“Behavioral Guarantees”

eyes According to Advertising Age for August 26, 2009, we’ve entered the age in which media conglomerates are selling air time to corporate advertisers via “behavioral guarantees.”

In the words of marketing research firm TRA, it’s:

Finally true accountability for TV! TRA, a media and marketing research company, has America’s largest second by second national live and time shifted TV database of 1.5 million households and the largest ever single-source database of 370,000 households that matches TV ad viewing to actual purchases of the product being advertised.

Basically, what TRA does is track what individual households watch on TV and what they then buy in stores, with an eye on the households’ exposure to specific ads. TRA then reports its findings to the broadcasters, who promise the corporate sponsors specific sales results from the ads they pay to air. If the promised buying behavior does not materialize, the ad-placing corporation gets a “make-good,” usually more advertising time for free.

And as always, this new market-totalitarian capacity is but the beginning:

‘This is where the future needs to be,’ said Donna Speciale, [media-time broker] MediaVest’s chief investment officer. ‘Our ultimate goal is to figure out how to better reach consumers and get our inventory much more targeted, not just buy the typical demographic breakout. That’s where all the testing in these different areas is heading, to get much more granular research.’

Etrade: Selling Stocks With Racism

racismWhile stuck watching the profoundly moronic and outdated Belmont Stakes in my apartment’s exercise room last weekend, I encountered E-Trade’s notorious “black baby” commercials.  I almost fell off my treadmill.

Watch this appalling shit here and here.

As the white baby controls all aspects of the situation and voices all the reasoned thoughts, the black baby sings, trips out, echoes white logic, and makes a sexual come-on.  Can you imagine these ads getting made and aired if the skin colors were reversed?  No chance in hell.

I guarantee you that all of this was carefully planned by E-Trade’s marketing team.  As I documented in my book, The Consumer Trap, big business marketers are extremely sensitive to racial stereotypes, and are driven by the logic of their enterprise to exploit and perpetuate, not challenge, them.

The other important aspect of this blatant neo-racism is that it is targeted at elite audiences, who absolutely eat it up, not least because they think it’s a great thing for they themselves to be willing even to look at and possibly, maybe interact with a black person (both acts they have only recently begun to contemplate).

The truth, of course, is that contrary to long-running claims that Joe Sixpack is the source of all benightedness, our lovely overclass has always held by far the worst and least accurate view of human beings and human affairs.

About Beinggirl…For Real

tampvampsm When you subscribe to insider business rags, you not only get access to some of the truths behind the lies, you also get a better sense of what’s really newsworthy to the minions of Mammon.

Today’s news flash comes via Advertising Age, which broadcast to its subscribers the word that “P&G Social-Media Strategy Increases Tampon Sales,” with the subhead “Marketer Conclusion: Much More Effective Than Advertising.”

Turns out the big news is that the Procter & Gamble conglomerate has created a website called www.beinggirl.com as a Trojan Horse for boosting tampon sales to girls entering puberty.

The site is described as “subtle” by marketing researcher Josh Bernoff.

Take a look, and see what’s considered subtle by our chief cultural engineers.

The only thing I see that looks subtle is the deceptions advanced on the obligatory “About Beinggirl” page, where P&G passes off its vampirical exploitation of pre-teen girls as a form of genuine human concern.  While the two and only two true purposes of Beinggirl are 1) boosting P&G sales, and 2) harvesting extremely high-quality marketing data on a key “market segment,” here is what P&G alleges to Beinggirl users:

Being a girl is like being part of a club where everyone knows what you’re going through…at least on some level. Girls have fun. Girls have opinions. Girls have a lot of questions about stuff like PMS, dating, their bodies and even serious subjects like addiction and abuse – just about anything you can think of that has to do with being a girl.

That’s why we created beinggirl – a place where girls can come together to learn, share, communicate with each other and have loads of fun with games, quizzes, polls and lots more. It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.

Beinggirl.com, for girls, by girls!

The only line here that’s not a calculated lie is “It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.”

Such “social-media” marketing is the future.  As Bernoff report, P&G reports this campaign has produce a marketing ROI that’s 4 times greater than it’s convention advertising efforts.

Without seeing P&G’s background research, one can only guess at the real business strategy on which this 4x profit result rests.  Based on my experience with such secret materials, my best guess is that P&G knows that kids generally aspire to be older than they are.  I’d wager that the real targets of this website are not the reported “12 and 13-year old girls just starting menstruation,” but the 10- and 11-year-olds aspiring to become cool, bleeding, sexy middle schoolers and asking mom to start stockpiling P&G tampons, etc., in anticipation of the big day.  Selling products to people who don’t need them, in other words.

