You know how I do that thing where I take some earnest but
misguided piece of marketing and make it sound ridiculous?
Well, words fail:
So let’s see. The world is a war-torn, post-apocalyptic
battleground, ruled by oppressive “corporate lords.” But one guy
can “restore the soul of mankind” by designing the packaging for a soda.
Because that makes too much sense, there’s also an inexplicable
ride with a native American guy in an elevator who seems to
successfully encourage the hero to commit suicide.
The hero skateboards everywhere for no reason
except, I guess, that marketing people think cool people do that.
Oh, and the movie is from Pepsi, for Mountain Dew, which you might
have thought was a corporation, and thus a bad guy in this scenario,
Anyway, the point is to entice you into playing the
online game, where you can team up with other players to “design the
flavor, color, name, and graphics” of a drink. Mountain Dew will then
launch a “recognizably similar” version of the most popular result in
Other online games promise battles with dragons or storm troopers,
but only DEWmocracy lets you enter the heart-pounding virtual world of
Mountain Dew’s marketing department. I assume that missions include
“Unjam The Copy Machine,” “Get That Last Parking Space,” or
“Battle of the PowerPoint Presentations,” with your character
choosing a class like “Intern” or “Direct Sales Representative” and working
his way up to the feared “Executive Vice-President.”
If this takes off, maybe the next thrilling virtual ride could take you
into a bottling factory, where you spend eight hours a day inspecting
caps for defects. One thing’s for sure: Mountain Dew has finally
responded to all those people clamoring to work for it for no pay.
It turns out, though, that when it comes time to design your drink
in DEWmocracy, all you can do is pick from a pre-selected range of options.
This was getting suspicious: first they warned me evil corporations
would try to stamp out my creativity, and here I was confronted with a
corporation trying to reduce creativity to pick-a-box as part of a marketing
effort. Aha! Clearly I was meant to reject DEWmocracy as an attempt
to control the population, and go firebomb Pepsi’s offices. Yes?
just noticed that a strong candidate in the race for next President of the United States is
Fred Thompson. Fred played the District Attorney on Law & Order, and has
acted in movies and TV shows as a Senator, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, an admiral, and, indeed, the President.
Now, let me be clear: the US is the world’s leading light when it comes to freedom
and democracy. Anybody who disagrees deserves the wiretappings, slur campaigns, arrest, and/or bombings they get. But come on: Fred Thompson? Isn’t that purely because people will think, “Yeah, he seems like he should be in a position of authority… for… some… reason.”
I have trouble with the whole idea of actors as politicians. We’re electing someone whose primary skill is pretending. Maybe it’s just me, but a guy who has spent
most of his life honing the ability to lie convincingly; that makes me uncomfortable.
Electing that guy seems to say, “Look, we don’t care what you
get up to. Just make sure you look earnest about it.”
I understand a little. After all, we’ve all got to look at whoever gets elected
for the next
four years. They might as well be pretty. Then there are those international conferences, where the leaders
of multiple countries get together to usher in new eras of co-operation and
outsourcing. Sometimes they wear funny shirts. You can’t send some shy, weedy
nerd to that. Well, you can. Australia does. But it’s embarrassing. You know
if Arnold Schwarzenegger was President, he might be a policy disaster but America would look
totally rocking in the APEC group photo. And while I’m not totally sure how
these international agreements get formed, physicality has to be involved to some degree.
I’m not saying they decide carbon emissions targets by sealing the doors,
stripping to the waist, and grappling for supremacy. There’s
no way Bush could have taken Schroeder. That man is huge. But maybe late in
the day, when everyone’s tired, having Schwarzenegger plant his ham-sized fists
on France’s desk could close the deal.
The ideal, then, must be job-sharing. You have a strong, good-looking President to
shake hands at the UN, and a smart, ugly President to stay home and make the
tough decisions. Americans have clearly figured this out already, and it explains Bush-Cheney. And why Kerry
lost in 2004: he’s got a face like his pet hamster just died, while his running mate, Edwards, is too
good-looking. You’d worry that Edwards would be at a tanning salon while
Britain and France were sniggering at mean drawings of Kerry during his speech
at G8. That ticket just didn’t make sense.
