Buy Now and Save

Walmart has figured out how to charge more for their cheap imported goods: they now offer a credit card. If Walmart customers take out Walmart credit cards, then, presumably, all the consumers living hand-to-mouth now can make their interest payments directly to Walmart, instead of to the bank. Just cut out the middle man:

The language used in the advertisement above is conspicuous for a number of reasons. The sales persons are clearly trying to mislead the customers in the advertisement, promising a future filled with impossible high-tech wonders like “jet pack tennis shoes.” This type of deception is normal only insofar as consumers are accustomed to the lies and distortions associated with marketing — on a daily basis, the typical consumer is told more lies than truths. The advertisement also conflates spending with saving — two activities with opposite implications or one’s cash flow.

Spending is saving -- get paid to shop

Spending has been equated with saving for some time. While this might sound a little “Orwellian” to some — a contradiction in terms that everybody accepts without thinking about it — this is just one more instance where PR and marketing is able to subvert human rationality.

If you assume — like most economists — that individual consumers are rational, benefit-maximizing free agents, who choose the most product for the least money, then there is no good way to account for why somebody would buy a low-end Lexus instead of a fully-loaded Toyota. One could appeal to status appeal to account for why somebody would buy a low-end Lexus instead of a high-end Toyota, but such an explanation would have to be made on sociological terms rather than economic terms. If one wants to explain this phenomenon in economic terms, one has to abandon the notion that consumers are rational. Abandoning the assumption of human rationality, in turn, can lead one in various directions: this either makes a claim about human nature, or, alternatively, one can look for influences in the culture that undermine rationality.

save

Perception management is the bread-and-butter of the PR and marketing industries. Marketing manipulates individual perceptions by creating new desires where none previously existed. PR replaces an individual’s perceptions with a corporation’s preferred perception. Spending becomes saving, you can’t live without the new smart phone — even though you’ve been living just fine for years without it. Must-have fashion accessories are not must-have in the same way as food or water, they are accessories — though the PR industry’s preferred terminology reveals an important fact of social psychology.

The tactics used by PR and marketing are able to elicit the most primal types of violent reactions among consumers seeking to gratify not basic needs, to to acquire scarce resources, but the desire for must-have accessories, and even mass-produced semi-disposable gadgets that will wind up in landfills before too long.

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

Terrorists Try to Steal Free Energy Technology

According to reliable sources, “G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.”

In this clip from the 1987 film, “G.I. Joe: The Movie,” America’s elite fighting force is preparing to test the Broadcast Energy Transmitter, a new technology that promises to deliver free, wireless energy to the whole world.

While America is trying to deliver free energy to the world, the terrorist organization Cobra tries to steal the technology, and keep it for itself.

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

File Sharing is the Way of the Future

Since Apple switched its hardware line over to Intel architecture, Intel Insider CPU-level digital rights management (DRM) may soon be coming to the Mac.  Soon the transition will be complete, and the cloud will turn us all into the digital equivalent of tenant farmers: we’ll never actually “own” the software and music that we “buy” and, since we need to pay for network access indefinitely to “have” the things we pay for, whatever we have can also can be “taken” from us at any time.

There was, though — once upon a time — a Golden Age, when information came on floppy disks, and file sharing was a key selling point for personal computers.  Back when, corporations encouraged us to copy files freely between ourselves, and it raised nary an eyebrow to hear that “a hobbyist in Michigan starts a local Apple Computer Club, to challenge other members to computer games of skill and to trade programs.”

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

More Stupid Computer Advertising Pet Tricks

As a little girl weeps over the state of the US political process Mitt Romney fearlessly stays on message…

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

Proud to be Illegal

Posted by Bentley

Brands and Branded Identity

Consumers identify with their products.  Sigmund Freud and Marshall McLuhan both theorized about the role of technology as a prosthesis — as an extension of the body — but many consumers today take this a step further, and internalize the messages used to market the products they purchase.

Video game controller as prosthetic and umbillical

Through marketing, technology is not externalized, but internalized, and incorporated into the psyche.  As such, it is less obviously an intrusion into the lives of consumers.  Coming from the inside, it is less liable to be viewed in any way as an obstacle, and is thereby rendered a more effective means of manipulation, insofar as its influence is more difficult to discern or resist.

consumer behavior and addiction

When consumers talk about how they “need” different products, they mean different things by this.  Many people are quite dependent on technology generally: most products most consumers buy are products of industry.  Food is no exception, even if it is served up at a locally-owned restaurant: most food comes from industrial agriculture.

