"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Mark Penn's 75 Trends of 2007
Mark Penn's 75 Trends of 2007

By. Rachel Sylvester

Mark Penn argues that the world is increasingly made up of “societal atoms”. These are, he says, “small trends that reflect changing habits and choices.” Often, they are counter-intuitive. By analyzing polling data, he has identified 75 “microtrends”, categories of people who might just change the world. Although most of the research in his book is based on American polls, many of the findings are replicated in the UK.

1. Sex-ratio singles. Around three per cent of women are, according to Penn, now left on the shelf because there are not enough straight men to go round.

2. Cougars. Women who date younger men. The number following the example of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate has more than trebled in the last ten year.

3. Office romancers. According to one recent survey nearly 60 per cent of Americans have mixed business and pleasure.

4. Commuter couples. The number of people who live in separate cities has doubled in the last fifteen years.

5. Internet marrieds. Couples who meet on line are more likely to cross class and race barriers.

6. Working retired. The baby boomers are refusing to give up their jobs at 65.

7. Extreme commuters. The number of those who travel at least 90 minutes each way to get to work has doubled in the last ten years.

8. Stay-at-home workers. Up 23 per cent in the US since 1990.

9. Wordy women. It’s not just JK Rowling. Females have a rising profile in language-based professions such as the media, PR, law and politics.

10. Ardent Amazons. Women are also increasingly going into jobs that demand physical strength, such as the military, fire-fighting, plumbing, sport and building.

11. Stained glass ceiling breakers. The number of female vicars has trebled in the last twenty years.

12. Pro-Semites. According to Penn: “Jew-loving is a bit of a craze.”

13. Interracial families. More than one per cent of couples in the US are mixed race.

14. Protestant Hispanics. Latino immigrants are a powerful lobby group and those who are Protestant, rather than Catholic, are a surprisingly important subgroup.

15. Moderate Muslims.

16. Sun-haters. Those who are turning against tanning are “early adopters” of a trend that Penn believes will soon spread.

17. 30-winkers. Margaret Thatcher survived on four hours a night, and the number of people who sleep fewer than six hours is rising fast.

18. Left-handers. The number has doubled in a generation and will continue to rise, thanks, Penn thinks, to more liberal teaching and parenting.

19. DIY doctors. We are all researching, diagnosing and curing ourselves via the internet.

20. Hard-of-hearers. The number of people with hearing loss doubled between 1970 and 2000.

21. Old new dads. Fathers having children in their 40s and 50s, up dramatically.

22. Pet parents Not only are people having more animals, they are also treating them more like children.

23. Pampering parents. Nurture, not discipline, is the order of the day.

24. Late-breaking gays. Those leaving heterosexual marriages for gay relationships. One study found that one in five gay men were past 40 when they had their first homosexual experience.

25. Dutiful sons. Although the bulk of those caring for elderly relatives are women, the number of men is rising.

26. Impressionable elites. Wealthy and educated people who are now more obsessed by personality, rather than issue-based, politics than their working class counterparts.

27. Swing is still king. The non tribal centrist voters will still, according to Penn, determine elections.

28. Militant illegals. In the US, illegal immigrants are increasingly taking to the streets to demand more rights.

29. Christian Zionists. Christians who support Israel outnumber Jews.

30. Newly released ex-cons.

31. Mildly disordered. Conditions such as attention deficit disorder are on the rise.

32. Young knitters. The fastest growing group of people who knit are in their teens and 20s.

33. Black teen idols. There is a new class of black super-achievers graduating for the first time.

34. High school moguls. The internet and eBay make teenage entrepreneurship easier than ever.

35. Aspiring snipers. The most bizarre fact Penn has discovered is that one per cent of young Californians told a pollster that they want to be snipers. “Stealth,” he says “is in openness is out.”

36. Vegan children. The younger generation is turning off meat in a big way.

37. Obese adults. There are an estimated 300 million obese people in the world, compared with 200 million in 1995, with all the implications for health policy.

38. The thinning thousands. There are meanwhile thousands cutting their calories to near-starvation levels in an attempt to lengthen their lives.

39. Caffeine crazies. Starbucks and Red Bull are taking over the world.

40. Long attention spanners. 50 million Americans do jigsaw puzzles, best-selling books are on average 100 pages longer than 10 years ago – and Penn believes politics is moving from soundbites to issue-based campaigns.

41. Neglected dads. The man who discovered the Soccer Mums thinks advertisers, and politicians are now ignoring fathers.

42. Native language speakers. The number of people living in households where no-one speaks English well has increased by more than 50 per cent in recent years.

43. Unisexuals. After metrosexuals, we have unisexuals, people to whom as Penn puts it “the binary gender classification system is arbitrary, limiting and oppressive.”

44. Second home buyers. Middle income earners are the fastest growing group of those buying rural retreats.

45. Modern Mary Poppinses. Well-educated, well-heeled women are increasingly becoming nannies.

46. Shy millionaires. There is a significant group of rich and super-rich who live below their means. Penn calls them Secret Succeeders and Satisfied Savers.

47. Bourgeois and Bankrupt. In America personal bankruptcy filings have climbed nearly 350 per cent in the last 25 years.

48. Non-profiteers. The number working for charities and non-profit organizations has soared.

49. Uptown tattooed. High earners are now more likely than low earners to have ‘body art’.

50. Snowed under slobs. One in ten people identify themselves as ‘very messy’ – and they are almost twice as likely to be Democrats as Republicans.

51. Surgery lovers. There has been a huge increase in cosmetic surgery and nearly half of surgeons say they have treated teenagers.

52. Powerful petites. According to Penn, ‘little women are big business.’

53. Social geeks. Computer nerds are now more sociable than their technophobic neighbours.

54. New luddites. A dedicated band who refuse to logon.

55. Tech fatales. Women spend a third more on technology than men.

56. Car-buying soccer moms. Although you would not guess it from the adverts, they are also the majority of car-buyers today.

57. Archery moms. Niche sports – such as archery – are taking over from mainstream ones such as soccer.

58. xxx men. There are 4 million pornographic websites worldwide, about 12 per cent of the total, and one in four search engine requests on an average day is for pornography.

59. Video game grown ups. Mothers over 45 are one of the fastest growing group of computer game players.

60. Neo-classicals. Classical music is growing in popularity.

61. Smart children left behind. Middle class parents are increasingly holding their child back a year, so they are the oldest not the youngest in the class.

62. The home-schooled. A growing band are abandoning mainstream education.

63. College drop-outs. Although college enrollment has gone up college graduation rates have stayed about the same.

64. Numbers junkies. Science is failing to attract enough students. There are only 77 maths students at Harvard, out of over 6,700 undergraduates.

65. Mini-churched. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are nearly 10,000 distinct religions in the world with two or three new ones being created every day.

66. International home buyers.

67. LAT couples. One million couples in Britain live apart – but are not separated.

68. Mammonies. In Italy 82 per cent of men age 18-30 are still living at home with their parents.

69. Eurostars. Although Americans are reproducing at a rate of 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age, European women are having an unsustainable 1.5 children each.

70. Vietnamese entrepreneurs. Vietnam is one of the most successful exporters.

71. French teetotalers. No country has cut its alcohol consumption more than France in the last 40 years.

72. Chinese Picassos. Between 1993 and 2005, China’s premier art auction house nearly quadrupled its annual sales volume.

73. Russian swings. Russians who, in the 1990s, swung towards democracy are now swinging back.

74. Indian women. An increasingly powerful force.

75. Educated terrorists.


posted by R J Noriega at 4:08 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Going Against the Tide
By George Alexander

Advertising has long been viewed as an almost impenetrable, exclusive world by many people of color. But the AdColor Industry Coalition, an association of advertising organizations, is hoping to improve the industry’s ethnic mix through concentrated diversity efforts and by highlighting the outstanding achievements of people of color in advertising.

AdColor comprises a powerhouse roster, including The Advertising Club of New York, Association of National Advertisers, American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, and Arnold Worldwide. Its mission—in addition to celebrating the accomplishments of diverse industry professionals—is to leverage the stories of diverse achievers, to mine new data to shine a light on key challenges, and to uncover new ways of spurring diversity.

AdColor is the first of its kind: a cross-industry initiative covering the marketing, advertising, and media industries. "The industry must reflect the changing society," argues Tiffany Warren, vice president and director of multicultural programs and community outreach at advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. "As society changes demographically, not focusing on diversity begins to hit directly at the bottom line," adds Warren, an industry veteran who conceived the idea for AdColor six years ago and who frequently blogs on the topic for Advertising Age.

Last year, the New York City Human Rights Commission (HRC) found that the advertising industry had improved very little in 40 years with regard to the issue of diversity, particularly the hiring of African Americans. Its findings: only 2% of the upper ranks of the industry are African American. The result was agreements between the commission and several major advertising agencies including Arnold Worldwide, DDB, and BBDO with specific goals to increase workforce diversity in managerial, professional, and creative positions. The agencies must report their progress annually. The first report is due Jan. 1.