The more physically attractive the President, the uglier the Vice should
be, to compensate. It’s the Conservation of Beauty principle.
Now Harrison Ford and Alan Greenspan: that would be a hot ticket. You wouldn’t
even have to know their policies. You would just look at that coupling of
Ford’s wild charisma with a guy as old as God and something inside you
Joe writes in to point out
DirecTV’s wonderfully creative interpretation
of the Do Not Call register:
DirecTV is defending automated sales calls to Do Not Call List subscribers as “informational,” and “not telemarketing.” The satellite TV provider recently called customers to say: “Because you are on our Do Not Call List, we can’t call you with all of our super-awesome special promotions.”
This sounds eminently reasonable to me. After all, the promotions
were super-awesome. If they were only slightly awesome, I can understand
why some people might not want to hear about them. But
super-awesome promotions—if anything, it’d be
wrong not to let people know about those. Faced with
that dilemma, DirecTV’s only ethical choice was to have a
computer dial people at home who had explicitly asked not to be
bothered and play them an automated sales message.
DirecTV response is via their lawyer Rose Foley, who
stresses that since the calls were “informational,” they
“fall outside the scope of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and related federal and state laws and regulations governing telemarketing sales practices.”
I have to say, I am looking forward to hearing Rose explain the
precise informational nature of the phrase “super-awesome.” That’s
going to be pure entertainment.
If I was running PR here, though, I think I would put Rose back in her cage and
reach for the mea
culpa. I’d issue a public apology and explain that the real problem
is that here at DirecTV, we’re just so gosh darned excited about
our specials, we sometimes forget that not everyone feels that way.
Because the only alternative is that DirecTV knew exactly what
it was doing, having being previously
fined $5.3 million for telemarketing
to people on the Do Not Call list, and it weighed the likely punishment
versus the potential sales benefit, valued the time and goodwill
of people on the receiving end of these calls as zero cost, and decided
it was worth breaking the law. Of course, in this far-fetched scenario,
the only reasonable response by the FTC would be to correct this economic
imbalance by fining the almighty bejeezus out of them. If $5.3 million
doesn’t do the trick, it would have to see if ten or twenty million balances
that equation. “Sorry, DirecTV,” the FTC would say. “But clearly
regular penalties are insufficient. The only penalties left are…
Let’s get this out of the way first: some parents
tried to name their baby “@,”
which is the name of a character in Syrup. I guess it’s a good
month for real-life Syrup connections. Unfortunately
the baby does not appear to be a blonde, slutty, backstabbing corporate villain,
but still: I need to mention it because every newspaper in the world ran the
story, and everyone who’s read Syrup (all seventeen
of you, bless you) e-mailed me about it.
Going above and beyond, however, was Andrea, who also pointed me toward
TatAD (“Bring your advertising to life!”),
which is a company that brings together corporations who want to get their
logos branded onto human skin and people who think that sounds like a pretty
Are you ready to start making some BIG BUCKS as a TatAD promoter?
All you have to do is get our logo tattooed on you! Then get ready to cash in BIG TIME!
To its credit, TatAD takes the time to address the notion that getting yourself
imprinted with a logo for money is
some kind of sell-out:
You are already a walking billboard for your favorite companies simply by wearing their clothes or driving their cars or smoking their cigarettes.
You are a salesman for your favorite companies without a paycheck!
In fact… YOU PAY THEM!!!
Don’t look at it as the corporate world has initiated this, the people have, we
had no potential sponsors when we began, only people who wanted to be sponsored.
When you look at it from that angle there is no corporate sell out, in fact it’s the other
way around. We have the opportunity to get something in return for once.
It’s that simple, we’re all walking billboards anyway so why not get paid to do it
Now, I might quibble with TatAD that there is a difference between simply telling people
about a product you like, and getting paid to be branded with logos. A few differences,
actually. One of which is “credibility.”
But that’s just details. What interested me most was TatAD’s supply and demand
problem. Their forums are
full of people
to be tattooed, many being
not too particular
about with what, exactly. (My favorite:
wants my face?”)