In many cases, however, once a product has “gotten inside” the consumer, the consumer develops a psychological dependence on a product.  Although addiction is a common metaphor used to describe this relationship, familiarity is also comfort.  For most of human history, very little ever changed.  In this era of planned obsolescence and pop culture, the brand — and, identification with branding — offers a source of continuity.

Consumers frequently purchase particular products because some symbolic quality of the product’s marketing provides a sense of comfort.  While a particular smoker may describe himself as “a Marlboro man,” people also identify as “a Coke drinker” or “a Pepsi drinker.”  Coke and Pepsi are both cola drinks, sold in cans and bottles, sold at an identical price point: they compete based on symbolism, not by offering more product at a lower cost.  Consumers internalize the symbolism of marketing, and are conditioned to accept material products as related to these symbols — even if the connection between the symbol and the product is quite tenuous.

consumers identify with their products

To the extent that consumers accept as their own views various messages offered up by marketers, individuals become little more than purchasing patterns: collections of brand preferences and demographic data.  Individuals are branded by marketing, as with a branding iron.  The degree to which this understanding of the individual has become normalized in contemporary society is revealed by the phraseology of politicians in describing the population: politicians talk about consumers with far greater frequency than they talk about citizens.

The phenomenon of brand-identification has social consequences as well: the “Twitter revolution” has seamlessly spread to the American social realm.  That #Occupy Wall Street incorporates into its name a convention specific to a particular commercial service quite easily goes unnoticed, and is therefore accepted without question or objection.  The revolution is an advertisement.

the revolution is an advertisement

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

The Future Will Be Awesome

 

What will 3D TV look like in 2020?

 

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

Broadcast Obscenity

General Electric, the conglomerate that owns ABC, Disney, and makes nuclear weapons, broadcasts a TV show called Wipeout, which is a little like Super Mario Brothers, except in real life and with supermodels instead of Mario and Luigi.

Where the show involves multiple contestants competing to run an obstacle course, the use of instant replay makes the presence of multiple contestants somewhat redundant; each Wipeout is seen multiple times from multiple angles.   The producers of the show seem to recognize this, and consequently boil each contestant down to an arbitrary bit of “human interest.”  This is done often enough primarily as an expedient towards making a contestant the subject of ridicule on the voiceover.

Although in every way presented in the form of a game, the show consistently relies on deception: the game has no rules other than the laws of physics, and the obstacles on the course are in no way impartial towards individual contestants.

If not for the occasionally dance-like footage of bodies cast in exquisite motion, then perhaps for its form, Wipeout resembles Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 documentary about the Nazi Olympics — especially with respect to the use of rapid edits in the men’s diving portion.

Posted by Bentley

Tackling Fair Use

In late 2010, the NFL began to air a short promo during football games, which features grainy cell phone video of home audiences celebrating.

The video’s source footage, harvested from YouTube, includes scenes where members of the home audience pointed their cameras at their television screens during a game, in apparent violation of the NFL’s licensing restrictions.

Typical NFL broadcasts include the statement:

“This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.”

The promo illustrates the arbitrary and capricious nature of corporate attitudes towards the distinction between “fair use” and “copyright infringement.”  Commercial organizations such as late night talk shows, news broadcasts, and marketing firms routinely make use of footage that individuals produce and distribute on services like YouTube.  The individuals who originate this footage are rarely credited, even in commercial broadcasts.  At the same time, when individuals post commercial content to YouTube, that content is routinely removed.

Since the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, private firms have had a powerful tool to remove content from the Internet.  The DMCA provides a legal framework for the issuance of a “takedown notice” which compels an offending party to cease the distribution of infringing content.  This law has, however, been widely abused by businesses, often targeting small operators who don’t have the resources to determine whether a takedown notice is valid.

In a Spring 2009 statement issued through the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, Google claimed that 57% of the DMCA takedown notices it received were sent by firms seeking to frustrate competition, and that some 37% of the received takedown notices were not valid copyright claims.

Another noteworthy feature of this promo is the use of proprietary CBS trademarks in the status bar and on the field, as this spot is broadcast by competitors to CBS, such as Fox.

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal

Every 7 Months, Another 3.2% of the World Goes on Auto-Pilot

I guess some bulletin board systems are starting to assume that English speakers prefer not to write in English.

 

Posted by Zorensen Leverthal