The findings of the HRC report are alarming given the amount of money blacks spend keeping the American economic engine going. According to a Target Market News report, The Buying Power of Black America, African American purchasing power is an estimated $744 billon. And that figure is expected to grow 34% over the next four years to more than $1.2 trillion in 2012, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Much of advertising's paucity of black representation is blamed on its exclusive nature and an overall lack of minority exposure to the field. "Advertising has traditionally been a very closed and close-knit community, and minorities have just not been a part of that," suggests McGhee Williams Osse, co-CEO of Chicago-based Burrell Communications (No. 4 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $203 million in billings).

Some contend that the industry's issues around inclusion have much to do with the nature of the work itself. "In certain professions there is a high degree of collective creativity and collaboration in groups. Those industries can be difficult to integrate," says David Campt, a diversity expert and visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkley. "When you're working with a group to create something new and innovative, you really have to be relaxed and able to let your guard down. People are extra nervous about being around people who are not like themselves; there is the fear that they never know what will come out of their mouths."

Ironically, a lack of media attention on advertising’s homogenous staffing patterns has been underscored as a reason for the industry’s slow movement toward inclusiveness. "Advertising is a cottage industry, and I don't think it has gotten the pressure from the press on the lack of diversity the way other industries have over the years," says Lauren R. Tucker, senior vice president and director of consumer forensics at Richmond, Virginia-based The Martin Agency. To enhance the profile of the industry with minority college students, Tucker frequently travels to colleges and universities across the country. "Young ethnic minorities want to see a track record of success," she says.

There is optimism that initiatives such as AdColor can have a long-term impact. Mike Hard, vice president of digital advertising sales at Microsoft is encouraged by the level of support displayed at the 2007 ADCOLOR Awards, held Nov. 4.

"In the room were some of the best agencies and the most influential marketers in the world, including Microsoft, McCann, Procter & Gamble, and Clorox," says Hard. "And they all wanted to shine a light on amazing people of color. They all wanted to learn how to help advertisers reach diverse communities and how to strengthen internally around diversity. When you have a number of people who share the same passion go to an event like that, it’s not only good for diversity, it’s good for business."

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posted by R J Noriega at 3:21 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
10 Things You Need to Know About Behavioral Targeting
by Lynn Russo Whylly,

Behavioral target marketers may be walking into a pit of snakes, and they hate snakes

1. Analytics will get more insightful. "You can expect deeper insights into campaign performance, richer quality data sets and predictive segments based on nonintuitive behaviors," says Lawrence Allen II, senior vice president of business development and marketing at TACODA.

2. BT capability will expand to more devices. "People will start to figure out how to move to any device," says Marla Schimke, vice president of marketing for Revenue Science. "Mobile is first, but we shouldn't limit ourselves there." Revenue Science is testing BT on cell phones in Japan.

3. Lack of standards will persist. As more solutions providers and publishers try to get in on the behavioral targeting game, let the buyer beware. There will be more definitions - not fewer - and inconsistencies in the way BT is offered.

4. Inventory will continue to expand. The addition of Yahoo, AOL and Facebook's BT offerings is just the beginning of a growth trend. As BT moves into the online mainstream, expect more portals and publishers to get on board.

5. You'll have more insight prior to your campaign launch. Recently, Publicis Modem tested collecting data on a client site about three weeks prior to a BT campaign launch. "You're actually looking at a few weeks' worth of behavioral data of your existing customers and finding people who do the same thing on your site prior to the media launch, rather than having to wait after the launch until you have enough campaign data to review," says Christine Benson, vice president and director of media.

6. Public scrutiny will increase. The more widely developed and implemented BT becomes, the more it draws the ire of privacy advocates, who, in turn, capture the attention of federal regulators, who will question whether there is a need for oversight (see 10 Things You Need to Know About Regulation, pg. 34).

7. As use of BT grows, educating consumers will become paramount. "Consumer reaction to BT is both positive and negative, but some people don't understand that they're going to get an ad anyway and wouldn't it be better to get one that's relevant? They're frustrated with the Big Brother element. So the more educated they are about the benefits of BT, the happier they will be," says Coleen Kuehn, executive vice president and chief strategist at MPG.

8. You'll be able to make more decisions based on real, rather than assumed, behavior. "The most exciting thing about BT is we can get a tighter targeting parameter that reflects what people are doing versus what we think they're doing," says Benson. "We're not making assumptions."

9. Cross-selling, up-selling and brand- switching strategies will improve. Eliminating waste is important, but you also can capitalize on key lifestyle or behavioral moments. "You can reach out to someone who's buying a car, for instance, with offers for insurance, oil, tires ... send them messages about how often they should be getting a tune-up, or even try to switch them to a different car brand than what they've been looking at," says Kuehn.

10. Behavioral targeting won't help you match the right medium to the right customer - yet.For the foreseeable future, BT won't tell you whether it would be most effective to deliver someone a rich media banner ad, a streaming video or a skyscraper. But they're working on it.

by Lynn Russo Whylly, December 2007 issue
Behavioral target marketers may be walking into a pit of snakes, and they hate snakes

1. Analytics will get more insightful. "You can expect deeper insights into campaign performance, richer quality data sets and predictive segments based on nonintuitive behaviors," says Lawrence Allen II, senior vice president of business development and marketing at TACODA.

2. BT capability will expand to more devices. "People will start to figure out how to move to any device," says Marla Schimke, vice president of marketing for Revenue Science. "Mobile is first, but we shouldn't limit ourselves there." Revenue Science is testing BT on cell phones in Japan.

3. Lack of standards will persist. As more solutions providers and publishers try to get in on the behavioral targeting game, let the buyer beware. There will be more definitions - not fewer - and inconsistencies in the way BT is offered.

4. Inventory will continue to expand. The addition of Yahoo, AOL and Facebook's BT offerings is just the beginning of a growth trend. As BT moves into the online mainstream, expect more portals and publishers to get on board.

5. You'll have more insight prior to your campaign launch. Recently, Publicis Modem tested collecting data on a client site about three weeks prior to a BT campaign launch. "You're actually looking at a few weeks' worth of behavioral data of your existing customers and finding people who do the same thing on your site prior to the media launch, rather than having to wait after the launch until you have enough campaign data to review," says Christine Benson, vice president and director of media.

6. Public scrutiny will increase. The more widely developed and implemented BT becomes, the more it draws the ire of privacy advocates, who, in turn, capture the attention of federal regulators, who will question whether there is a need for oversight (see 10 Things You Need to Know About Regulation, pg. 34).

7. As use of BT grows, educating consumers will become paramount. "Consumer reaction to BT is both positive and negative, but some people don't understand that they're going to get an ad anyway and wouldn't it be better to get one that's relevant? They're frustrated with the Big Brother element. So the more educated they are about the benefits of BT, the happier they will be," says Coleen Kuehn, executive vice president and chief strategist at MPG.

8. You'll be able to make more decisions based on real, rather than assumed, behavior. "The most exciting thing about BT is we can get a tighter targeting parameter that reflects what people are doing versus what we think they're doing," says Benson. "We're not making assumptions."

9. Cross-selling, up-selling and brand- switching strategies will improve. Eliminating waste is important, but you also can capitalize on key lifestyle or behavioral moments. "You can reach out to someone who's buying a car, for instance, with offers for insurance, oil, tires ... send them messages about how often they should be getting a tune-up, or even try to switch them to a different car brand than what they've been looking at," says Kuehn.

10. Behavioral targeting won't help you match the right medium to the right customer - yet.For the foreseeable future, BT won't tell you whether it would be most effective to deliver someone a rich media banner ad, a streaming video or a skyscraper. But they're working on it.

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posted by R J Noriega at 2:37 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The Simple Art of Murder
By Raymond Chandler,

Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic. Old-fashioned novels which now seem stilted and artificial to the point of burlesque did not appear that way to the people who first read them. Writers like Fielding and Smollett could seem realistic in the modern sense because they dealt largely with uninhibited characters, many of whom were about two jumps ahead of the police, but Jane Austen’s chronicles of highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility seem real enough psychologically. There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today. Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture. Just get a little behind in your payments and you will find out how idealistic they are.

The detective story for a variety of reasons can seldom be promoted. It is usually about murder and hence lacks the element of uplift. Murder, which is a frustration of the individual and hence a frustration of the race, may have, and in fact has, a good deal of sociological implication. But it has been going on too long for it to be news. If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it. The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions. There is nothing left to discuss, except whether it was well enough written to be good fiction, and the people who make up the half-million sales wouldn’t know that anyway. The detection of quality in writing is difficult enough even for those who make a career of the job, without paying too much attention to the matter of advance sales.

The detective story (perhaps I had better call it that, since the English formula still dominates the trade) has to find its public by a slow process of distillation. That it does do this, and holds on thereafter with such tenacity, is a fact; the reasons for it are a study for more patient minds than mine. Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that it is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.

