BUT THAT'S SILLY?
OH, THINK AGAIN!
By: Joan E. Battey
If you laughed at earlier theorizing that advertising is not harmless, but a
painless all-purpose conversion tactic, some rethinking might not come amiss. Advertising
began with rudimentary efforts to let people know where to find necessities of goods and
services. Signs, hand-lettered by shop owners, let people know what was in plain-facade
stores, and locations offering needed services. Photos, from early stages of photography,
are in archives preserving those fledging "advertising" efforts of businesses.
Necessities were the first things advertised -- things people couldn't or didn't
provide for themselves, even as they often sold items of their own to help stock
businesses. We think photos of signs, prices, and often rudimentary buildings from towns
long ago, are "quaint." As late as the early days of WWII, when many of those
stores were more modern, they were still primarily what would be specialty shops today.
Supermarkets had not yet been heard of. (The first one I remember seeing in the late '30's
was like a warehouse, with items piled on wooden platforms, basic household items for the
most part -- categories, not multiple brands; and certainly no snack items.) Most cooking,
for most meals, was done in homes. "Eating out," was often reserved for special
occasions, or group dinners among those with shared community involvements. Drive-up
windows and fast-food restaurants weren't there, let alone being a mainstay of local life
in earlier times.
Department stores focused mainly on clothing and "home-related items." Ads
were confined to regular newspaper or magazine pages, not inserted in heavy separate packs
in weekend editions. Advertising itself, was still mostly of the in-house development, or
the fledging agency variety, albeit more professional in its composition, with color and
designs added in magazines. Billboards were phasing in -- for information and product
promotions, not for much agenda-grandstanding. Even when newspapers first displayed any
color in their editions, it was a far cry back from computer-aided design, high-speed
color presses and the avalanches of advertising and promotion targeting today's potential
audiences -- captive or otherwise!
Fast-forward to today's advertising of products competing with dozens of other products
in the same category, differing only by name and enticements of competing suppliers of the
same items. Cleverness of catching attention drives sales, aided by numbers of times a
potential customer sees or hears the sales pitch. Actual product usage and worth are not
the primary function of ads today. Layers of consultants work to gain clients, to get
"market share," and to "dominate the marketplace." "Numbers of
times" has now been enhanced by "numbers of places" an ad can be
"placed" -- whether seen by numerous people each time, or not. Quantity, not
As time has gone on, needs, wants, services and providers have changed. So also, has
advertising itself, in order to sell more, to more people, in more ways than ever before.
The word "advertising" has also changed. It's now "marketing."
Advertising today is focused on selling (a.k.a "marketing"), rather than on
details and worth of a product. Advertising/marketing focuses on every aspect of life,
tangible and intangible. (Increasingly intangible!). Advertising inspires dreams of
wealth, and escape from daily treadmills of schedules and demands.The products depicting
those things are tangible profit for those who produce and market them. But, those ads
also encourage concerns about intangible things like illnesses, accidents, temporary need
for money. Advertising tactics have been insinuated into every aspect of daily life, and
dreams of future luxury. Those with the best advertising techniques and tactics dominate
"market share" of every kind of "market." It is no longer enough to be
respected in one's field of endeavor. It's now "advertise or perish." Hire an
agency/press agent able to garner "market dominance." Note the thrust of focus
for products today: little about details of use, a lot about how exciting the products
are, how cleverly scenarios describe the product, yet actually don't. (Sizzle, not steak!)
Politics? It's increasingly more advertising than proof of qualifications and abilities.
Those benefitting from political advertising are politicians, not voters exposed to the
sales pitches. Benefits often accrue everywhere more to advertiser, than to target
Let's make a giant leap. Is, or is not, advertising itself that is the
driving force of life itself? In order to succeed, whatever is advertised has to be
"sold" first, fastest, and with largest impact. Beating out competition means
beating it by zeroing in on sure-fire attention-getting methods. How? Print publications
are fast succumbing to competitors, or phased out by their own management,. or driven out
of marketplaces by newer, noisier, more visible competitors. Subscribers are left with
take-it or leave-it choices among similar take-it or leave it competitors in the
newly-configured news, views, and expanded advertising focuses of print and air-time.
Businesses are scrambling to find ways to fend off competition, via larger ad budgets
and smaller overhead. Customers are trophies, harder to factor into viable assets needed
to "beat the competition." Old time jokes about how to beat out competition by
gimmicks and dirty tricks have been updated. Customers, right in their own homes and
private lives, are now almost the last hurrah of civilized selling of needed or
"wanted" anything-at-all. Whatever they find to "buy" will be
increasingly pre-determined for them, even as they think they are in charge of their
needs, wants, and most of all: dreams of a secure and comfortable future.
Now may be looming, one of several sudden hints in the electronic marketplaces of
ideas, news and views: How to speed up secure and lasting access to as many customers as
possible ! Know your customer and reach them first, leaving the competition in permanent
dust behind you! A germ of a clue leapt out of an index of news items on a website
recently, about how you could/can be monitored right in the privacy of your own home,
giving clues to whatever will attract your buying or buying-into instincts:
We're so busy being busy -- voluntarily, mandatorily, or leisurely -- that we seldom
wonder what pied pipers could be leading us astray. Are we still doing what we used to do
best: being a viable, enjoyable and caring country, united on being united, doing the best
we can, at whatever each of us can do best ?
Have we been advertised to near edges of proverbial cliffs of many kinds? What exactly
is advertised to us? Food? Clothing? Furniture? Repair help? Pies in multiple skies? Can
we long resist sales pitches for primarily intangible items? Are ideologies, intangibles,
and activities now dominating products and purposes ? Who is producing what ,and selling
what, in our formerly busy marketplaces? Necessities and occasional nice extra things, as
in those formerly busy marketplaces? Where do we go to earn money to support ethereal
products dominating our visible news, views and arenas? Who wraps them so we can take them
home as the fruits of our labors, or enjoy as often as we want to?
Customers today are more often in their homes, than in marketplaces. What we order
ahead is what we get later. Who knew what we wanted in time to provide it for us prior to
our seeing it or trying it on or testing it out? How do providers know just what we want
or need? Is that news article above more disturbing than it is exciting and helpful? Do
suppliers know what we need, or do they condition us to want what they want us to have?
Yes, if we have been so well educated-conditioned to think that we always think for
If we can be unknowingly conditioned to want what was advertised to us based on what we
do or say privately when with family and friends, what else can seem perfect for us via
eavesdropping by those waiting to lure us as "customers"? Have we already been
test-marketed to make sure the sales pitches are fine-tuned to perfection?
E. Battey is a freelance political writer from Apalachin, NY. Her
love of logical dot connecting and writing developed over many years of typesetting
and proof reading in small daily newspapers; ad agency and manufacturing office
secretarial work, and volunteer work in libraries, animal welfare, political campaigns,
and networks of people keeping abreast of the steady "reforms" in education. She
is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
"Published originally at EtherZone.com :
republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Joan E. Battey can be reached at:
the January 13, 2013
issue of Ether Zone.
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