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The Advertised Life


He would forget his fine disgusts, cease to rage against the tyranny of money—cease to be aware of it, even—cease to squirm at the ads for Bovex and Breakfast Crisps. He would sell his soul so utterly that he would forget it had ever been his.

—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Lessons in Life

Last spring, I wandered through “Lessons in Life,” a photography exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. As I gazed at the photographs, an unstated unifying theme of the show began to emerge: each work was either a comment on consumer culture or looked a part of it. I was not surprised to see shopworn deconstructionist statements by Barbara Krueger and Richard Misrach, nor was I surprised by the “lesson” that accompanied these works: “Beware of the Media.” But it rang dated and rather naive—after all, what was the “media,” some snarling and brutish dog tucked safely behind a fence? What set me thinking about the intricacies of life in an image-based consumer society far more sharply than did the connect-the-dots symbolism of the postmodernists’ belabored collages, were Joel Sternfeld’s photographs, rather plainly depicted portraits of what the curator called the “respectable middle class.” In one, an attorney reclined in his office; in another, a pink-clad woman clutched shopping bags on a Santa Monica street. Their faces were earnest and full of vigor, and if you looked beneath each portrait’s hyper-real veneer you could discern something quirky about each subject: the attorney was barefoot; the pink-clad woman carried a pet rabbit housed in a pink container. Like the man in the Hathaway shirt ads, whose perfectly ordinary visage betrays the startling fact that he is wearing an eye patch, they were strikingly distinct, yet something about them could appeal to everyone.

It occurred to me that these subjects could have been culled from the portfolio of an idealized ad campaign. I wondered how the unique energy that these achievers possessed could be channeled into a suitable product line, and I groped loosely for a tag line, a hook. Was it a “Just Do It” spirit that crackled in these characters? As soon as the thought had crossed my mind I shrank back in disgust: why did I choose those words, that idea? I had, in fact, only hours before, visited Chicago’s Nike Town, a giant “sports-retail theater” filled with images of people engaged in Nike’s “total body conditioning” lifestyle, a shrine to the possibility of Nike-accessorized athletic greatness and to the poetry of William Blake. It is a palace of emulation. Now I thought maddeningly of the entire Nike pantheon, of Dennis Hopper and every photo in every magazine and on every bus-stop. Faced with Sternfeld’s images, I looked in vain for a message, a brand, a campaign. Surely there was a product for sale here. But they were deafening in their commercial silence.

A visit to another city today is a visit simply to another set of franchises in the stable of a few national corporations.

Suddenly the connection between Nike Town and the pictures in the exhibit became clear: they were both aspects of the advertised life, an emerging mode of being in which advertising not only occupies every last negotiable public terrain, but in which it penetrates the cognitive process, invading consciousness to such a point that one expects and looks for advertising, learns to lead life as an ad, to think like an advertiser, and even to anticipate and insert oneself in successful strategies of marketing. The advertised life is not merely what you see on television, it is what the television sees. It is now everything that is around you. That beautiful person standing next to you in that upmarket bar who just ordered a Hennessy martini might be a live product spokesmodel, part of that brand’s effort to reach elusive style makers. That mildly humorous dog race you read about was an imitation of a beer ad in which two television programs—drag racing and a dog show—are made into one with the help of a can of beer, an event which proves that “the TV mnemonic,” as Miller Lite’s brand director puts it, “has really permeated the fabric of the culture.” One day, you may dial your telephone and hear an ad instead of a ring. Your friends are going on-line to “interact” with the fictional employees of the MCI commercial’s “Gramercy Press.”

These are just a few signals of a realignment of society in which advertising has become an ingrained function of daily existence, an “Absolut Environment,” as the ad says. A visit to another city today is a visit simply to another set of franchises in the stable of a few national corporations. A meal once eaten in a small local diner is now eaten, from New York to Santiago, in what a corporation, in its neatly packaged estimation, considers to be “The French Bakery Cafe”; or, in one of their “multi-themed food and entertainment outlets,” whose only link to its environs is to provide paltry service industry wages. The consumer, feeling that life has become easier in the land of superstores and familiar logos, responds eagerly to the promise that nothing need happen in life that is not the finely contrived end product of an agency meeting.