Yet the detective story, even in its most conventional form, is difficult to write well. Good specimens of the art are much rarer than good serious novels. Rather second-rate items outlast most of the high velocity fiction, and a great many that should never have been born simply refuse to die at all. They are as durable as the statues in public parks and just about that dull. This is very annoying to people of what is called discernment. They do not like it that penetrating and important works of fiction of a few years back stand on their special shelf in the library marked "Best-Sellers of Yesteryear," and nobody goes near them but an occasional shortsighted customer who bends down, peers briefly and hurries away; while old ladies jostle each other at the mystery shelf to grab off some item of the same vintage with a title like The Triple Petunia Murder Case, or Inspector Pinchbottle to the Rescue. They do not like it that "really important books" get dusty on the reprint counter, while Death Wears Yellow Garters is put out in editions of fifty or one hundred thousand copies on the news-stands of the country, and is obviously not there just to say goodbye.

To tell you the truth, I do not like it very much myself. In my less stilted moments I too write detective stories, and all this immortality makes just a little too much competition. Even Einstein couldn’t get very far if three hundred treatises of the higher physics were published every year, and several thousand others in some form or other were hanging around in excellent condition, and being read too. Hemingway says somewhere that the good writer competes only with the dead. The good detective story writer (there must after all be a few) competes not only with all the unburied dead but with all the hosts of the living as well. And on almost equal terms; for it is one of the qualities of this kind of writing that the thing that makes people read it never goes out of style. The hero’s tie may be a little off the mode and the good gray inspector may arrive in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan with siren screaming, but what he does when he gets there is the same old futzing around with timetables and bits of charred paper and who trampled the jolly old flowering arbutus under the library window.

I have, however, a less sordid interest in the matter. It seems to me that production of detective stories on so large a scale, and by writers whose immediate reward is small and whose need of critical praise is almost nil, would not be possible at all if the job took any talent. In that sense the raised eyebrow of the critic and the shoddy merchandizing of the publisher are perfectly logical. The average detective story is probably no worse than the average novel, but you never see the average novel. It doesn’t get published. The average—or only slightly above average—detective story does. Not only is it published but it is sold in small quantities to rental libraries, and it is read. There are even a few optimists who buy it at the full retail price of two dollars, because it looks so fresh and new, and there is a picture of a corpse on the cover. And the strange thing is that this average, more than middling dull, pooped-out piece of utterly unreal and mechanical fiction is not terribly different from what are called the masterpieces of the art. It drags on a little more slowly, the dialogue is a little grayer, the cardboard out of which the characters are cut is a shade thinner, and the cheating is a little more obvious; but it is the same kind of book. Whereas the good novel is not at all the same kind of book as the bad novel. It is about entirely different things. But the good detective story and the bad detective story are about exactly the same things, and they are about them in very much the same way. There are reasons for this too, and reasons for the reasons; there always are.

I suppose the principal dilemma of the traditional or classic or straight-deductive or logic—and—deduction novel of detection is that for any approach to perfection it demands a combination of qualities not found in the same mind. The cool-headed constructionist does not also come across with lively characters, sharp dialogue, a sense of pace and an acute use of observed detail. The grim logician has as much atmosphere as a drawing-board. The scientific sleuth has a nice new shiny laboratory, but I’m sorry I can’t remember the face. The fellow who can write you a vivid and colorful prose simply won’t be bothered with the coolie labor of breaking down unbreakable alibis. The master of rare knowledge is living psychologically in the age of the hoop skirt. If you know all you should know about ceramics and Egyptian needlework, you don’t know anything at all about the police. If you know that platinum won’t melt under about 2800 degrees F. by itself, but will melt at the glance of a pair of deep blue eyes when put close to a bar of lead, then you don’t know how men make love in the twentieth century. And if you know enough about the elegant flânerie of the pre-war French Riviera to lay your story in that locale, you don’t know that a couple of capsules of barbital small enough to be swallowed will not only not kill a man—they will not even put him to sleep, if he fights against them.

Every detective story writer makes mistakes, and none will ever know as much as he should. Conan Doyle made mistakes which completely invalidated some of his stories, but he was a pioneer, and Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue. It is the ladies and gentlemen of what Mr. Howard Haycraft (in his book Murder for Pleasure) calls the Golden Age of detective fiction that really get me down. This age is not remote. For Mr. Haycraft’s purpose it starts after the first World War and lasts up to about 1930. For all practical purposes it is still here. Two-thirds or three-quarters of all the detective stories published still adhere to the formula the giants of this era created, perfected, polished and sold to the world as problems in logic and deduction. These are stern words, but be not alarmed. They are only words. Let us glance at one of the glories of the literature, an acknowledged masterpiece of the art of fooling the reader without cheating him. It is called The Red House Mystery, was written by A. A. Milne, and has been named by Alexander Woollcott (rather a fast man with a superlative) "one of the three best mystery stories of all time." Words of that size are not spoken lightly. The book was published in 1922, but is quite timeless, and might as easily have been published in July 1939, or, with a few slight changes, last week. It ran thirteen editions and seems to have been in print, in the original format, for about sixteen years. That happens to few books of any kind. It is an agreeable book, light, amusing in the Punch style, written with a deceptive smoothness that is not as easy as it looks.

It concerns Mark Ablett’s impersonation of his brother Robert, as a hoax on his friends. Mark is the owner of the Red House, a typical laburnum-and-lodge-gate English country house, and he has a secretary who encourages him and abets him in this impersonation, because the secretary is going to murder him, if he pulls it off. Nobody around the Red House has ever seen Robert, fifteen years absent in Australia, known to them by repute as a no-good. A letter from Robert is talked about, but never shown. It announces his arrival, and Mark hints it will not be a pleasant occasion. One afternoon, then, the supposed Robert arrives, identifies himself to a couple of servants, is shown into the study, and Mark (according to testimony at the inquest) goes in after him. Robert is then found dead on the floor with a bullet hole in his face, and of course Mark has vanished into thin air. Arrive the police, suspect Mark must be the murderer, remove the debris and proceed with the investigation, and in due course, with the inquest.

Milne is aware of one very difficult hurdle and tries as well as he can to get over it. Since the secretary is going to murder Mark once he has established himself as Robert, the impersonation has to continue on and fool the police. Since, also, everybody around the Red House knows Mark intimately, disguise is necessary. This is achieved by shaving off Mark’s beard, roughening his hands ("not the hands of a manicured gentlemen"—testimony) and the use of a gruff voice and rough manner. But this is not enough. The cops are going to have the body and the clothes on it and whatever is in the pockets. Therefore none of this must suggest Mark. Milne therefore works like a switch engine to put over the motivation that Mark is a thoroughly conceited performer that he dresses the part down to the socks and underwear (from all of which the secretary has removed the maker’s labels), like a ham blacking himself all over to play Othello. If the reader will buy this (and the sales record shows he must have) Milne figures he is solid. Yet, however light in texture the story may be, it is offered as a problem of logic and deduction. If it is not that, it is nothing at all. There is nothing else for it to be. If the situation is false, you cannot even accept it as a light novel, for there is no story for the light novel to be about. If the problem does not contain the elements of truth and plausibility, it is no problem; if the logic is an illusion, there is nothing to deduce. If the impersonation is impossible once the reader is told the conditions it must fulfill, then the whole thing is a fraud. Not a deliberate fraud, because Milne would not have written the story if he had known what he was up against. He is up against a number of deadly things, none of which he even considers. Nor, apparently, does the casual reader, who wants to like the story, hence takes it at its face value. But the reader is not called upon to know the facts of life; it is the author who is the expert in the case. Here is what this author ignores:

1. The coroner holds formal jury inquest on a body for which no competent legal identification is offered. A coroner, usually in a big city, will sometimes hold inquest on a body that cannot be identified, if the record of such an inquest has or may have a value (fire, disaster, evidence of murder, etc.). No such reason exists here, and there is no one to identify the body. A couple of witnesses said the man said he was Robert Ablett. This is mere presumption, and has weight only if nothing conflicts with it. Identification is a condition precedent to an inquest. Even in death a man has a right to his won identity. The coroner will, wherever humanly possible, enforce that right. To neglect it would be a violation of his office.

2. Since Mark Ablett, missing and suspected of murder, cannot defend himself, all evidence of his movements before and after the murder is vital (as also whether he has money to run away on); yet all such evidence is given by the man closest to the murder, and is without corroboration. It is automatically suspect until proved true.

3. The police find by direct investigation that Robert Ablett was not well thought of in his native village. Somebody there must have known him. No such person was brought to the inquest. (The story couldn’t stand it.)

4. The police know there is an element of threat in Robert’s supposed visit, and that it is connected with the murder must be obvious to them. Yet they make no attempt to check Robert in Australia, or find out what character he had there, or what associates, or even if he actually came to England, and with whom. (If they had, they would have found out he had been dead three years.)

5. The police surgeon examines the body with a recently shaved beard (exposing unweathered skin), artificially roughened hands, yet the body of a wealthy, soft-living man, long resident in a cool climate. Robert was a rough individual and had lived fifteen years in Australia. That is the surgeon’s information. It is impossible he would have noticed nothing to conflict with it.

6. The clothes are nameless, empty, and have had the labels removed. Yet the man wearing them asserted an identity. The presumption that he was not what he said he was is overpowering. Nothing whatever is done about this peculiar circumstance. It is never even mentioned as being peculiar.

