Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Broad

"Don't hate me because I don't danything
but somehow get you to pay me. Hee hee!"

Who was it -- Goebbels...? -- that said if you keep on repeating a lie enough the plebes will believe anything?

Marketers practice the blunt force mind-screwing they do and feel it's a science; one technique they call impressions.(1) I don't know what the current rate is, but as I recall back in the stone age it was in the teens before a sheeple converted. That's a marketing slime $5 word for when you finally break down and buy after the Nth time seeing that NIKE ad, despite it having Lebron even when you HATE Lebron.

When I bring up the subject of marketing to crazy liberal groups like Occupy, they look at me as if I'm Count Alucard standing at high noon in defiance. They conflate "marketing" with "spam" and the evil empire, and I get it, but would they do the same with "project management" or "operations" or "customer service"? Of course not. 

One of the examples I usually cite (as I did with the crazy Occupiers) is during my pitch about marketing being an integral part of change (AND stasis!). Back in the stone age, America had a problem: trash. Litter was everywhere on sidewalks, and roads, not just gutters and alleys. What cleaned it up? Marketing, the Keep America Beautiful campaign. It ran everywhere: magazines, billboards, radio, newspapers, and, perhaps most famously, the Clio winning tv spot with "Iron Eyes Cody" (not a native, but an actor) turning to the camera as it dollied in to a close up, a tear running down his cheek. It raised awareness and exerted social pressure on the bad habit.

The key was impressions, a consistent stream of them. The medium may be the message, but so is access and the resources to deliver them.

Leading us to the current Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen. Newly minted as of 2012, the BLS has been chest thumping about unemployment having dropped to 7%. That of course is a lie, there being any number of ways to slice and make mincemeat of their hubris. But oh, they know marketing, and they own the media, which has no hesitation about carpet-bombing this "good news" every chance they get.

And who is Erica Groshen? It reminds me of Marcello's line about his betrothed, Giulia, in Bertolucci's masterpiece, Il Conformista, here paraphrased; She's all theory and academy. As if that weren't bad enough, she's also ex-NY Fed Reserve; double whammy for us, two for one for the evil empire! And before her? Another academic/bureaucrat, Keith Hall.

During the prime bubble inflating years of EM08, yet another academic-- see a pattern here? -- was honcho: Kathleen Utgoff. She hurts in more ways than one; she's an LA gal from Cal State Northridge and UCLA, where econ was her poison. And boy did she ride that pony; by my estimate she retired early (Phd in '78) and ...
...chose not to continue for another 4-year term and completed her term as Commissioner in July 2006. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and others honored her for her service. Although she has not ruled out future opportunities to serve the Nation, she now spends her time with her family and does volunteer work in her community.(2)
These are people who have never run a business much less been an entrepreneur and know nothing about the real world because they've never had to sustain themselves in it. There's not an innovative, problem solving bone in their bodies.

They produce NOTHING. Well, unless you count bureaucracy under the guise of policy-making.

Or paperwork. In the aftermath of the Pecora Hearings, the Glass-Steagall Act was an utterly ridiculous 37 pages or something. And yet, it protected us in terms of its goals for half a century. Meanwhile, the Dodd-Frank Act? Over 800 pages.

Is it really any wonder why we're so jacked?

Then that numbnut Phil Gramm decided to grow a hair up his ass and, with then Travelers honcho Sandy Weill's cash in pocket, began to methodically work his slimeball routine on congress. And it worked. See the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.(3) Weill, by the way, was so confident that Gramm-Leach-Bliley would pass, that he applied for and received -- evidently with our bureacrats' blessing -- a special dispensation to go ahead and merge with Citibank before Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed, and America crossed an historic line with the creation of its first Frankenbank: Citigroup.

Personally, having taken econ in school I can safely say that, as taught in the academy, it's a sure cure for insomnia, and has as much relevance to the real world as rocket science to workers eking out an existence in East LA.

As a friend pointedly put it recently when talking about bureaucrats, academics and theorists: If they didn't have their "jobs", these are people who wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

And lest you, dear reader, think I have some inborn sense of disdain for theorists, let me disabuse you of such; one of the most influential books in my life is Noel Burch's seminal Theory of Film Practice, and I have nothing but respect for Bill James.

And as if it wasn't a cruel jester ruling this sad universe, here's a bit of recent history: the one recent presidential advisor who has business experience? None other than Obama hand-picked slime ball, the former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, one of the worst CEOs ever. Maybe not Rick Wagoner bad, but horrible by any standard. Look up both of their track records if you don't believe me.

Immelt and Wagoner do share something else quite significant by the way: both have MBAs. From Harvard.

Then again, so does Groshen. Patterns, indeed.

1. For those with a case of auto-masochism, it also quantifies and therefore justifies marketing and therefore marketers. Slap up flavor of the month singer/actor/athlete in a campaign on billboards, mags, site banners, commercials... and sit back and wait for the magic. If revenue goes up, well, there it is, and they're off to bonus land and the Clio awards. Next to bankers, pols and Hollywood execs, marketers have a bad case of full of shit. Interestingly enough, if the company posts negative during the campaign, well, it must be "the economy."

The corollary in sports are athletes and incentives. Star clauses have things like making the all star team will get you X amount over and above, or leading the league in scoring, etc. But I've often wondered why it doesn't work the other way if an athlete has a dog of a year. Or is just plain overrated. For NBA fans, think 19 mil and then picture Rashard Lewis (pre-Heat stint).

Back to the point about brilliant marketers (and bankers, pols, etc.) and blunt force; that entertaining old curmudgeon of Hollywood, Sam Fuller, said something funny once and I paraphrase:

Know what they do to ferret out snipers? They send a lone soldier out into the open; when the enemy shoots at him, they can get a bead. They thought that one up at West Point.


3. Gramm's balls only grew once he'd decimated Glass-Steagall; he then turned his best evil eye toward derivatives, and cheer-led the Commodities Futures Modernization Act a year later, in 2000, which kept derivatives dark. Thus, the fertile ground was perfectly primed for EM08.

And lest anyone still believe in the big game of "Democrats and Republicans" let me point out that each of these bedrock EM08 laws were of shepherded by a Republican -- Gramm -- and signed into law by a Democrat: Clinton. Americans should use a Q-Tip as history once again screams at us.