It is in Madison Avenue’s firmament of campaigns and brand awareness strategies, rather than contemporary art, that “lessons in life” are being forged, and they are reinforced at every juncture where consumers are, in the advertiser’s delightful euphemism for delivering a message, “hit.” The penetration is so complete that a simple trip to a museum becomes a mental battle against the corrosive power of the commercial aesthetic. At the “Lessons in Life” exhibit, even a powerful, decidedly anti-consumerist work like Margaret Bourke-White’s World’s Highest Standard of Living was not immune. It’s a famous image, contrasting a breadline against a billboard that portrays a shining, airbrushed family in a new automobile, driving toward the future, emboldened by the words “There’s no way like the American Way.” Today, however, the work can hold little impact. The clashing of images is but a tool for holding viewers’ attention, and Bourke-White’s greatest legacy, the Gap now informs us, is that she wore khakis.

And now that the underbrush has been cleared, advertisers, armed with visions of their own future, proclaiming the benefits of “new media,” and the “virtual brand,” prepare to usher in an interactive future in which every individual—the terminus in the long march of market segmentation—can be personally “hit” with their very own message. “In this hyper-customized world,” writes Andrew Susman, an associate at Chapman Direct, in Advertising Age, “the inter-relationship of advertising and programming increases because customer tastes and preferences are known in advance. Programming and advertising become interchangeable, as consumers are living inside a perpetual marketing event.” (italics added)

They may be young, but as the mobilizers and disseminators of lessons in life they have been granted enormous resources.

Through the same media lens that allows us to observe military actions unfold on CNN, we can watch in wonder and dismay as these lessons in life are crafted. The exploits of their creators is the stuff of the daily business pages, where we read panegyrics to the latest doings of the hip, young agencies, whose brash Creative Directors play frisbee in office hallways and plot wholesale cultural upheaval. This is not business; this is art, and rest assured, the Madison Avenue mandarins of hip—the spotniks—are more interesting than their vulgar Wall Street brethren. Just listen to The New Yorker rave about the “young and hip-looking” thirty-four-year-old copywriter who (gasp) sports an earring, who (hold steady now) has an impressive collection of punk rock records, and who (this is getting very counterhegemonic) was able to listen to a Japanese noise band until 3 a.m. and still present five campaigns later that day. Such boardroom bohemianism reveals another shift: the “Madison Avenue boys” once wrote up the Beats because they were both fascinated and miffed by their lifestyle of unscheduled casualness, sloppy clothes, good records, and the fact that they “got away with it,” as Paul Goodman writes in Growing Up Absurd; today, however, Madison Avenue has become the Beats, or whatever the counterculture is, and through their works they establish the limits on how far out the fringe can go.

They may be young, but as the mobilizers and disseminators of lessons in life they have been granted enormous resources. If the latest model of the twenty-to-thirty demographic has moved away from drinking hard liquor, and your annual profits on sales of Scotch are down 12 percent, you do not simply sit on your hands and assume cultural changes in diet and health are taking place. You unveil a $23 million campaign, with ads in magazines and “sampling events” at 1,000 bars and nightclubs on the East Coast. Or, if you’re going after a bigger target, you bring in the heavy guns. In China, for example, you need the tools mentioned above but you’ve also got to worry about not breaching guo qing, i.e. respect for the local customs. Luckily, regional specialists can be snatched from academia, as in the case of Kellogg’s foray into the republics of the former U.S.S.R., where cultural expertise is duly necessary when you’re trying to “teach people a whole new way to eat breakfast.” In regions where consumer products are widely available for the first time and consumers are “learning how to buy,” as an adman in Mexico put it, advertising must point out the correct paths of consumption. A century ago the same breakfast lessons were applied in the U.S. to get people to switch from their “heavy” traditional breakfasts to the “simple yet satisfying” Quaker Oats.