7. A man is missing, a well-known local man, and a body in the morgue closely resembles him. It is impossible that the police should not at once eliminate the chance that the missing man is the dead man. Nothing would be easier than to prove it. Not even to think of it is incredible. It makes idiots of the police, so that a brash amateur may startle the world with a fake solution.

The detective in the case is an insouciant gent named Antony Gillingham, a nice lad with a cheery eye, a cozy little flat in London, and that airy manner. He is not making any money on the assignment, but is always available when the local gendarmerie loses its notebook. The English police seem to endure him with their customary stoicism; but I shudder to think of what the boys down at the Homicide Bureau in my city would do to him.

There are less plausible examples of the art than this. In Trent’s Last Case (often called "the perfect detective story") you have to accept the premise that a giant of international finance, whose lightest frown makes Wall Street quiver like a chihuahua, will plot his own death so as to hang his secretary, and that the secretary when pinched will maintain an aristocratic silence; the old Etonian in him maybe. I have known relatively few international financiers, but I rather think the author of this novel has (if possible) known fewer. There is one by Freeman Wills Crofts (the soundest builder of them all when he doesn’t get too fancy) wherein a murderer by the aid of makeup, split second timing, and some very sweet evasive action, impersonates the man he has just killed and thereby gets him alive and distant from the place of the crime. There is one of Dorothy Sayers’ in which a man is murdered alone at night in his house by a mechanically released weight which works because he always turns the radio on at just such a moment, always stands in just such a position in front of it, and always bends over just so far. A couple of inches either way and the customers would get a rain check. This is what is vulgarly known as having God sit in your lap; a murderer who needs that much help from Providence must be in the wrong business. And there is a scheme of Agatha Christie’s featuring M. Hercule Poirot, that ingenius Belgian who talks in a literal translation of school-boy French, wherein, by duly messing around with his "little gray cells," M. Poirot decides that nobody on a certain through sleeper could have done the murder alone, therefore everybody did it together, breaking the process down into a series of simple operations, like assembling an egg-beater. This is the type that is guaranteed to knock the keenest mind for a loop. Only a halfwit could guess it.

There are much better plots by these same writers and by others of their school. There may be one somewhere that would really stand up under close scrutiny. It would be fun to read it, even if I did have to go back to page 47 and refresh my memory about exactly what time the second gardener potted the prize-winning tea-rose begonia. There is nothing new about these stories and nothing old. The ones I mentioned are all English only because the authorities (such as they are) seem to feel the English writers had an edge in this dreary routine, and that the Americans, (even the creator of Philo Vance–probably the most asinine character in detective fiction) only made the Junior Varsity.

This, the classic detective story, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is the story you will find almost any week in the big shiny magazines, handsomely illustrated, and paying due deference to virginal love and the right kind of luxury goods. Perhaps the tempo has become a trifle faster, and the dialogue a little more glib. There are more frozen daiquiris and stingers ordered, and fewer glasses of crusty old port; more clothes by Vogue, and décors by the House Beautiful, more chic, but not more truth. We spend more time in Miami hotels and Cape Cod summer colonies and go not so often down by the old gray sundial in the Elizabethan garden. But fundamentally it is the same careful grouping of suspects, the same utterly incomprehensible trick of how somebody stabbed Mrs. Pottington Postlethwaite III with the solid platinum poignard just as she flatted on the top note of the Bell Song from Lakmé in the presence of fifteen ill-assorted guests; the same ingenue in fur-trimmed pajamas screaming in the night to make the company pop in and out of doors and ball up the timetable; the same moody silence next day as they sit around sipping Singapore slings and sneering at each other, while the flat-feet crawl to and fro under the Persian rugs, with their derby hats on.

Personally I like the English style better. It is not quite so brittle, and the people as a rule, just wear clothes and drink drinks. There is more sense of background, as if Cheesecake Manor really existed all around and not just the part the camera sees; there are more long walks over the Downs and the characters don’t all try to behave as if they had just been tested by MGM. The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.

There is a very simple statement to be made about all these stories: they do not really come off intellectually as problems, and they do not come off artistically as fiction. They are too contrived, and too little aware of what goes on in the world. They try to be honest, but honesty is an art. The poor writer is dishonest without knowing it, and the fairly good one can be dishonest because he doesn’t know what to be honest about. He thinks a complicated murder scheme which baffles the lazy reader, who won’t be bothered itemizing the details, will also baffle the police, whose business is with details. The boys with their feet on the desks know that the easiest murder case in the world to break is the one somebody tried to get very cute with; the one that really bothers them is the murder somebody only thought of two minutes before he pulled it off. But if the writers of this fiction wrote about the kind of murders that happen, they would also have to write about the authentic flavor of life as it is lived. And since they cannot do that, they pretend that what they do is what should be done. Which is begging the question–and the best of them know it.

In her introduction to the first Omnibus of Crime, Dorothy Sayers wrote: "It (the detective story) does not, and by hypothesis never can, attain the loftiest level of literary achievement." And she suggested somewhere else that this is because it is a "literature of escape" and not "a literature of expression." I do not know what the loftiest level of literary achievement is: neither did Aeschylus or Shakespeare; neither does Miss Sayers. Other things being equal, which they never are, a more powerful theme will provoke a more powerful performance. Yet some very dull books have been written about God, and some very fine ones about how to make a living and stay fairly honest. It is always a matter of who writes the stuff, and what he has in him to write it with. As for literature of expression and literature of escape, this is critics’ jargon, a use of abstract words as if they had absolute meanings. Everything written with vitality expresses that vitality; there are no dull subjects, only dull minds. All men who read escape from something else into what lies behind the printed page; the quality of the dream may be argued, but its release has become a functional necessity. All men must escape at times from the deadly rhythm of their private thoughts. It is part of the process of life among thinking beings. It is one of the things that distinguish them from the three-toed sloth; he apparently–one can never be quite sure–is perfectly content hanging upside down on a branch, and not even reading Walter Lippmann. I hold no particular brief for the detective story as the ideal escape. I merely say that all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy, Benedetto Croce, or The Diary of the Forgotten Man. To say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob, and a juvenile at the art of living.

I do not think such considerations moved Miss Dorothy Sayers to her essay in critical futility.

I think what was really gnawing at her mind was the slow realization that her kind of detective story was an arid formula which could not even satisfy its own implications. It was second-grade literature because it was not about the things that could make first-grade literature. If it started out to be about real people (and she could write about them–her minor nor characters show that), they must very soon do unreal things in order to form the artificial pattern required by the plot. When they did unreal things, they ceased to be real themselves. They became puppets and cardboard lovers and papier mâché villains and detectives of exquisite and impossible gentility. The only kind of writer who could be happy with these properties was the one who did not know what reality was. Dorothy Sayers’ own stories show that she was annoyed by this triteness; the weakest element in them is the part that makes them detective stories, the strongest the part which could be removed without touching the "problem of logic and deduction." Yet she could not or would not give her characters their heads and let them make their own mystery. It took a much simpler and more direct mind than hers to do that.

In the Long Week-End, which is a drastically competent account of English life and manners in the decade following the first World War, Robert Graves and Alan Hodge gave some attention to the detective story. They were just as traditionally English as the ornaments of the Golden Age, and they wrote of the time in which these writers were almost as well-known as any writers in the world. Their books in one form or another sold into the millions, and in a dozen languages. These were the people who fixed the form and established the rules and founded the famous Detection Club, which is a Parnassus of English writers of mystery. Its roster includes practically every important writer of detective fiction since Conan Doyle. But Graves and Hodge decided that during this whole period only one first-class writer had written detective stories at all. An American, Dashiell Hammett. Traditional or not, Graves and Hodge were not fuddy-duddy connoisseurs of the second rate; they could see what went on in the world and that the detective story of their time didn’t; and they were aware that writers who have the vision and the ability to produce real fiction do not produce unreal fiction.

How original a writer Hammett really was, it isn’t easy to decide now, even if it mattered. He was one of a group, the only one who achieved critical recognition, but not the only one who wrote or tried to write realistic mystery fiction. All literary movements are like this; some one individual is picked out to represent the whole movement; he is usually the culmination of the movement. Hammett was the ace performer, but there is nothing in his work that is not implicit in the early novels and short stories of Hemingway. Yet for all I know, Hemingway may have learned something from Hammett, as well as from writers like Dreiser, Ring Lardner, Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson and himself. A rather revolutionary debunking of both the language and material of fiction had been going on for some time. It probably started in poetry; almost everything does. You can take it clear back to Walt Whitman, if you like. But Hammett applied it to the detective story, and this, because of its heavy crust of English gentility and American pseudo- gentility, was pretty hard to get moving. I doubt that Hammett had any deliberate artistic aims whatever; he was trying to make a living by writing something he had first hand information about. He made some of it up; all writers do; but it had a basis in fact; it was made up out of real things. The only reality the English detection writers knew was the conversational accent of Surbiton and Bognor Regis. If they wrote about dukes and Venetian vases, they knew no more about them out of their own experience than the well-heeled Hollywood character knows about the French Modernists that hang in his Bel-Air château or the semi-antique Chippendale-cum-cobbler’s bench that he uses for a coffee table. Hammett took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley; it doesn’t have to stay there forever, but it was a good idea to begin by getting as far as possible from Emily Post’s idea of how a well-bred debutante gnaws a chicken wing. He wrote at first (and almost to the end) for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street.

Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish. He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. He had style, but his audience didn’t know it, because it was in a language not supposed to be capable of such refinements. They thought they were getting a good meaty melodrama written in the kind of lingo they imagined they spoke themselves. It was, in a sense, but it was much more. All language begins with speech, and the speech of common men at that, but when it develops to the point of becoming a literary medium it only looks like speech. Hammett’s style at its worst was almost as formalized as a page of Marius the Epicurean; at its best it could say almost anything. I believe this style, which does not belong to Hammett or to anybody, but is the American language (and not even exclusively that any more), can say things he did not know how to say or feel the need of saying. In his hands it had no overtones, left no echo, evoked no image beyond a distant hill. He is said to have lacked heart, yet the story he thought most of himself is the record of a man’s devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hardboiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.

With all this he did not wreck the formal detective story. Nobody can; production demands a form that can be produced. Realism takes too much talent, too much knowledge, too much awareness. Hammett may have loosened it up a little here, and sharpened it a little there. Certainly all but the stupidest and most meretricious writers are more conscious of their artificiality than they used to be. And he demonstrated that the detective story can be important writing. The Maltese Falcon may or may not be a work of genius, but an art which is capable of it is not "by hypothesis" incapable of anything. Once a detective story can be as good as this, only the pedants will deny that it could be even better. Hammett did something else, he made the detective story fun to write, not an exhausting concatenation of insignificant clues. Without him there might not have been a regional mystery as clever as Percival Wilde’s Inquest, or an ironic study as able as Raymond Postgate’s Verdict of Twelve, or a savage piece of intellectual double-talk like Kenneth Fearing’s The Dagger of the Mind, or a tragi-comic idealization of the murderer as in Donald Henderson’s Mr. Bowling Buys a Newspaper, or even a gay and intriguing Hollywoodian gambol like Richard Sale’s Lazarus No. 7.

The realistic style is easy to abuse: from haste, from lack of awareness, from inability to bridge the chasm that lies between what a writer would like to be able to say and what he actually knows how to say. It is easy to fake; brutality is not strength, flipness is not wit, edge-of-the-chair writing can be as boring as flat writing; dalliance with promiscuous blondes can be very dull stuff when described by goaty young men with no other purpose in mind than to describe dalliance with promiscuous blondes. There has been so much of this sort of thing that if a character in a detective story says, "Yeah," the author is automatically a Hammett imitator.

And there arc still quite a few people around who say that Hammett did not write detective stories at all, merely hardboiled chronicles of mean streets with a perfunctory mystery element dropped in like the olive in a martini. These are the flustered old ladies–of both sexes (or no sex) and almost all ages–who like their murders scented with magnolia blossoms and do not care to be reminded that murder is an act of infinite cruelty, even if the perpetrators sometimes look like playboys or college professors or nice motherly women with softly graying hair. There are also a few badly-scared champions of the formal or the classic mystery who think no story is a detective story which does not pose a formal and exact problem and arrange the clues around it with neat labels on them. Such would point out, for example, that in reading TheMaltese Falcon no one concerns himself with who killed Spade’s partner, Archer (which is the only formal problem of the story) because the reader is kept thinking about something else. Yet in The Glass Key the reader is constantly reminded that the question is who killed Taylor Henry, and exactly the same effect is obtained; an effect of movement, intrigue, cross-purposes and the gradual elucidation of character, which is all the detective story has any right to be about anyway. The rest is spillikins in the parlor.

But all this (and Hammett too) is for me not quite enough. The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the fingerman for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket; a world where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket, where the mayor of your town may have condoned murder as an instrument of moneymaking, where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.

It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough.

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.

If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.

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posted by R J Noriega at 4:05 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Better selling through anthropology
By: Thomas Frank

Advertising is a means of contributing meaning and values that are necessary and useful to people in structuring their lives, their social relationships and their rituals.

--from a British pamphlet
introducing Account Planning

It is an easy thing, I admit, even in this high noon of the bull market, to scoff at the dot corns, the hedge funds, the silicon millionaires, the day traders, and all the other ephemera of prosperity. But beneath all the prodigious bubbling, counsel the wise, stands an institution as solid and reliable as U.S. Steel: the Brand. But the Brand is a complex thing, not easily understood by the earthbound and the pessimistic. Its power is not a matter of simple force, of the workery brawn celebrated in WPA murals; nor does our faith in the Brand resemble the naive patriotism of the early Cold War. The brand, correctly understood, is a relationship, a thing of nuance and complexity, of irony and coy evasiveness. We are at once skeptical of consumer culture and more ravenous consumers than ever, easily seeing through the clumsy sales pitches that convinced our parents and grandparents, and yet continuing to hum the Lite-Brite jingle to ourselves more than fifteen years after it ceased appearing on TV. Brands are special things to us Americans, interactive myths that earn our loyalty through endless repetition and constant adjustment by people of learning and subtlety.

I have spent some time in the company of those people, the individuals charged with overseeing the brand relationship. They call themselves "Account Planners," and although their field is a relatively new addition to the organizational flowcharts of Madison Avenue, Account Planning has already captured the imagination of "New Economy" enthusiasts everywhere. Its Stalinist-sounding name notwithstanding, Planning is insurrectionary stuff. Not only is it identified with the sort of places where future-envisioning "change agents" are always making heroic revolution on the old rules but its every advance hastens the achievement of full consumer democracy, that imagined free-market utopia wherein each empowered customer can make his or her voice heard in the great public agoras of Onshopping mall or Internet.

One of the first things I learned after arriving last July at Boston's Westin Hotel was that one did not come to gatherings of Account Planners dressed in a gray flannel suit. I had hoped to make myself inconspicuous by wearing the stereotypical adman's costume of the 1950s; I accomplished exactly the opposite. Not only were a majority of the Planners female and a good number of them British, but I appeared to be the lone square in an auditorium full of high-budget hipsters. They had arrived at the Westin in white synthetic T-shirts stretched tightly over black brassiere, in those oblong spectacles favored by European intellectuals, in hair that had been bleached, bobbed, and barretted after the Riot Grrl style. The men, for their part, wore four- and five-button leisure suits and sported corporate goatees and pierced noses. One group of Planners periodically donned bright red fezzes; another set wandered around in camouflage. The sight of so much visible extremeness did what it no doubt was intended to do: it threw me, in my obsolete garb, into instant and compound self-doubt.

There were fully 750 people at the Account Planning Conference, a number that seemed to startle everyone. The previous year's gathering was said to have been more "radical" but drew only around 500; a year before that it was an intimate affair of only 300. Planning has about it the air of a youth subculture that is on the cusp of going mainstream: It began in Britain in the corporate-revolutionary days of the 1960s and until quite recently had attracted only a handful of American initiates. But now, as talk of revolution once again blazes through the nation's office blocks, even the less tuned-in agencies are setting up Planning Departments, a fact that seemed vaguely to annoy several of the younger Planners I spoke to. One of these actually warned me against "Fake Planners," agency opportunists who know no more about the mystery and the mission of Planning than they do about Altaic verb conjugation. No one actually came right out and complained that Planning's newfound popularity in the American hinterland meant that it had lost its edge or sold out to The Man, but the feeling was difficult to miss.

What has permitted Planning to infiltrate the world of American business with so little notice, I suspect, is its name. The term "Account Planning" seems almost designed to disguise the profession as just another unremarkable component of the "Fordist" order (a term that was actually used in one Planner's pre sentation). But we live in an age of public skepticism and heightened sensitivity to every subtle shading of the advertising form, and it is not enough simply to dream up a pleasant-sounding jingle and a sleek-looking logo back at corporate headquarters. In a time when markets are routinely understood as the ultimate democratic form, as an almost perfectly transparent medium connecting The People with their corporations, Planners function, or believe they function, as interpreters of and advocates for the popular will. Planning thus turns out to be virtually the opposite of what its name implies. I would hear again and again over the course of the weekend how advertising people must change their ways to acknowledge the fact of market democracy, how they must abandon their various fixed ideas, how they must "talk to consumers" and initiate an "agenda-free discussion" and "let consumers direct your plan." And to assist them in "uncovering the rational and emotional components of a product's Brand Essence," as one Planner's job description read (yes, with caps in the original), Planners enlist any number of audience-research techniques. I would hear about getting at the Essence of the Brand with the help of techniques such as "beeper studies," "fixed-camera analysis," "shadowing," "visual stories," brainstorming sessions with celebrities, and, of course, focus groups, which some Planners seem to invest with an almost holy significance.

Account Planning is postmodern cultural democracy come home to Madison Avenue complete with all its usual militancy against master narratives and hierarchical authority, its cheerleading for the marginalized, its breathless reverence for the wisdom of everyday people, and its claim to hear the revolutionary voice of the subaltern behind virtually any bit of mass-cultural detritus. Only one thing seems to be wrong: these enthusiastic, self-proclaimed vicars of the vox populi are also, almost to a person, paid Tagents of the Fortune 500.

