Posted by: JDM..... | March 12, 2012

Twenty first century marketing resembles waterboarding….

it isn’t even subtle….just a pain in the butt…..

My mother used to tell me I had a screw loose, so it was inevitable that I would either major in Mechanical Engineering or Psychology. I chose the latter. Oddly enough, I had little interest in the clinical aspects of that field, although that is where I ended up spending a number of years hanging my hat. I was fascinated with human behavior, but more as a function of daily living activities than as a matter of pathology. I had thoughts of combining a degree in psychology with studies in business with some idea about following advertising or maybe even packaging.

Naturally, life had its own plans to the contrary. That didn’t end my curiosity about why a ketchup bottle not shaped like a Ketchup Bottle would rot on the shelf before anyone would pay a penny for it, or why a fortune is spent designing a toilet that will use a couple of quarts less water in order to save money, yet millions of people spend a buck and a half a pop several times per day for fancy plastic bottles of the stuff with French names and claims of everything from being able to run barefoot on a tropical beach with some gorgeous creature wearing little more than a smile to being the most popular guy at the office picnic. Give me a break. The guy with the beer would score far more points than the dork with the Evian.

Anyway, I was thinking about all of that while feeding this morning’s spam-dump to some software that is supposed to tell my computer to block the senders. Both activities were probably a waste of time, but going through the motions did remind me how much marketing and advertising have changed since back-in-the-day.

When I was nursing my Freshman Orientation hangover, the first of many related experiences, and contemplating the future of my universe, commercial attempts to attract customers were precisely that. Advertisements were pretty corny, I have to admit, but they seemed have a goal of creating a sense of comfort and well-being associated with buying selected products. The wording of ads, as well as the audio-visual aspects of such presentations in the case of broadcast advertising were of course, designed to reflect the values and mood of the day. You would look “cool” if you’re car had huge fins and sported a 400 horsepower motor that could peel the back tires off their rims between one stop light and the next; the smiling woman hawking laundry soap did her housework in a dress and heels; the local doctor recommended Camel cigarettes. It was a different world, indeed.

It’s probably a good idea that role models no longer push the benefits of inhaling the byproducts of burning vegetation, and the politic of the day has our interests focused on burning as little gasoline as possible between traffic lights instead of ruining tires and scaring the crap out of the white-knuckled old lady in the next lane. Other changes are not so welcome, however.

For example, feelings of well being and positive associations are irrelevant in today’s market scene. I was reading an article recently about how advertisers now genuflect before the image of one Herbert Krugman who invented the “three-time frequency formula”. Without going into detail about exactly what that means, I’ll simply point out that it is Marketing’s version of the brat yanking on his mother’s skirt (or tattered designer jeans) while bellowing “Mommy…mommy…mommy…!” until he either gets exactly what he wants or suffers a “negative parenting incident”. What we experience is the same television commercial shown three times in as many minutes. Over and over. Practicing what is little more than commercialized waterboarding, purveyors of the Hot Items of the Moment have rolled up their sleeves, tossed decorum aside, spat, and decided to torture the buying public into compliance.

Not only that, but I suspect a college degree is no longer of much significance in the advertising field, intelligence and the desire to create an image of positive association having obviously been trumped by certain personality disorders in the “job skills” department. No longer is the buying public credited with enough sense to stand upright, but is clearly assumed to be dumber than bread. Nevertheless, they apparently are at the same time viewed as smarter than the average physician, and all are urged to tell their doctors about a PDR’s (Physician’s Desk Reference) worth of pills that might help with a long list of maladies but which might also cause you to develop virtually every malady not cured because you didn’t have them before, as well as grow toenails in your ears, lose your teeth, eat a bicycle, have an erection lasting more than four hours, and die.

We are bullied by stupid television ads, unwanted e-mail, and annoying sales calls, all of which are obviously driven by an underlying philosophy of finding ways to be a pain in the ass until the target audience gives in.

I don’t know the answer. Perhaps I’m the only one annoyed by the volume and mood of the media blitz. After all, I have no interest in most of the new electronic toys. I have a six year old TV, my computer, and a basic cell phone which I rarely use. That’s about it. I wonder at the amount of this idiotic pestering that those who are addicted to perpetual connection must experience. I decline to play, as much as I can, but when some sort of genuine contact accidently occurs, and the opportunity arises, I make a point of trying to annoy the underpaid shill on the other end of the communication at least as much as his or her employer has annoyed me. I mess with them. I waste their time. And I never buy anything.



  1. Tom and I cancelled (yes cancelled) cable TV over a year ago because we felt like we were getting more irritation than entertainment for the cost. Now we have Netflix streaming and never a commercial do I suffer! It’s a beautiful thing 🙂

  2. I always wondered why the repeat, repeat, repeat! Luckily, I have the gift of tuning out (kids and commercials)

  3. I’m old enough to note that I’d rather see a commercial, IN FULL, with the woman in the modest dress with matching cloth belt, high heels and white gloves, standing on a moving turnstyle and holding her arms out like Vanna White, saying, “Buy this shiny, lovely car” instead of the insanity that is presently called a commercial.
    I’m on board, deah…

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