reply to post by MemoryShock
The issue is not whether or not I think people shouldn't be held responsible for the decisions that they make, it's that I think that the
various factons inherent of our society and the different lifestyles and regional differences effect how this responsibility is doled out.
Meaning black boys get put in gaol for packing weed while dem rich white folks buy their way out of trouble, that kind of thing? Or, as we used to
sing on my side of the Atlantic,
It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor wot gets the blame,
It's the rich as gets the pleasure,
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame.
It was ever thus. Things are actually a lot better today; it's hard for the great and good to get away with as much these days as they used to. The
intrusive, confrontational methods of modern journalism, the elimination of subject taboos in the media and the highly effective online inquisition of
the bloggers make it nearly impossible for anyone to have any secrets. But a side-effect of this endless festival of revelation and scandal is the
perception that things are somehow worse than they used to be. I suspect this has greatly influenced your thinking.
I'm speaking in general here, of course, not specifically about advertising.
In the early days of Coca-Cola, they gained a very fast and prominent brand by mixing their product with Cocaine. While even the corporate
interest of the product may have been ignorant, they still knew the physiological reaction would almost require consumer dedication.
Meaning, the manufacturers of Coca-Cola must have known coc aine was addictive? Well, they probably suspected it was. But until that was proved,
or at least generally accepted by the medical opinion of the time, they could happily go on telling themselves and their customers it was harmless.
Look at the rearguard action the tobacco industry has fought since the Sixties about the link between smoking and cancer. The thinking at Coca-Cola
about the coke in Coke must have been very much the same, back in the early 1900s. By the way, it was coca leaf that went into Coke, not refined
It may surprise you to learn that people in the world of manufacturing and marketing aren't hardboiled cynics; mostly, they believe their own ad
copy. One of the hardest tasks I had to undertake in my role as an account planner was explain to clients that consumers didn't uncritically adore
their precious products the same way they did. Marketing people have a faith in their products that is nearly religious - and which, like religion, is
actively promoted within the ambient culture.
Here's an example of what I mean. In my country, the tobacco industry is a monopoly; the only company in existence is the local subsidiary of BAT,
one of the world's biggest tobacco firms. Right until the early Nineties, when the ad agency I then worked at ended its relationship with the firm,
BAT executives all smoked like chimneys. They had to; their hopes of moving up to an office on the Management floor would have been zero if they
didn't. So they told themselves and others that the dangers of smoking had not been proven, and they believed it. No hardboiled, cynical
Also (returning to Coca-Cola for a minute), it's worth remembering that historical data are hard to make sense of unless you put them in the context
of their time. Perhaps the following, from Wikipedia
, will help:
In 1885... Parke-Davis sold coc aine in various forms, including cigarettes, powder and even a coc aine mixture that could be
injected directly into the user’s veins with the included needle.
In early 20th-century Memphis, Tennessee, coc aine was sold in neighborhood drugstores on Beale Street, costing five or ten cents for a small
boxful. Stevedores along the Mississippi River used the drug as a stimulant, and white employers encouraged its use by black laborers.
In 1909, Ernest Shackleton took “Forced March” brand coc aine tablets to Antarctica, as did Captain Scott a year later on his ill-fated
journey to the South Pole.
Cocaine ceased to be an ingredient of Coca-Cola in 1906.
Hell, meth was legal and prescribed in the American fifties (though as far as I know, unassociated with any major brand...
I don't remember names, but amphetamine was the active ingredient in many, many commercially available brands of slimming pill and 'pep' pill. In
some countries you didn't even need a prescription. But that doesn't mean Big Pharma was out to hook the public on drugs. Those pills were thought
to be harmless. Clinical testing wasn't what it is now, and in the innocent days before the drug hysteria that arose out of Sixties youth culture,
addiction was thought of as something that only happened to opium-eaters and underworld dope fiends. Remember a song by the Rolling Stones called
Mother's Little Helper
? It came out in 1966, and its shock value came from its revelation of drug abuse and addiction among middle-class
housewives, not at all the kind of people thought to be prone to such vices.
I am indeed espousing (democratic principles) and declaring that the difference in societal expression, the propagation of certain ideals and
the willful unavailability of information is in fact disrupting the idea of a democracy...where people make decisions for themselves.
What wilful unavailability of information? I think you'll have to substantiate that claim. As I have noted several times already, there is no secret
lore of advertising and public relations. There are university and diploma courses in these subjects. The textbooks are available in any good bookshop
or library. Look under Management; larger shops may have a separate Advertising & PR section.
And if you're talking about product information that could affect a purchase decision being withheld from consumers, that's not mind control,
that's just lying by omission.
Besides, you can't have it both ways. You espouse democratic principles; well, one of those principles is that people can be relied upon to make
sensible decisions in their own interest. If you say they cannot, then democracy itself is neither justified nor viable.
There is a major misrepresentation regarding our political process and it can be boiled down to the competition for attention...which is what
advertising is. And most of it is useless information...
In electoral politics, as in marketing, you cannot succeed unless you get yourself noticed. Ideally, the public would notice products and politicians
for the right reasons: in the case of a politician, that would be because he or she has acquired a reputation for philanthropy, probity, ability and
general fitness for the task of government. But ours is not an ideal world; the public is easily swayed by bribery (tax cuts! benefits!), demagoguery
(ban the bomb! keep immigrants out!) and other appeals to their baser selves. In such a world, even good men and women must play the game of promises
and lies to get elected. You can't blame politicians for this; the blame lies squarely with the foolishness and cupidity of ordinary citizens, who
turn away from the good and embrace the bad with gusto. The politicians are merely doing what they must.
The same is true in advertising and marketing. It's nonsense to speak of selling people 'products they don't need'. The only 'products' a human
are water, some fruit, a bit of raw meat and maybe a fire; though even the last is, technically, a luxury. But no-one wants to live like
an animal. We want safety, comfort, convenience and pleasure: this desire for what is not strictly necessary to our survival is the basis of all
All the riches of civilization - at least, the ones we can afford - are spread out before us. Yet most will spurn the best (clean natural food, an
inexpensive compact car, Shakespeare) and embrace the trash of civilization (Big Mac, gas-guzzling SUV, hip-hop) instead. For advertisers, that's
where the real money is - that's why the world's biggest companies are the makers and sellers of cheap mass-market products. They got big by selling
the public the trash it wanted.
There is no elite conspiracy. There are no feudal lords, no bloody tyrants, no secret police forcing them the people do as they are told. There is no
whip of necessity, except for the very poorest - the people advertisers aren't
interested in. The people, my friend, have only themselves to
blame for their own sorry condition.
[edit on 6/5/10 by Astyanax]