The Planners were addressed on the first day of their conference by Gerry Laybourne, the former head of Nickelodeon and occupant of the no. 20 spot in Fortune's list of the "Fifty Most Powerful Women in American Business," who was introduced as someone "known for creating incredibly profitable media brands by always putting the consumer first." A woman who confessed to having "epiphanies" during focus-group sessions and who referred to target demographics as "constituents" for whom she aimed to "make life better," Laybourne embodied Account Planning's combination of corporate power and effusive, hyperdemocratic populism. Perched on a tall stool and gently prompted by the solicitous questions of a Planner associate, she described for us the bleak world of TV programming before the dawn of Laybourne, a time when her former employer "believed you should shout down a pipe" to reach your audience. At this the audience murmured scornfully: they knew it was all about listening, respect, dialogue, interactivity--and they knew what was coming next. Laybourne described the Nickelodeon focus group in which the revelation had come:

[W]e asked kids a very innocuous question: "What do you like about being kids?" And in four different rooms, with these kids who were ten years old, we got a barrage of stuff back. "We're afraid of teenage suicide, we've heard about teenage drunk driving, we've heard about teenage pregnancy, we're terrified about growing up, our parents have us programmed, we're being hurried, we don't have a childhood."

So I stopped the re search and I said, "Just go in and ask them what Nickelodeon can do for them." And in all four groups: "Just give us back our childhood."... And that became our battle cry. That became our platform.

Now, with childhood back in the hands of its rightful owners, with access to Rugrats and Bewitched assured in perpetuity, the demographic battle lines had been drawn and fortified.

"We were clearly on the side of kids," Laybourne continued, "clearly their advocate, and we were never going to turn our backs on them."

But the work of empowerment-through-listening went on. There were other demographics to liberate, and Laybourne told the Planners how she and her new organization, Oxygen Media, were preparing to launch a new "entertainment brand" for women, a segment of the population that sounded just as lovable in Laybourne's telling--as misunderstood, as monolithic, and as desperate for accurate media representation-as the kids themselves. Although the exact nature of the programming to which Laybourne's new brand was to be affixed remained mysterious throughout her talk, she did let drop that the ideal medium for it would be the Internet, which she described as a living embodiment of her notion of democracy through dialogue. Growing audibly indignant, Laybourne switched into protest mode, railing against the arrogance of those who

think that they can put a structure on this thing. But the Internet is an organism, and they are trying to put mechanisms on top of an organism. It won't work. It's too powerful. Once people taste freedom--this is the United States of America, we've got that in our blood. This is a revolution that will be led by kids.., and I hope women as well.

No revolution is complete without reactionaries, real or imagined, and so Laybourne let us know where she and her new brand drew the line, stopped listening, and started excluding-namely at Southern Baptism, which had recently made the subjection of women an official element of its credo. "I don't think that our brand is going to appeal to those Southern Baptist men," she remarked tartly. The ad execs erupted in laughter and applause.

But in the revolution against institutional hierarchy that continues to embroil the republic of business, Laybourne was a moderate and slow-moving Girondin compared with the Jacobins of the British St. Luke's agency, which had dispatched Planner Phil Teer to inspire his American comrades with tales of upheaval and progress at "the agency of the future." St. Luke's was nothing less than a syndicalist agency, its ownership shared uniformly by each employee. Teer was said to have come to advertising only after working as a critic of the tobacco industry, which bestowed upon him a credibility that not even Laybourne's focus-group epiphanies could match. His irreverent, self-effacing way of talking won the instant enthusiasm of the audience. He showed us slides that contained the word "fuckin'." He spoke in a working-class Scottish accent, which, he acknowledged, made him difficult for Americans to understand but which also demonstrated the progress of the revolution: "It used to be, a year ago, we always sent nice, middle-class, Oxfordeducated, public school boys to talk at conferences for St. Luke's." Surely this was the real thing at last.

Teer did not disappoint. He passed the next hour alternately extolling the artistic idealism that burned at his agency and tersely proclaiming the slogans of the business revolution. "If we stop exploring, we'll die," he said. "Work is leisure," read one of his slides. "Transform people," insisted another, flashing on the screen while Teer told of the liberation of the admen: the story of the security guard who now "dances to jazz funk as he does his rounds," the former suit-wearing executive who is now "a shaven-headed DJ." Not only had St. Luke's freed its employees to participate in the subculture of their choice but it had also invented such boons to productivity as "hot desking," a system in which people worked wherever they wanted in the company's unstructured office. "Abolish private space, and you abolish ego," Teer proclaimed. Even agency performance reviews had been revolutionized (the chairman was reviewed by a receptionist), apparently along the lines of the criticism/self-criticism sessions once fashionable on the Maoist left. But the people of St. Luke's were less interested in smashing the state than in "killing cynicism."

Not surprisingly, the ads produced by syndicalist admen turned out to imagine the brands in question as the contested terrain of social conflict. For Ikea, St. Luke's had imagined a cultural revolution in which the women of England rise up against chintz, a symbol of the old order as loathsome as cold desks or middle-class public school boys. "Chuck out that chintz. Come on, do it today," ran the jingle, sung to acoustic guitar accompaniment. The Planners boisterously endorsed the call for People's War on chintz with waves of enthusiastic cheering.

After the Planners had talked enough chaos and revolution for one day, they descended on gleaming, polished escalators past the Palm steak restaurant, the elite pen shop, and the indoor waterfall, and were ferried by buses disguised as trolleys to the Massachusetts State House, where they were welcomed by a platoon of men dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms and ushered up to one of four or five open bars dispensing microbrews and Maker's Mark.

"Anyone can make an identical product," one adman told me as we relaxed in a gallery of patriotic artifacts from Boston s heroic period. Why do we choose one over another?" I listened to assorted rumors about Red Spider, the mysterious Scottish Planning consultancy whose representatives had conducted an extremely exclusive all-day training session at the conference. I was told by one Planner that your company's check must clear the bank before Red Spider will even leave Scotland; by another, that Red Spider never distributes anything that has been written down; by a third, that their instruction is done in a mystical master-to-acolyte approach; by a fourth, that their instruction takes a simple fiction-writing-seminar approach; and by a fifth, that in fact Red Spider will distribute things that are written down, it's just that the guy who was supposed to bring the written materials got sick.

Many Planners are former graduate students from the social sciences, a woman from a Chicago-area agency told me. It's "Margaret Mead meets the Marlboro Man." A man in two--one glasses from one of the more creative New York agencies informed me that Planners are outsiders in a Peyton Place industry, both ethnically and institutionally.

"That's the mystique of the Swiss Army Knife," came an earnest voice from a nearby table. "Now, when you put that on a sweatshirt..."

For me, the most telling fact about Account Planning is that its practitioners do not speak of it as a job or a workaday division of agency labor. Planners refer to what they do--and almost universally, it seems--as "the discipline." The academic pretensions that the word carries are intentional: even casual talk at the conference, although not academic jargon per se, was often phrased so as to imply familiarity with academia, with other "disciplines," with realms of learning and expertise that lay far beyond the usual narrow purviews of Madison Avenue.

A number of senior Planners, I was told, hold advanced degrees in various very sophisticated fields. One Planner related to me how "my insight on the meaning of [a brand] came from evolutionary psychology." Another compared the goings-on at his agency to the intellectual freedom and self-questioning that takes place at universities. Gerry Laybourne had told us that "this whole planning process" she was undertaking prior to launching Oxygen made her "feel like I've been in graduate school." And again and again I came across the word "ethnography," used sometimes to describe what is normally called "market research" and on other occasions as a handy, compact definition of the discipline itself.

The only bona fide Ph.D. I came across at the conference, however, was Rick Robinson, a social psychologist whose speech had introduced the Planners to E-Lab, the Chicago-based consultancy he headed. Robinson littered his talk promiscuously with juicy bits of academese. He repeatedly reminded the assembled admen of his postgraduate credentials, implied that he spoke both German and ancient Greek, read a quote from anthropologist Clifford Geertz (in which Geertz himself quotes Max Weber), and asked us not to confuse a book he wrote with a similarly titled one by Aldous Huxley. He told us about "theories of narrative behavior" and prefaced one story by remarking, "If this is Perception 101, I apologize."

In some hotel ballroom in some distant city, perhaps, Babbittesque businessmen were still inspiring one another with exhortations to think positively and with crude pep talks evolved only slightly from the halftime originals. Maybe they were still cursing the "tenured radicals" who had distracted our youth from their rightful concerns with leaders and forward passes. Here, though, the arcana of cultural studies and anthropology were exactly what the Planners had come to absorb. It was helpful to think of the brand as a myth, Robinson said, a primal tale of hero and archetype. Unfortunately, though, most brands were related to consumers haphazardly: "disparate" and "distributed" were the terms Robinson actually used, meaning that a company's 30-second commercials didn't always dovetail with consumers' actual experiences of the product in question. And so Planners, whose job it was to transform these bits and pieces into what Robinson called "a mythic whole," were sometimes forced to call in the heavy intellect to put things right.