It’s clearly a buyers market: if you’re looking to imprint your logo
on some flesh, you’ve got yards and yards to choose from.
So naturally you’d look for prime real estate: the young, the beautiful, the
admired, and the desired—as opposed to, say, the guy who has
“a few spaces
left on my right forearm”. Sorry, dude, in advertising we call that clutter.
It’s the same rules as celebrity endorsement: if you’re a sports star,
Nike pays you to wear its products; if not, you pay Nike. But now the bar is
much lower. You don’t need to be one of the best tennis players in the world;
you can earn a little sponsorship money just by being kind of awesome.
Ideally you’re gorgeous, of course. That’s the kind of awesomeness that
everyone understands. But I bet an admired DJ can make a few bucks from logo
tattoos, no matter what he looks like. Or a college high jump star.
Anyone who’s kind of awesome, even on a relatively small scale, I think
can look forward to a bright future of ever-increasing options for
turning their awesomeness into cash.
A certain amount of shamelessness will be required, of course.
But that’s a small price to pay for being able to make a career out of
being awesome. After all, you were going to do that anyway.
I was going to let this slide, because
for schools to chase the corporate dollar are
And I like to reserve my outrage for really odious new forms of
marketing. Not just
whacking ads on anything that moves,
but the truly insidious slime you don’t really notice until it’s
smiling you in the face. Like the
offensive” aimed at making the French more polite to tourists:
gives me the heebie-jeebies. Polite French people? That’s just wrong.
I like my French arrogant. If I ever step off a French airplane and
hear, “Missing you already!,” I will take that as a sign of the
But to schools. This particular push for big business to step in to
educate young minds
comes from Professor Brian Caldwell, who calls the
public funding model
He says partnerships with business could be valuable for both parties, for example in areas of science and technology.
“With a company like Rolls Royce you’re getting not only cash support but you’re also getting the opportunity of having top engineers work side by side with your teachers and your students and who also can provide marvellous work experience so yes there is self interest but it’s a self interest that matches the public interest,” he said.
Phew, that’s lucky. For a minute I was worried that the public
interest in delivering quality education to children might not completely
overlap with Rolls-Royce’s interest in stuffing great wads
of cash into the pockets of its shareholders.
Actually, I had thought that if we were brainstorming for large organizations
with scads of money and an interest in public education, we might have
thought of, you know, the frickin’ government. I mean, I don’t want to
blow their cover, but government does occasionally provide services
for the national good. Roads, bombing things, education;
there’s a whole package.
What really bothers me here is the persistent idea that you can
get money from companies for nothing:
Professor Caldwell doesn’t believe there is danger of too much interference, such as for example fast food companies influencing students’ diets.
Corporations are the most ruthlessly rational economic entities on
the planet. They have to be, because if they aren’t, they die. They
are subject to intense competitive pressure, and the evolutionary
effect is that today’s corporate giants are the sharpest, most efficient
wealth-generators in history. Anything they do, it’s because there’s
I’m fine with that. But I’m not letting one loose in a school
without asking: What does it get out of this? Or put another way:
What are we selling?
Advertising is so pervasive is because
everyone thinks it’s money for nothing: you put up some ads, you get
paid, what’s the harm? The non-monetary side of the transaction can’t
What’s the undivided attention of a twelve-year
old worth? What’s the real cost of making our police
dependent on ad revenue?
What’s the final invoice on installing corporate patriotism in our
I don’t know. But I bet it ends with smiling French people.
Regular site defacer Shahab writes:
We need Max’s comments about the iPhone launch!
I think if I was writing Jennifer Government today, it
would be phones, not sneakers.
You can buy paper made from elephant feces. It’s called
Poo Poo Paper.
I know this because I saw it mentioned in
which is “the ultimate insider’s guide to what’s hot, new, and
undiscovered.” At first I thought DailyCandy might be scraping
the bottom of the hot, new, and undiscovered barrel when they
reached for the Poo Poo paper, but then I read more and discovered
a profound insight into modern consumerism. Here:
Kid 1: Wow. Look at that elephant. He really thinks his sh*t don’t stink.