Of course, there’s no way to know this is the real plan.  For reasons I explain in my book, corporate marketers are very secretive about their research findings and their resulting plans.  And Procter & Gamble is notoriously brutal about its secrets, even by the already tough standards of the trade.

Nonetheless, as Sherlock Holmes often says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  P&G is undoubtedly not simply serving girls, as it claims.  After all, there was no prior crisis of tamponless girls.  Hence, P&G has almost undoubtedly discovered some new way of manipulating their targets into buying more products for some irrational reason(s) known only to it.

To the extent corporate capitalism has time left, this is the kind of thing its planners will be spending their time promulgating, as the world and its pre-teens careen toward the abyss.

How lovely.

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions? (Robert L. Heilbroner)

More Advances in Market Totalitarianism

Even (perhaps especially) in times of economic contraction, big business marketers continue their relentless search for new and improved methods of profitably controlling off-the-job behavior.

Here is a direct quote [via Advertising Age, September 15, 2008] that needs no further explanation:

“Now we have the ability to automate serendipity,” says Dave Morgan, founder of Tacoda, the behavioral-marketing firm sold to AOL in 2007 for a reported $275 million. “Consumers may know things they think they want, but they don’t know for sure what they might want.”

“We no longer have to rely on old cultural prophecies as to who is the right consumer for the right message,” Morgan says. “It no longer has to be microsample-based [à la Nielsen or Simmons]. We now have [total-population] data, and that changes everything. With [those] data, you can know essentially everything. You can find out all the things that are nonintuitive or counterintuitive that are excellent predictors. … There’s a lot of power in that.”

Pandora’s Hidden Box

Friends of mine recently gushed about their adoration of www.pandora.com, a new internet radio station that intelligently adapts what it plays based on what you tell it you like.

Based on their swooning endorsement and on the greatness of the idea of intelligently adapting internet radio, I went to the Pandora site to try it out.

Upon arrival, you get the very distinct impression that you are at a site run by computer geeks who simply love you and love music. Both the site’s tone and the nerdy, non-commercial-sounding name of its parent organization — the Music Genome Project — make Pandora seem for all the world like it’s an open-source, not-for profit labor of such love. (This strategic mis-impression is crucially replicated on Wikipedia, by the way.)

But guess what? This bubble quickly pops, if you know your stuff: In reality, Pandora is quite the opposite of what it presents itself to be. In reality, it is nothing more than a gigantic marketing Trojan Horse that uses the above impression plus an utterly shameless lie to insert itself onto your computer, and thereby into your life and your marketing profile.

Here’s the Big Lie:

“At Pandora, we have a single mission: To play music you’ll love – and nothing else.”

Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! This is simply utterly, utterly knowingly and calculatingly false. Wrong. As big a lie as there is anywhere.

Pandora’s actual purpose — the one that’s certainly both the real core of the business plan and the topic of every board meeting — is to be found, with a bit of digging and a knowledge of what big business marketing is and how it works, buried in the pandora.com fine print:

In other words, truth be told, what pandora.com REALLY is is three things:

1. A website that trades you song recommendations in exchange for your name, address, and email address (and, hence, the ability, via other marketing databases, to know all about you and your demographic characteristics) and a huge amount of unique, detailed, and extremely commercially valuable data about the inter-relationship of tastes and personal traits among people who share your particular demography and social statuses.

2. A website that attempts to deny that it has any “backside” interest in the rich marketing data it gathers about your “demographic” with your active but (unless you read and contemplate the true — and unexplained-by-Pandora — meaning of the “privacy statement” where they admit the truth) uninformed cooperation.

3. A business that undoubtedly makes heaps of cash selling its oh-so-cleverly “harvested” and essentially stolen demographic and psychographic data to other corporations, which are themselves seeking to hone their own marketing campaigns by better “targeting” you for future manipulations and frauds.

[Note: The assurances about “individually identifiable information” arereally beside the point.  Corporate capitalists are interested in teaching themselves to better manipulate groups like yours, not in stealing your identity.]

Behind its closed doors, Pandora, in other words, does indeed have a single mission and nothing else — to dishonestly exploit your passion for music and your use of the internet for its own investors’ personal gain.

If the FTC hadn’t been kept in a coma for the last 30 years, the blatant gulf between Pandora’s “about”-page “single mission — and nothing else” promise and its actual design and operation would be quickly and harshly punished. At a minimum, Pandora’s investors would have to tell you what kind of box you are about to open…

Meanwhile, I urge everybody to avoid this scam. If you have a Pandora account, close it and send them a message of protest. Until somebody with principles offers a not-for-profit version of this thing, keep finding your own new songs. Above all, don’t give our overclass a free gift of more ammunition for running its decrepit dictatorship over what products we make and use. The Earth is, as they say, “in the balance.”