Enter E-Lab, which, as its promotional literature puts it, "specializes in providing a deep understanding of everyday experience through a variety of innovative, ethnographic methods." Robinson described some of them for us: questioning people about products while they're actually using them, mounting cameras in stores or homes so that the ethnographers can observe exactly how we go about buying coffee or watching TV. As Robinson showed us slides from the latter operation, distorted and grainy like surveillance-camera views of convenience-store holdups, his language of benign academic understanding morphed into a language of imperial control. A brand's myth is everyday experience for consumers, he noted, and "if you can understand experience, you can own it."

This rather startling remark was the closest anyone at the conference would come to the sort of sales-through-domination language that was once such a standard part of advertising-industry discourse. It had now been fully forty years since Vance Packard used a bookful of such manipulative talk to send the industry into the public-relations tailspin from which it has never really recovered. In those days, advertising executives were in the habit of comparing themselves to scientists: they were "engineers of consent," as one famous title had it, masters of applied psychology who were as certain of which sales pitches worked and which didn't as the lab-coated Authorities who peopled their works. In the Sixties, and partially in response to the tidal wave of doubt whipped up by Packard's accusations, admen changed their minds: now they were artists, temperamental geniuses whose intolerance for order and hierarchy was shared by the insurgent consumers they imagined clamoring to purchase all those cars, cigarettes, and air conditioners. These days, with the media world grown as fragmented as the American demographic map, the sales fantasy du jour is anthropology.

It is important to distinguish this professional fiction of the Planners from more standard corporate anthropology: all those practical efforts to increase productivity by studying shop-floor behavior, or to avoid "insensitivity" when building a new factory in some distant clime. Those varieties of corporate anthropology require real anthropologists, formally trained scholars who, the literature on the subject warns, tend to bring all sorts of troublesome "values" to the job with them. The admen here were as much anthropologists as their forebears were scientists when they donned white lab coats and sat for the cameras before a bookcase full of Encyclopaedia Britannicas. What they had taken from anthropology was attitude alone.

And for good reason. Anthropology allows advertising to do what it does in the democratic language of sensitivity and empowerment. To understand production and consumption as "rituals" is to remove them entirely from the great sweep of history and enlightenment, to place them beyond criticism. To understand demographic groups as "tribes," and admen as sympathetic observers, is both to celebrate the relationship and to ensure that any resulting exchange takes place in a rigorously circumscribed context. The business writer Tom Peters coined the phrase "the brand called you" to describe techniques for career building; applied to advertising, the phrase acquires a much creepier significance. What the Planners are planning is, quite literally, you.

"Chaos had been last year's planning buzzword, and this year it seemed to boast two discrete schools of elaboration. Adepts of a happy chaos foresaw opportunity everywhere, whereas those theorizing a pessimistic chaos believed that extinction lurked around every corner. Either way, Account Planning was being touted as a crucial navigating tool, a compass without which clients would either fail to profit from chaos or fail to avoid chaos's pitfalls.

Ted Nelson of the Mullen agency cleaved to the happy chaos camp. With a series of slides depicting fractals, the growth of musical genres, and a tangled landscape of strip-mall signs, he impressed upon a small audience in a hotel conference room the notion that "life is getting complicated." Clearly brands "based on consistency" were, like the master narratives invented by all those dead white males, in for some pretty rough debunkings; meanwhile, brands that dared to acknowledge and accept chaos could prosper. As Nelson got carried away with his subject, "chaos" began to sound less like an unavoidable state of affairs and more like a rosy and ultra-democratic utopia that Planners needed to work desperately to bring about. Until the day that Planning was practiced as he had counseled, Nelson warned, "the existing paradigm will not be subverted."

Others understood "chaos" differently, as something closer to "evasion" or, simply, the "cynicism" denounced by so many of the conference's dominant paradigm subverters. And confronting that evasiveness, that cynicism, that towering doubt was, ultimately, what Planners were charged with doing.

No brand had enjoyed more success over the years than Nike, with its ubiquitous swoosh and its creepy soft-totalitarian NikeTown shops in the big cities. At the same time, no brand had suffered as much for its accomplishments. In the wake of revelations about its labor practices and its unpleasant encounters with Michael Moore and Doonesbury, Nike had gone from signifying athletic excellence to symbolizing everything that was wrong with global capitalism: multi-millionaire athletes and starvation wages in Indonesia. So it was inevitable, perhaps, that as the Account Planning Conference drew to a close, we should all have been brought together into one room to hear two dramatic accounts of Nike's recent travails and of the heroic work of the Planners to whom the company had turned.

One day, Nike had decided to sell special shoes to skateboarders. But there was a problem. Not the obvious problem of whether or not skateboarders actually required special shoes but the problem of skater resistance. As Kelly Evans-Pfeifer of the Goodby, Silverstein agency spun the tale, the problem when Nike "decided to get into the skateboarding market" was that "skateboarders did not want them there." Skateboarding, it turned out, was "an alternative culture" populated with difficult people who "don't really like this attention they're getting from mainstream companies." The cultural task the Planners faced was not to decide whether this hostility was deserved or warranted but to liquidate it:

[T]he objective for the advertising was not to reach a certain sales goal but rather it had a more basic, grass-roots task, which was that it needed to begin to start a relationship between Nike and skateboarders, and make skateboarders think that it wasn't such a bad thing that Nike was going to get involved.

Nike had wanted the agency to run commercials featuring superstar skaters doing tricks at skating arenas, but the Planners at Goodby saw through that in an instant: the thing to do was to talk to "real" skaters, who do their tricks on the outdoor walkways, planters, and banisters of corporate America. And what the Planners found was that skaters believe that they are the victims of a culture war all their own, that they are persecuted unjustly by intolerant cops and suburban city councils. The key to bringing skaters into the brand's fold, then, was to transform Nike from an enemy into a sympathizer, "to acknowledge and harness all those feelings of persecution." The ads that resulted asked, amusingly, what it would look like if other athletes were harassed and fined the way skaters so routinely are. In focus groups done to test the commercials, Evans-Pfeifer told us, skaters "came in completely hostile to Nike: 'Nike's the man, they don't know anything.'" But, post-viewing, "they said, 'God, man, that's totally coming from a skater's view. That's awesome that that's going to be out there.'" This was a campaign with "grass-roots objectives," she reminded us, and it garnered "grass-roots results." The Nike 800 number, ordinarily a conduit for complaints, she said, began to receive a shower of congratulations: skaters asked for a copy of the commercials to show during their court dates. Then she displayed the cover of the May 1998 issue of Big Brother, a skateboarding magazine, and proudly related to us the campaign's crowning victory: in an issue denouncing "corporate infiltration" of the subculture, the publication had singled Nike out for praise.

Pamela Scott and Diana Kapp, another team of Planners from the same agency, began their presentation by reminding us how "Nike has been stewing in a bit of negativity for the last couple of years." "We realized that there was a distance and certainly a disconnect that [young people] were experiencing with the brand," the Planners told us. Again that dread cynicism was tearing people and their brands apart! The Planners rolled up their sleeves and prepared to "address this negativity by re-injecting authenticity and credibility back into the brand." To make their advertisements effective, Scott and Kapp needed to find a sport as distant as possible from Nike's traditional advertising approach, discredited now with its excesses of money and celebrity. So they set about studying high school girls' basketball and packaging it into an elaborate pitch for the Nike brand. The two ad women told us how they embarked on an ethnographic fact-finding tour throughout the South, "inner-city Philly," and other regions where authenticity can be mined cheaply and plentifully. They narrated with the enthusiasm of a post-vacation slide show how they had encountered all manner of curious "rituals" among the girl athletes they found and how they had come across "the most unselfconscious laughter you've ever heard"; they played a recording of an exotic-sounding high school cheer and showed us black-and-white photos of serious-looking teenagers staring past the camera like Dust Bowl farmers in a Dorothea Lange picture. And then they told us how they went about putting that authenticity to work for Nike.

NCAA rules forbade the agency to film an actual high school team, so the agency invented a replica team to reenact the unsullied love of sport that the Planners had witnessed on their tour. A group of high school-age girls was duly recruited and dispatched to basketball camp, where they were assigned to "build their own relationship, their own sisterhood, that we could reflect with great authenticity on film." The squad was dubbed the Charlestown Cougars and made the subject of intentionally low-budget-looking commercials that document the team's arduous, unsung road to a fictitious state championship. The commercials stretched to push all of our authenticity buttons: the timeless black-and-white imagery, the heroic slow motion at crucial points, the unpolished voice-overs, the women's voices humming church spirituals in the background. Consumers, the duo assured us, found the authenticity convincing. We heard of Web-site hits and plaintive messages from real-life high school girls. But the campaign wasn't to be judged in terms of Nike sales alone, the adwomen insisted, for the ads were about "raising consciousness" as well. They worked not merely commercially but "to build role models for young girls." The audience of Planners erupted once more.