Nowadays, when presented with these lessons in the advertised life, American consumers react with a fairly instinctual irony. The young especially, we are told, have developed an ability to shrug off advertising, and they are said to stray warily from overly blatant attempts to sell them. And yet they still buy the products. The New York Times, discussing MTV’s new shopping network, reports that “by using sarcasm and irony to sell products (instead of the saccharine sincerity of QVC or HSN’s hard sell and emphasis on bargain prices), MTV is effectively co-opting critics by not taking itself too seriously.” Critics held securely at bay, MTV gleaned more than $1 million from a trial-run “Woodstock” promotion. Does anyone still believe that the MTV generation is “suspicious” of advertising? The article assumes, matter-of-factly, that sarcasm and irony are enough to placate critics. What it does not explain is why this is even possible, now that we are all aware that advertisers have seized upon irony as the cultural in-joke of the century. As everyone stands around winking and nudging, why does no one see fit to question irony itself? Of course they are trying to sell me something, the ironic response begins, but I know that, and isn’t it a funny ad? The use of irony is shrouded in another, more distant, form of irony: since ads are now viewed with sneering, condescension, and the assumption that they are in no way effective; it then comes as little surprise that no one is disturbed or even really notices when advertising begins to appear in new places.

Indeed, the advertised life has settled in around us as though it were just another part of culture, with the myriad voices that once railed against the consumerist onslaught reduced to a nervous whisper on the pages of small magazines. As Mark Crispin Miller has noted, it is now much more difficult to discern this encroachment because the media has become the surroundings. MTV is the bellwether of this change, and its perfect model. MTV is what the Harvard Business Review calls a “marketspace,” a consensual hallucination where “product becomes place becomes promotion.” In the “marketspace” the context or cultural surroundings—not the content of the actual programming—is what attracts advertisers, and once brand loyalty has been formed at the context level the number of promotional opportunities blossoms exponentially. In the MTV marketspace, the network sells its identity with the same tactics it uses to sell products, and, at last, vehicle, style, and the language of the quarterly report have become one. Thus does the network’s outlook “for a radically different future” derive directly from the business imperatives of the most conservative past.

Brand Fetishism

In the advertised life, the paradoxical relationship between consumer passivity and active public consumption has been consummated. In terms of how many goods are purchased, today’s consumer is more active than ever. But in another sense the consumer has also become more passive than ever, having arrived at the necessary end of a historical process in which people in Western countries have become gradually removed from the goods they purchase. Where buyers and sellers once argued over the price and quality of necessary goods in marketplaces, today’s consumers act out a pre-written script, purchasing the most heavily-advertised brands, no longer even needing to leave the house to buy. Marx’s famous fetishism of commodities, once considered a radical notion, is now readily accepted on Madison Avenue as the modern way to sell products people do not actually need. When people began to define their inner selves through outward appearance, Richard Sennett has noted, the products they purchased began to acquire great meaning. After one hundred years of mass consumer culture, we identify ourselves by our goods more publicly than ever—you can see it represented most neatly in the emergence of see-through shopping bags. But as brand awareness and advertising campaigns become larger than the products themselves we increasingly identify our place in society through advertising. Not only is it difficult to imagine the labor that goes into products, it is now difficult to see the products aside from the brand or the lifestyle they represent: the “product idea” is more important than the product. Marketers fully realized the brilliant utility of this strategy long ago, recognizing that once they have successfully launched a brand into the daily vernacular, it is no longer necessary to sell “goods.”

Consumers will now pay corporate sponsors for the right to display the detritus of corporate marketing on their person.

