Consumers are bombarded with hundreds of ads and thousands of billboards, packages, and other logo sightings every day. Old ad venues are packed to the point of impenetrability as more and more sales messages are jammed in. Supermarkets carry 30,000 different packages, each of which acts as a minibillboard, up from 17,500 a decade ago, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Networks air 6,000 commercials a week, up 50% since 1983, according to Pretesting Co., a market research company. Prime-time TV carries more than 10 minutes of paid advertising every hour, roughly a minute more than at the start of the decade. Add in the promos, and almost 15 minutes of every prime-time hour are given over to ads. No wonder viewers zap so many commercials. To circumvent that clutter, marketers are stamping their messages on everything that stands still. From popcorn bags in movie theaters to airsickness bags on planes to toilet stalls, shopping carts, and gas pumps, few places are innocent of advertising. With total U.S. ad spending up almost 8%, to $162 billion last year, according to McCann-Erickson USA Inc., the new ad permutations aren’t replacing the traditional television, magazine, and billboard messages. Rather, advertisers are adding new weapons to their arsenals because the traditional venues are packed full.
Beyond filling up every blank wall and pixel, corporate america has taken over every form of talent. Behind every talented musician, star athlete, brilliant prodigy, scientific breakthrough, doctor, and politician, is a businessman. Unless someone is marketable, they’ll never break into the industry. They may be more talented than everyone on the market or in their field, but that means nothing unless someone can hitch a tow and start plowing money out of the ground. I remember a documentary years ago that showed different basketball players who were purported to be better than Michael Jordan. It may or may not have been true, but with all the people in the world, it is a reasonable assumption. Maybe they didn’t have the sellable looks MJ did.
I attended the Faint concert last week, and talking with a musician we went with, Brent, I asked him if he would consider going into the music industry. “No, I’d love to, but there’s no way to make a living.” He proceeded to tell me that he had some extremely talented friends who just couldn’t make any money doing music, even though hundreds and thousands of people enjoyed their music. No label would take them on for their own reasons. Among those, one of them was not that they weren’t musically gifted, or they couldn’t cut it as “musicians” in the industry. The businessman just decided they wouldn’t make as much money as someone else, so they weren’t willing to invest the time or money.
Business has always controlled the table. Mercantilism was the main practice for the spread of islam throughout the middle-east and into Europe. Capitalism drove Britain, as well as the founding of America. Taxation without representation could be termed, we want to keep our money from our businesses.
It’s not wrong. But capitalism has become malignant. Fast food is on every corner. Everyone wears the same clothes. We are walking billboards for companies that control our minds. They tell us what to buy, when and where. One can’t go anywhere without seeing advertisements splattered across every available space. Worst of all, unless you can market yourself, you won’t be successful, no matter how talented a (fill in the blank) you are.