Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Adam Had 'Em.

You wouldn't think about it if you were normal, but 350 years or so ago, pins, for clothing, for wigs, for god knows what, were a big deal. 

Pin manufacturing in the 17th Century (I say this with some exaggeration) was like chip manufacturing today.

In fact, by the 1660s, it was multinational.

Most of it was taking place in northern France. But brass wire was brought in from Holland, supplied by Dutch middlemen who marked it all up.

Adam Smith, in the most famous economics book of all time, "The Wealth of Nations," published in 1776, used pin manufacturing to illustrate the division of labor.

"One man draws out the wire, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations … and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands."

Some of those distinct hands were attached to women--about half the workforce. You could pay those feminine hands less.

Still can.

As much as I have a Master's degree in English Literature, I've  become a fairly well-read amateur historian and equally well-read amateur economist for a good amount of time. Accordingly, when I look at the take-over of the advertising industry by giant capital, I look for precedents and economic motivations. 

Because the ad industry, like so many industries before it has quickly been transformed from a craft industry--products made by a few skilled hands--to a mass production industry, products the result of dozens of small operations carried out by unskilled labor.

The later, the unskilled labor operation, is cheaper, because unskilled is cheaper than skilled. Today, anyone can make an ad, and usually does. While actually, no one does. Because an ad itself isn't conceived any more, it's broken down, as above re. pins, into dozens of small operations, which different hands behind each of those operations. You don't have to understand advertising anymore to make an ad. That's no longer part of your job. You need only do your small bit. Then the ad moves to the next work station.

To be vulgar about it, making an ad today is a bit like the industrialized killings done in Germany during the Hitler years.

Killing was assembly-lined. There were no triggers to pull. Dozens of people did a small, innocuous task along the way. Everyone of those people along the way had plausible-deniability of responsibility. How else does a nation of 70,000,000 murder 7,000,000 and not go mad?

The ad industry ain't that different.

Except it has already gone mad.

No one's actually responsible for the 49.7-percent of all commercials that end in people dancing. Or the 53.4-percent of all commercials that repeat "triple-play bundle" twelve times in thirty seconds. Or the tsunami of balloons in every automotive dealer ad. "Spring into savings, muthafukkah."

No one's actually responsible for the CEO of the Holding Company making roughly 300 times the wage of the median salary he pays. No one's actually responsible for the billions in bot-driven ad fraud. No one's actually responsible for the ageism, where just nine-percent of WPP is over 50, as opposed to 33-percent of the population. No one's actually responsible for WPP, in just seven years shedding 45-percent of its workers and going from 200,000 employees to 105,000 employees. 


Everybody sits at their workstation, canceling noise, canceling heads and turning their designated screw one-quarter turn tighter. 

We'll never know who it was who finally turned off the oxygen completely.


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