Marketing’s totalitarian dream

Perhaps this is a waste of brainspace and furthers BMW’s viral ambitions (a common lament on this blog), but I can’t pass on commenting about this horrendous excuse for invasive marketing. As you can see from the video’s presentation, audiences were subjected to the old afterimage trick of burning an image into their retinal cones so as to produce a floating BMW in their vision. This was one of the first experiments conducted by Descartes that led him to formulate his famous aphorism, “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am). He noted that the afterimage proved that all mental images were internal physiological impressions which could only mean that any thoughts we have would be essentially visual representations of reality– the same kind of thinking that dominates a mechanistic view of cognition.

In terms of marketing, it follows, then, that if the advertiser can impress in your mind its brand, it can then program your choices and thoughts. This kind of totalitarian view of humanity should send shivers up our collective spine. But instead, these kinds of tactics are hailed as revolutionary and worthy of awe. In BMW’s own hype-machine voice (“Involve me. And I will understand.”), the campaign wants to “astonish” the viewers, which is supposed to translate as some kind of empowerment. The ad gets even creepier when the motorcyclist says he pursues power because it is his dream, one presumably implanted by BMW like an “inception” (from the movie of the same title). The subtext, if anyone is paying attention, is that the dream of personal power and velocity (never mind the consequences for the environment and our culture of speed) is enabled by BMW’s invasion of our dreamspace. BMW wants its dreams to be ours, while letting us think the dream is our own.

Really? It makes one wonder what BMW means by “understand.” Luckily this vision of how the human mind functions in the environment is actually not what happens. From the view of ecological intelligence and communication, ideas are “disturbances.” They trigger responses, but don’t control them. Such was the case when I saw this video; the ad caused an oppositional response as opposed to the preferred reading that BMW intended (indeed, the anti-BMW responses on the video’s YouTube page are quite funny and telling). This won’t be the case for lots of people, but through education and interventions like this, perhaps the stupid conjuring of over-paid cognitive magicians will end up in the digital dustbins of history.

Branding stream of consciousness

The Multiproduct Commercial from Therefore Productions on Vimeo.

What if every thought was tied to a brand? Though this video is intended to parody a recession-hit ad industry, I find it a humorous vision of a dystopic world in which every impulse and desire has an associated brand remedy. Additionally, it captures the fleeting loyalty of a product saturated reality. Shattered attention and the decentered world of marketing leads to a reality mash-up with little coherence except for displacement that can only be stabilized through consumption.

Talk about a bad feedback loop.

CNN’s lesson in branding history

CNN’s recent re-branding effort, “Go Beyond Borders,” presents a bit of a conundrum for me. On the one hand this is a brilliant marketing campaign that is also educational and interactive. On the other hand, it really bleeds the line between marketing, history and interpassivity–designing carefully controlled parameters of interactive media that are “free” in aesthetic only.

Here CNN re-brands itself as “borderless,” yet it’s not just any border. It carefully chooses an event whose symbolism as the triumph of capitalism cannot be ignored. At a time when capitalist ideology should be challenged by media, CNN intrenches itself as the premiere network of capitalist dogma, incorporating the various signs and trademarks of the system’s triumphs– the fall of communism, art, marketing and networked technology–to bundle them into their own nifty little neoliberal package.

Is this something to be concerned about? Commercialism has penetrated every aspect of public life. I know I’m old school when I argue for a clear line between the public good and corporate interests, whereas others would say, what’s the big deal? Maybe it shows that corporations are responsive to the public good. Yet, as is the case with BP, it’s one thing to brand yourself and side with a particular outlook, it’s another thing to practice it. Given a choice between CNN and Fox, I would certainly prefer CNN, but I would hardly call the network virtuous. It certainly remains a primary propaganda arm of global capital. This is not a conspiracy, just business. After all, which “side” do you think Time Warner Inc. is on? Wall Street’s or yours?

I suppose the world is more nuanced than my cartoon, punk rock version of it, yet it’s still hard for me stomach this marketing ploy couched as a history lesson.

BP games Google and chemical disbursements for the mind

(Check out Greenpeace’s re-brand BP page)

An interesting item from the Huff Post: BP is greenwashing Google searches through paid ad placements. I haven’t commented yet on the spill because this catastrophe is so huge, I can’t seem to contain it. A quick thought, though, related to this post’s lead: I think it’s interesting (and predictable) that BP’s history of greenwashing would translate as actual clean-up strategy. The use of chemical oil disbursements, for example, eliminates the visual scourge of oil slicks while poisoning the ocean bottom and doing little to stop the underwater oil plumes. Is this not a perfect metaphor for the psychic effects of greenwashing?

Finally, more fodder for the doublethink department: I’m increasingly concerned that the Right is using this spill to attack environmentalists, using their PR witchcraft to power an unconscionable noise machine. As always I hope that people will see through this, especially when oil starts raining down on rich coastal communities during hurricane season. Golf courses and McMansions offer no shelter from evil.

It reminds me of a scene in Three Kings when the Iraqi soldier pours oil down George Clooney’s throat while berating him: “You want oil? Here’s you’re oil!” (I’m paraphrasing here.) This will surely be a test of the addict’s denial mechanism. Will this be the bottoming out in which a life-changing turn-around commences for the addict? Will we enter into collective OA (Oil Anonymous)? Will this be our Chernobyl cum Berlin Wall moment?

As they say, denial ain’t a river in Egypt. It’s a big, fat ink blot on the region whose circular depression was created by an ancient meteor believed to have caused our last global extinction. Its legacy is the fuel that drives our entire economic system: decomposed dinosaur.

The sport of mindfrakking, or how my pointless outrage helps spread another ad virus


The pith* theory of advertising.

* Pithing is when you stick a needle in the brain of a live frog. The goal is to scramble its brain in order to immobilize it for dissection while it is still alive. When applied to advertising a paradox or insult is used like a needle to confuse and conquer unwilling media gawkers into immobile rage. In protest I won’t post a link.

Ciao amigo, buy me


This is an interesting ad that blurs the lines between self-reflexivity, DIY and marketing. You can click each element and it explains why it’s there. I think it works because it offers to teach something you may not know, all the while offering a way to further your curiosity. I’ve noticed that a lot new media has a very buttoned down, let’s hang out and chat kind of discourse. Does this mean we have reached the end of empire in which we are told what is good for us? Or is this just a more relaxed version?