The Gap, for example, recently began selling shoes and launched a small campaign to announce this; they will no doubt use a similar strategy with their soon-to-debut GapScent. Because the Gap is a “lifestyle brand,” the nature of the products are virtually irrelevant—the buyer already knows what to expect from the Gap. In the advertiser’s view this is a good thing. Brands are a handy device for papering over nasty ambiguities like how things are made and what product is “right” for a person’s socioeconomic standing and lifestyle. This strategy has been taken to ridiculous extremes, as in the case of sunglasses, hiking shoes, water, beer, and countless other cases where the most everyday products are socially totemized according to price and the identity with which the brand has become associated. As Sal Randazzo, Senior Vice-President and Director of DMB&B, put it in his book, Mythmaking on Madison Avenue: How Advertisers Apply the Power of Myth and Symbolism to Create Leadership Brands, a brand is “a perceptual entity that exists is a psychological space in the consumer’s mind.” The advertiser believes the brand fills some sort of primal need, and that with the right orchestration, the brand eventually becomes part of the consumer’s “psychic makeup.” The old credit card ad began, “you may not know me,” but the brand dispels such anonymity: I smoke Merits. I drink Pepsi. I drive a Pontiac. You do know me.

In the advertised life the power of brands allows the traditional formula of companies paying for advertising to reach consumers to be reversed. Consumers will now pay corporate sponsors for the right to display the detritus of corporate marketing on their person. What advertisers call “promotional wearables” is perhaps the most perverse example: people actually turn their own body into a marketing vehicle by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “The Gap,” or, as was the fashion a year ago, by physically “branding” a corporate logo on their body. Madison Avenue insists there is deep myth and symbolism going on here, or worse yet, it makes ridiculous claims of distinctiveness: describing their entrance into the premium bottled-water market, a Donna Karan New York executive said that “it just seems so right. Water is international. It’s real. It’s part of you.” Or, as the ad director for another designer-water brand said, “Pure. Refreshing—all those adjectives that go with it describe both us and the water” (one wonders if “shallow” and “transparent” are among those adjectives). And yet, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, DKNY uses the same water as Sierra Gold, which is available in stores for under a dollar a bottle.

For the passive consumer, economic activity is reduced to choosing between the advertised life offered by Brand A or Brand B, proudly trumpeting their individuality in this “consumer democracy” by putting either the Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola poster on their wall. The entrepreneurs behind a company called Posters Preferred that actually sells advertisements to college students, told the New York Times that, when asked why they chose to purchase the posters, people usually answered, “To express something about myself.”

Alexander Abrams and David Lipsky, authors of “The Boomlet Generation,” an editorial that appeared a while back in the New York Times, epitomize the ontological squalor of the advertised life. Presenting the article as a “notice to advertisers,” they decry the failure of marketers to notice the “irresistible purchasing power” of their generation (aged 24 to 32) amongst the hoopla over their “noisier, younger siblings.” No, they plead with advertisers, we are not the grunge kids, those harbingers of “true nihilism.” We are the ones with the real jobs, the real apartments, the real girlfriends, and we’ll gladly drink your real drink if you would just reciprocate a bit and direct some ads our way. And, please, do not let our passage into adulthood (that is, once Abrams and Lipsky are done “waiting for the economy to give us a chance to become the adults we hoped we could be”) proceed without appropriate advertising mirroring and guiding every step we take as we grow up absurd. But they need not worry. The market will see that their needs are met, thanks to the efforts of people like youth marketing director Jane Rinzler, who said in one interview that “Gen-X’ers … spent $95 billion in 1992, which is a significant market. It’s time they started building brand loyalty.”

The Closing of the Frontier

The manifest destiny of American business is not a matter of occupying vast tracts of empty land, but of seeking out new frontier territories of the mental and the built environments in which to plant their brand-label flags. With pioneering fervor they stalk the last few stretches of logo-free America, hoping to get a piece of the rapidly filling market-niche frontier with a new round of “place-based,” or “out-of-home” advertising.

