that what’s best for capitalists is best for media and product users, that wall-to-wall commercialism leads to better media experiences, that marketing is about improving products — are as flimsy as they are typical. TCT almost feels sorry for Ms. Boone. True believerdom is no way to go through life, Shaina.

Meanwhile, huzzah and good health to the new cookie-smash law! Occupy, are you watching?

The (Further) Demise of Content

sponsored_life Leslie Savan, TCT‘s favorite advertising critic, once wrote that, if you want to understand advertisements, one of the major principles to bear in mind is “follow the flattery.” Ego strokes are often used to build brand affection and loyalty.

Of course, as we TCTers know, marketing is a core part of the overall corporate capitalist order, and, as such, faces constant pressure to refine and extend itself.

Hence, is it any surprise that the premium on flattery is devouring more and more of the “content” (aka programming, aka “shows”) in commercial media? Content, after all, is merely secondary advertising, something that exists to attract eyeballs and eardrums to advertising/marketing (aka unintentional shopping).

Exhibit A: The new television program “Up All Night,” the plot of which is: two new, first-time parents attempt to care for their baby, with supposedly inherently hilarious results. Is it funny, or just an attempt at flattery? Judge for yourself:

Exhibit B: The new motion picture, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” the plot of which is: a woman holds down an upper class “job,” while also trying to be a wife and mother. This one is also a load of undisguised, straight-up button-pushing. It is, in Tasha Robinson‘s apt phrase, lifestyle porn:

Such is American culture these (late) days. Hilarious, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, for those of you wondering how Hollywood movies serve as marketing vehicles, two words: product placement. “I Don’t Know How She Does It” features not one, but two Product Placement Coordinators (look under “Other Crew”). During its filming, one product placement expert described it thus:

Sarah Jessica Parker leaves her character of bad girl from New York upper class to become a London City broker. In this case she is even a mother and has to conciliate these two roles. The comedy is based on the best-seller by Allison Pearson, who will be out in February with her second novel “I think I love you”….The shootings will begin in London in January. A product placement fit for high fashion Companies, accessories, and baby products. A rare occasion for products for kids; the premises fo this movie seems to be in fact really good.