Advertising ver­sus Lyric Poetry

Monday, 26 September 2011

“There are on­ly so many peo­ple ca­pa­ble of putting to­geth­er words that stir and move and sing. When it be­came pos­si­ble to earn a very good liv­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing by ex­er­cis­ing this ca­pa­bil­i­ty, lyric po­et­ry was left to un­tal­ent­ed screw­balls who had to shriek for at­ten­tion and com­pete by ec­cen­tric­i­ty.”

Mitchell Courtenay in Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants

Caveat Emptor

Monday, 24 May 2010

There are end­less things we can and have learned from na­ture that have dai­ly, prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion in our lives. Velcro was in­vent­ed by a guy who took a close look at the burrs that stuck to his dog’s fur. It wasn’t given to us by Vulcans. I’m sure my mom has a spe­cial place in her heart for those things, since there were in­nu­mer­able times that my socks went through the wash com­plete­ly cov­ered in them. Velcro is use­ful, and it is kind of dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out how it could be mis­used.

Marketing, on the oth­er hand, is some­thing that na­ture has in­grained in­to us, and learn­ing to use it as a tool for just about any job means it gets mis­used all the time. The most bla­tant form of nature’s mar­ket­ing is used for sex­u­al se­lec­tion. Think pea­cocks, or Irish Elk. Pretty harm­less, specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed mar­ket­ing. That eas­i­ly ex­plains the mar­ket­ing phrase “sex sells.” Properly mar­ket­ed, you can sell any­thing. With prod­ucts, this has been age old; there were huck­sters sell­ing snake-oil and hoof grease to dirt-farm­ers in Ur. I’m sure the mar­ket­ing of ideas dates to an­tiq­ui­ty as well, but the pro­lif­er­a­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the in­for­ma­tion age com­pounds this in­to a se­ri­ous prob­lem.

With prop­er mar­ket­ing, you can sell any idea. There’s a suck­er born every min­ute. What sucks about the suck­ers is that they’re more like­ly to be­lieve the hy­pe than due the dili­gence. So you can sell cre­ation­ism, fas­cism, racism, and that Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslin and folks will take the good mar­ket­ing as gospel.  It’s Colbert’s truthi­ness. Facts are hard things, and think­ing re­quires thought. Since we’re hard-wired by na­ture to buy good mar­ket­ing, it’s eas­ier to buy in­tel­lec­tu­al snake oil (es­pe­cial­ly when it goes with our pre­con­cep­tions) than put forth the ef­fort to test facts for scratch, in­den­ta­tion and re­bound hard­ness.

Caveat emp­tor, and if you don’t, God help the rest of us.