“Place-based media is like the Wild West of the American frontier,” David Verklin, director of Hal Riney and Partners, San Francisco, said in Advertising Age. “It’s an exciting freewheeling brawl, and there’s a new idea coming to town every week.” These ideas are, just to name a few, the “Good Health Channel,” a television channel providing health information and advertising to be placed in 1,500 pediatric offices, modeled on Whittle Communications’ now-defunct Medical News Network; NBC On-Site, which is “being positioned as an ‘out-of-home TV network’ to be packaged as another ’daypart’ of NBC … the goal is to reach a critical mass of supermarkets and other mass retailers nationwide”; and, courtesy, of Food Court Entertainment, Cafe USA, a television channel intended for shopping mall food courts, which is boasting a consumer recall for ads “about three times higher” than conventional broadcast media, and is, according to the company’s president, “hitting the people when they are relaxed, sitting down to eat with $100 in their pocket.”

Private individuals may cling desperately to the First Amendment, which protects speech in public places, but there are very few “public places” left.

There are few boundaries to the search for market share. And yet, if anything should challenge the eminent domain of advertising, its makers rush to dispose of the threat with free speech rhetoric and legal intimidation. Efforts to crack the public sphere with anything but advertising are done so at great risk these days. Several years ago, the New York-based artist Michael Lebron attempted to rent space in New York’s Penn Station to display his artwork. Fine, Amtrak said, until they learned that the mural was a satire of the Coors Brewing company’s support of right-wing causes. The mural, which featured a Coors can streaking like a missile towards a village in Nicaragua over a caption that read “Is it the Right’s Beer Now?”, was now a problem, and Amtrak officials, no doubt lobbied by Coors officials, decided that regulations prohibited displaying politically-based advertising. Lebron is challenging Amtrak in the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds, but even if Lebron wins his case, he faces an ultimate challenge from Coors: since the can is trademarked, they argue, it cannot be reproduced without permission.

Lebron, who has worked in advertising, has now himself encountered the Golden Rule of the advertised life: you will be exposed to nothing but commercial speech. Coors spokespersons respond haughtily, “it’s just unfortunate that some people want to advance their own agenda with unfair swipes at the brewing company.” But can one mural overcome the agenda of identity-making that Coors has sculpted through countless hours of commercials, inserts, and promotional giveaways, all celebrating a cult of vibrant youth sipping the purity of the Rocky Mountains? Coors, like any corporation in the advertised life, is able to squash dissent through the sheer bulk and frequency of its message. It is appropriate that the company’s latest campaign fantasizes about a mythical “Coors Light Channel” which is “always on”—an effective metaphor, really, for the boundless saturation of the public imagination that corporate consciousness demands. Should this reach be threatened with restrictions on advertising, corporate lobbyists in Washington are ready. Private individuals may cling desperately to the First Amendment, which protects speech in public places, but there are very few “public places” left.

And so, with the rules of the game firmly set, the boundaries of the advertised life expand. Children too can be “in the demo,” with the “My First Sony” and “Baby Guess” lines teaching children their first consumerist lessons in life and allowing parents to accessorize infants to their own designs. Place-based advertising is even moving out of the retail arena and into what used to be known as “films.” The tie-in (or “integrated marketing”) campaign arranged between McDonald’s and the The Flinstones was about more than just getting a Big Mac into a few frames; as a marketing exec told Business Week, the fast-food chain wanted “to be integrated into the property.” A seemingly less commercial film such as Forrest Gump, which was heralded as a film that spoke to America’s “traditional values,” was actually, as Advertising Age noted approvingly, “providing positive image enhancement for the Nike brand.”

With imperial arrogance advertisers feel that if there is space in society that is not currently being used to sell a product, then it is theirs to exploit. You can hear it in the voices of the “place-based pioneers.” The president of New Jersey-based Quantum Systems Inc., the company that has taken out a patent to put ads on phone lines, said in one interview, “we’re talking about the nooks and crannies of dead space where companies can play advertising and not offend customers.” In describing their low-watt radio station that reaches 92,000 people per day stuck in traffic near New York’s Lincoln Tunnel, Atlantic Records’ vice president of promotion said “it’s a completely unused, radical new form of advertising.”