Kid 2: Actually, it doesn’t always smell bad. Just yesterday I was trying
out my new Crayolas on paper made from elephant poop.
Kid 1: Cootie alert.
Kid 2: No, no. It’s totally clean.
Kid 1: Keep talking.
Kid 2: So these people collect the dung, dry it out, and wash it, leaving fibers from the grass, bamboo, and fruits the little guy’s ingested.
Kid 1: Grody. To the max.
Kid 2: I’m not done yet. Then they boil the fibers so they’re super clean, add banana tree and pineapple fibers to thicken the paper, and dry it in the sun. You’d never even know it was made from caca.
Kid 1: Okay. Kinda rad.
You see the genius. Regular non-hot, un-new, and already-discovered
people might think that paper made from elephant crap is kind of disgusting.
But for that very reason, ultimate insiders find it hot. The
selling point is the repulsiveness.
I think marketers worldwide will find this a pleasing development. Until
now, they’ve been hamstrung by the need to make their products
useful, or at least non-awful. But if leading-edge shoppers are willing
to buy the opposite—and not just willing; already eagerly seeking
such products out—then the doors are wide open. For example:
Consumer 1: Hey look, shoes made of razor blades. They actually inflict
injury on you while you walk. What a stupid idea.
Consumer 2: Actually, some of the hippest Hollywood celebs are wearing these now.
Consumer 1: Keep talking.
Consumer 2: According to Variety magazine, there’s nothing hotter than
leaving a little trail of blood spots from your mangled feet. The pain
is what makes it outrageous.
Consumer 1: Okay. Kinda rad.
Incidentally, I noticed the slogan on the Poo Poo Paper web site:
“WE TAKE THE ‘OO’ OUT OF POO!”. Following that is: “TM”. Someone
actually came up with that phrase, then thought: “Gee, that’s
some gold right there. I’d better officially register that before anyone
A while ago I watched The Biggest Loser. This is a TV show
in which fat, unhappy people turn themselves into thin, self-satisfied assholes.
Well, some of the contestants are assholes to begin with. They either stay the same,
or turn into different kinds of assholes. The nice ones, though, it’s like
watching Annakin Skywalker become Darth Vader: by the end they look
cooler, but will destroy planets to get what they want.
Why is this? I suppose skinny people might be innately more evil than
fat ones. But I don’t know. I mean, Mother Theresa.
Or maybe it’s that attractive people are more evil. That sounds about right.
(Again, Mother Theresa.) I’ve always been suspicious
of very good-looking people. I think they should be microchipped and tracked,
so we can keep an eye on what they’re up to. I would feel a lot better if
I knew beautiful people were being monitored to make sure they weren’t
skipping lines, getting out of speeding tickets, and having impromptu sex
with flight attendants. If I can’t do those things, nobody should be allowed to.
But I can’t blame the Biggest Loser people for becoming pricks. If I
abruptly became a lot hotter, I’d develop a huge ego and poorly-concealed
contempt for my fellow man, too. I mean, even more so than now.
That’s just the natural consequence of being able to look at
yourself in the mirror and think, “Wow… I’m amazing.”
I keep hearing about the importance of self-esteem, but I’m not
I think we may be underestimating the value of crippling self-doubt and insecurity.
If you go to the beach, you’ll see a hairy, fat man in his 50s strolling by in
a thong, while nearby a 20-year-old with the body of a movie star tugs
at her skirt to make sure it’s covering thighs she thinks are too large or pale
or freckled or god knows what. I don’t think it’s coincidence that
human beings are afflicted with chronic lack of confidence just as they
begin to scale the peak of their physical attractiveness: I think that’s
the only thing stopping young people from taking over the world. Imagine
how horrendous it would be if that 20-year-old had the self-confidence of
the 50-year-old. No, not because of the thong. The thong would be fine, obviously.
The problem would be that once she realized how vastly superior she looked
compared to the rest of us, she and her young, beautiful friends would round
the rest of us up and lock us in labor camps, where they wouldn’t have to look at us.
And we would let them, because they’re beautiful.