Wednesday, April 01, 2009

To Hell With Public Relations

Rant time.

I was going to do a cute, light April Fool's Day post about giving up on trying to make a difference and that I was just going to go back to a nice easy life of floating around the Caribbean pressing buttons on a lighting console until I saved enough to buy part of some beachside club somewhere. But I don't think I can be that kind of light right now.

Just a warning, this rant is probably going to contain some explicit language. Actually I know it will, because I am sick and fucking tired of being "sold at". I'm tired of slogans and icons and spokespeople and masking lack of action on issues by simply slapping a more politically correct name on them. I'm tired of having to spend time and/or money in order to avoid constant advertising attacks at almost every point in my day. Even if I was able to avoid these direct attacks, there are the advertising signs on EVERYTHING (thankfully books remain primarily free of this sort of visual pollution).

Then there's "public relations". This is a clever term for "public pacification". Public relations is the field devoted to making customers and investors believe that someone has their individual best interests at heart. It's the department responsible for finding some way of trying to convince you that the poison they want you to buy is good for you.

Every day I grow more and more disgusted with advertising and public relations, both forced and passive. I doubt I am alone in this, but I wonder just how many people have any kind of clue as to just how much energy is put into selling us crap that we don't really need, and making choices that really only serve to make some selfish bastards rich.

Now this rant was indeed triggered by something. It was triggered by learning that there is no longer a War on Terror. Change has indeed come, but who was guessing it would just be a change in name and, perhaps, tone. Indeed I would love to see an end to war, and I must admit that 'Overseas Contingency Operation' sounds a little more mature but isn't this just another case of public relations? They even have the White House public relations asshole saying that the name change hasn't actually happened. Just like a hardcore salesperson to claim they aren't actually trying to sell something.

It's not all the consumer's fault as so many will suggest. Selling has become a science. I would bet that significantly more research money is spent on new selling techniques, than is spent on curing cancer for example. When an entire industry is built purely on ruthless selling, not what is being sold, it's not hard to see how things can get out of hand.

Now, just for clarity, I want to point out that I am not against all advertising, nor against sales in general. I would be a hypocrite to do so, as I plan to sell things and market products. I just don't see why we have to have such a problem with exercising a bit of fucking moderation or with refusing to buy anything but quality, long lasting, non-toxic products.

I'm not going to suggest solutions here. I think most readers know what the solution is and that its going to be slow in the coming, if it does at all. I just had to get this off my chest. I can only handle so much of the constant and increasing pushing and pulling.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go see if enough snow has melted that I can hike into our forest a bit. Nature isn't trying to sell anything but balance. On that note, I should mention that it was a gorgeous day today, enough for shorts even! And I heard geese yesterday so it seems spring may actually be returning this year after all. Just saying that makes me feel lighter.

Peace and comfort to all. And happy April Fools, remember moderation in your pranks.


linda said...

Advertising just responds to target market needs as you already said. Its a vicious circle but I have a partial solution. Children. Our own and those we know. Why? They are the demographic with the longest lifetime of expected spending. First mom/dads money and later their own and then their children. They are therefore being targeted heavily (explains the bombardment you mention) and parents have to put an end to the vulnerability by educating them, changing their way of seeing things. If this is done successfully with enough parents on board, you can bet that things will change, but unfortunately advertising will just adapt as it always has.
Also wanted to point out, as a graphic design student, most of my professors have not come with bachelors in fine arts but in psychology and got masters in advertising. What does that tell you?

SoapBoxTech said...

I agree with you Linda. One more reason I am about intentional communities.

And yeah, psychology plays a huge role here. A Century of the Self showed me so much that had only been intuition until then.

Thanks for the comments!

linda said...

I haven't yet seen the Century of the Self but keep meaning to watch it as I've heard wonderful things about it. I guess its not a priority because I already know this stuff. Did you know that the terrorist alert code system was the creation of a very well paid advertising firm? Thats probably in the movie, or should be.

SoapBoxTech said...

No, I did not know that, altho it does not surprise me in the least. The movie does not mention that fact. Curtis pulls all his info from the BBC archives so that must not be in their vaults I guess.

linda said...

You can go check out the title "Fear Mongering" on the American Institute of Graphic Design website. I don't have the link on hand but believe that is the actual title of the article. That site, while meant to be about graphics/advertising, etc. has some really good social commentary now and then.

Theresa said...

If I recall correctly, B.F. Skinner was the psychologist responsible for the invention of the coffee break concept, designed of course to sell coffee. He was an expert in behavior modification. As a psychologist myself though, I do have to defend the profession in general, in that most of us are about helping people to find the truth, not putting a nice spin on falsity. :)

Your point is well taken about the marketing and selling of absolutely everything. In fact I fear that even the efforts put into fundraising for things like cancer research is also largely a sell-job. Big pharma profits from illness, not wellness.

SoapBoxTech said...

Thanks for the input, Theresa. I trust you know I wasn`t slamming psychology in general. Like all things, it can be put to good use, or evil. It`s just that the dubious have so linked themselves to the power structure. We definitely need you and more of those like you though!

linda said...

I also wasn't slamming the profession as I know that most of you do care about and help people. I hope I didn't come across as critical of the profession. Just stating what I know inline with the topic.