When I was in graduate school, it was a pedagogical given that the turn from studying the makers of culture to examining the way culture was received and experienced was a liberating development. Liberating not merely in the sense of scholarly opportunity, in that it was now permissible to study subjects that had formerly been considered unworthy; this stuff was politically liberating as well. Certainly the new pedagogies had all the right enemies: Southern Baptists, undersecretaries from the Reagan Administration infuriated by textbooks' failure to pay homage to national heroes, newspaper columnists angered to derangement by the parade of sin at the MLA. As the culture wars got loudly under way, what was less frequently remarked upon were the sundry ways in which the rhetoric of cultural studies mirrored the new language of market research.

Today, though, it is impossible to overlook. What we are wandering into at this fin de siecle is not "culture war" but a strange cultural consensus between business and its putative opponents, a consensus in which both sides agree on the obsolescence of social class and heavy industry and in which both sides shamelessly abuse the language of popular consent. It is a consensus in which even the most stridently radical of disciplines feed ever more directly into the culture industry, in which it no longer surprises anyone when Ogilvy & Mather trawl for anthropology Ph.Ds who have "no ideological or moral objections to consumption/materialism." As is the way with all such things, it is a consensus that seems impossible to resist.

Prizes distributed, conference adjourned, and several hours still before my plane back to the Midwest, I walked out of the Westin Hotel and down Newbury Street. It was eighty degrees and sunny, a great day for being seen in a public place with a Penguin Classic. I wandered past the Boston Public Library and on into the magic landscape of sunglass boutiques, Au Bon Pains, record stores and vegetarian restaurants, and the slow chum of Lexuses and BMWs. Before me lay that gorgeous parade of commerce where anthropology grad students mingled comfortably and understandingly with less enlightened shoppers, where the old conflicts were as meaningless as the heavy, oxidizing statues of abolitionists on the next avenue over.

Even the Tufts-educated barman smiled. In fact, he was ecstatic at my presence. Next year he would be moving on to the State Department, maybe, or Morgan Stanley. But this year was good enough for him. He complimented my choice of Famous Grouse over Dewar's. He meant to see to it that my Scotch-drinking experience was a peak one. Three times did the goateed counter guy at the Burger King (Boston University) inquire whether I had been provided sufficient salt. I floated down the street in my new green tie, past the Armani Exchange where the Planners in fezzes were dining at a sidewalk cafe, giggling and gesturing, rocking backward and upward in crescendoing paroxysms. I could feel my journalistic cynicism fall from me like the unsubtle enthusiasms of my youth, and we were all of us as one under the empowering gaze of Ronaldo, exotic of the moment, who looked hopefully down on us from the windows of NikeTown.

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posted by R J Noriega at 4:12 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
FIGHT FOR THE STREETS; Free papers, guerrilla stunts and ad creep chafe public, risk falling on deafened ears


Pedestrians in manhattan jostle for sidewalk space with forehead-tattooed walking billboards bearing the message ''Scion.'' They stride beneath lightpole banners for JP Morgan Chase; newspaper jockeys thrust free daily tabloids at them; Starbucks employees hawk free samples. Wild postings on construction sites blaze with Fuse ads, and McDonald's arches glare from trash bins, warring for their attention with taxi-top ads, outdoor streaming video and countless other ad impressions.
Some call it marketing as usual. Others call it ad creep. But discussion about how much is too much is approaching a deafening roar as some city governments, concerned citizens and activists mount an offensive to take back the streets.

For New Yorkers, life in the nation's largest city and advertising, entertainment and financial capital includes a daily blizzard of commercial intrusions. But marketers' street feats are increasingly being replicated in cities nationwide. No available space is left unpurchased from ''station dominations''-in which a marketer buys every inch of for-sale media in railway and bus stops-to ''spike media''-like paper coffee cups and dry-cleaning bags.
getting fined

Overzealous marketers have been slapped with fines for defacing city property-Microsoft was sanctioned by New York in October 2002 when the marketer affixed butterfly decals promoting its MSN 8 Internet service on sidewalks. The company was fined $50 and told to clean up the streets. IBM in 2001 paid fines after spray painting ''peace, love and Linux'' graphics on sidewalks in Chicago and San Francisco that stained public spaces.

New York has made a move to control ad clutter on the streets, issuing a request-for-proposal for bids on a 20-year contract worth an estimated $1 billion to design, build and install street furniture, including news kiosks, wrapped in advertising space. Under the contract's terms, the successful bidder will control 80% of the space; the city will keep rights to the remainder (see story below).

Cash-strapped cities are in a bind, however, in denouncing marketing invasiveness, considering New York has named Snapple it's official beverage and Los Angeles is exploring the sale of everything from ''official water'' rights to LAPD-branded gadgets and gear.

Barry Schwartz, a professor at Swarthmore College, denounces the gutter clutter as ''a pollution'' and the public seems to agree. Over half (61%) of consumers queried by pollsters Yankelovich Partners feel that the amount of marketing and advertising has gotten out of control. Nearly half (45%) say that the amount of marketing and advertising to which they are exposed detracts from their experience of everyday life.

The figures are stunning. Thirty years ago, the average American was targeted by 560 daily advertising messages, according to research from The Media Kitchen, part of MDC Corp.'s Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York. Today, the number is over 3,500.

''Consumers are cynical,'' said Paul Woolmington, CEO. ''Their barriers are up.''

The result, like it or not, is ever-more extreme efforts. ''There is overwhelming evidence that novelty attracts attention,'' said Swarthmore's Mr. Schwartz, who is also author of ''The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.''

Yet while messages communicated in surprising ways tend to be remembered, ''grabbing attention has nothing to do with valence, or favorability, of attracting attention,'' said Daniel Howard, chair of the marketing department at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business. ''Marketers (use surprising tactics) because they assume it'll be favorably perceived, but that's an erroneous assumption.''

They are indeed trying novel approaches. Ads have appeared for USA Network's Westminister Dog Show broadcast on coats worn by mutts and pedigrees romping in city dog runs. One agency in London projected the image of a naked woman (a contender to win the 100 Sexiest Women contest for U.K. lad-mag FHM) onto the Houses of Parliament in London for 10 minutes on a Sunday evening.

So great is the desire to snare consumers' attention, free daily tabloids have launched in major markets nationwide-from Dallas' Quick to Riverside County, Calif.'s The D. AmNew York, a Tribune Co. free daily offered in New York City since last fall, got some head-to-head competition May 5 with the launch of Metro from Metro International, which already has editions in Philadelphia and Boston. The point of these ad-supported publications: to reach a consumer in a (rare) free moment.

Being on the street, marketers claim, is ever-more important, particularly when trying to reach an elusive audience. Cable network Fuse, which aims at 12 to 34 year olds, has street teams ready to deploy in 20 markets nationwide. ''There's so much competition for this group,'' said Mary Corgiliano, VP-marketing. ''They're not always sitting in front of the TV, so we have to find them.''

But even a relatively inexpensive guerilla effort, because it's seen by a narrow local audience, only truly pays off if the message spreads virally-via gossip, the Internet, tabloids or TV news-and emerges as a story communicated nationally.


Getting a story on a guerilla event published in magazines or newspapers with national distribution ''kind of helps you kill two birds with one stone,'' said Jennifer Kohl, chief operating officer of Young & Rubicam's Brand Buzz, a WPP Group company. ''You haven't made the financial commitment (of an ad buy in a national publication) but you get nationwide exposure. It's a win-win.''

Despite the ubiquity of guerilla efforts, their effectiveness-even those that achieve nationwide notoriety-versus other types of media is debatable. Consider that a $5,000 local spot buy in Portland, Oregon, would yield well over 200,000 impressions. Not factoring in the cost of commercial production, that is a much greater reach compared to what can be achieved via a local guerilla effort, comments one media strategist.

Few marketers rely on guerilla marketing alone, but many regard it as a crucial component of their total marketing mix.

''Different individuals respond to each method in their own way,'' said Brian Bolain, Scion national sales promotion manager. ''We are convinced that traditional media only would not be sufficient to reach our target,'' he said. ''People recognize that we are willing to work very hard to get their attention, which leads to an emotional relationship with the brand.''

But it may also risk a backlash from those annoyed with unrelenting ad messages littering the landscape.

Gary Ruskin, executive director of watchdog group Commercial Alert believes that consumer outrage over the proliferation of advertising might result in greater restrictions on marketers.

''The American public will not stand for getting hammered every day. It could spring back to the point where we have the right to be left alone,'' he maintains. ''The (advertising) industry has to get a grip on itself.''

For now, the street war shows few signs of abating, even as the debate around how much is too much rages. ''Too much is now,'' maintains SMU's Professor Howard. ''People are actively avoiding ads.''

Marketers, however, will certainly reassess their street strategy if and when they discover that their messages are no longer resonating. ''With something like 3,000 messages aimed at consumers, probably 99% aren't recognized,'' noted Scion's Mr. Bolain. The answer to guerilla-advertising overkill?

Find the next thing. ''Once anything becomes too mainstream,'' he added, ''our job (as marketers) is to stay one step ahead.''


posted by R J Noriega at 3:12 AM | Permalink | 0 comments

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