Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Word of the Day.

For about as long as I've been in advertising, which if you count growing up and escaping from a suburban sump-pump financed by my father, who was in advertising as well, it all adds up to 65 years and some months in the business. Yet it seems to me that we in advertising have not yet decided who we're talking to.

Back in David Ogilvy's time, he called them "consumers." As in "the consumer is not a moron; she is your wife." I suppose some print-focused agency, back when there was such a thing, called them readers. Whereas TV-centric places might regard them as viewers.

For about the last two decades or so, we've borrowed language from serial killers, mass murderers and United States 'peace-keepers.' Today we call those we speak to "targets."

There are those in our ranks, like me, who find that term odious. We prefer to call those we speak to customers--not consumers, ie. a little more than giant eating-machines--or even people. But surely the word 'people' is homo-sapienist or bi-pedalist and will, before long, be regarded as refractory and "triggering." 

As Alexander Pope, the lock-raping poet wrote so many centuries ago, "the proper study of mankind is man," we in advertising might endorse a similar sort of statement, "the proper purpose of advertising is extraction."

That is, it seems the industry behaves like a 1900s coal company. We assail all around us. We seek to extract time, money, attention, data, more data, and more money from whoever is in our thrall. 

Unlike the great monopolists of old, whom through their belated charities resurrected their family names and reputations, the Mellons, the Carnegies, the Fords, the Rockefellers, the Armours, the Swifts, the Waltons and so it goes, today's monopolists make yesteryears’ look like they were playing a kid's game. Hopscotch, cat's cradle, or chicken with a switchblade. 

Whereas Rockefeller and his ilk had to sell you more oil to get more money, today's monopolists are what's coming to be called "bionic." They take your data and your money and sell it over and over again. Arbitraging your humanity into their lifetime annuity. Not only do they gain $150 billion fortunes, they gain further the heavily paid-for and well-legislated right to pay no taxes. 

I wonder if, after the recent spate of tech layoffs, if radical right-robin-hood-republicans (they steal from the poor and give to the rich) will have the brass to continue calling themselves “job creators." I suppose so. They hide their evil behind low everyday prices that you never stop paying. And no one will realize until it's too late, that we sold our humanity to save 21¢ on sesame-seeded hamburger rolls that will stay fresh for years for all their destroying-preservatives.

In any event, back to the subject at hand.

What do we call those forced to watch, read, or be assailed by the always-on, always-dumb, always-lie-based messaging we work so hard to create.

Target? No. Consumer? No. Customer? No. People? No.

I propose the following:

E4. Or E4.

That is 

Epidermally Encased Economic Entities.
        1.              2.             3.               4.

In most advertising I see, we are no longer speaking to anything that resembles a human. 

In fact, we are no longer speaking at all.

We are shouting at the top of our lungs. Our assault on taste, logic, kindness and sensitivity never abates. Our non-stop blandishments aren't moderated, mitigated, or otherwise softened by wit, humor, an appeal to logic or anything else that might make the screaming and the too-loud mix and the too-numerous assaults less-unpalatable than stepping in fresh dogshit while wearing lug-soled boots.

The E-ization of our business is everywhere. In the last 20 years or so, it seems we've doubled the number of commercials per-pod (while swapping out :30s for :15s. So in the 20 minutes/hour we have of commercials, we might get 80 messages rather than 40.) 

Plus, though the amount of air-time dedicated to commercials has increased, production budgets have decreased. So we see the same spots over and over. If they were barely funny the first time you saw them, by the one-hundred and first, you probably envy Napoleon and his exile on St. Helena. I'd rather be far-away off the grid than within spitting distance of about 95-percent of the blight we call television commercials.

Further, of course, the price we pay to watch television has doubled in at least one additional way.

We used to get TV for free and pay for that programming by giving advertisers our eyeballs, and nominally our attention, for twelve minutes out of 60. 

Now we pay extortionately to monopoly cable providers--$200-$400/month and pay an additional eyeball fee of twenty minutes out of 60. We pay for crap twice and shut the fuck up.

There was a quaint notion when I was a boy that advertisers were an uninvited guest into people's living rooms. Therefore we should be polite, kind, and helpful. Like a good guest.


Now, in the era of Stormy Daniels acceptable blowjobbery and ass-whackery, we are uninvited guests onto people's laps or pockets. And we rifle through those very pockets with well-trained and fully-emulsified fingers.

As an industry, we are as welcome and as thoughtful as Chlamydia.

And harder to get rid of.

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