But marketers have only recently discovered the public space with the greatest potential of all: the information superhighway. Once the government has stopped funding it, advertisers realize, commercial interests will be the only ones who can sustain its vast infrastructural and administrative needs. At that point we can justifiably say that the electronic frontier will have been closed. Just as the closing of the geographic frontier in 1890 paved the way for nationally standardized brands, markets, and products, the closing of the electronic frontier means that the decades-old anarchic and weird electronic subculture depicted by Thomas Pynchon and others will be replaced by a smooth, well-heeled cybermall. There will be little room, if any, for experimentation or unscripted events, only products and services for sale in a slick graphic environment that will seek to capture the consuming imagination in the same way mass retailers did a century ago when they unveiled the glass, sound, and lights of their giant commercial palaces. At a recent industry convention a chief executive at Time Warner told the crowd assembled to “stop thinking about it as the ‘information superhighway’ and start thinking about it as the ‘marketing superhighway.’” While hackers may have temporarily checked the appearance of ads in cyberspace, ad agencies are already meeting with Microsoft and other companies to discuss ways to reduce consumer opposition to “interactive” ads on advertiser-supported data networks. By couching the accumulation of demographic data in the democratic-sounding shibboleth of “interactivity,” marketers can foist the burdens of identifying, targeting, and “hitting” the consumer onto the consumer himself. The consumer will now be able (and, no doubt, willing) to internalize the focus-group process and deliver by their mouse-moving hand their very own demographic profile. To reconfigure Mark Crispin Miller’s reconfiguration of Orwell, Big Brother will be you, interfacing.

Leviathan Regained: The Body Demographic

If advertising has indeed become more pervasive, the reasons for its expansion have little to do with a logically arranged cabal of agencies and their designs to inflame the desires of the American consumer. The significance of advertising’s encroachment is not in the power of Madison Avenue, but in the near-complete inscription of consumerism into the national life. The appearance of these ads and marketing strategies should not simply trigger an angry response against the advertisers, but rather an appraisal or how the American cultural landscape has changed. It is easy to attack people like Chris Whittle who seek to reform society through purely mercantile means, but we should be prepared to answer when he asks: “Should capitalism be in the public sector?”

Actually the question is a bit moot: capitalism now virtually owns the public sector. Many found a victory for “the past” in the Disney corporation’s decision to refrain from building a Civil War theme park in Virginia, but it may have been a pyrrhic one. Why save a vision of the past from corporate redesign when the present and the future face no such salvation? With little of the controversy it drew from its Civil War project, Disney has been building a town called “Celebration” in Florida. This is not to be a mere tourist attraction, but an actual functioning town of 20,000 whose residents will live amongst the pre-World War II architecture of yuppie fantasy. The residents’s children will attend a model school linked to a Disney-run national teacher training academy, which Disney will in turn use to market educational software and other innovations. Like the Puritans, Disney seeks a City on the Hill where the dystopian public sector problems that impede American progress can be solved by “imagineering,” Disney’s entertainment-cum-management philosophy.

The consumption of goods is now so closely linked to identity that a new form of social analysis has emerged in which classes are defined not by property or profession or even income but by what products they purchase.

Should capitalism be in the public sector? If the public believes government to be corrupt and inefficient, and if there has been, as Christopher Lasch argues, a “revolt of the elites,” in which the privileged classes, traditionally those who were called upon to fund and build public institutions, have revolted against the ideals of public service and community, sending their children to private schools, insuring themselves against medical catastrophe and locking themselves in high-security private residential retreats, who will support the public institutions that were once considered the cornerstone of liberal democratic achievement? Surely the poor cannot afford such a task, and the middle class has taken refuge in tax revolts and the House of Gingrich. Who then is left? The Cold War consensus has collapsed, the labor movement is a shell of its former self, postmodern fragmentation has reduced ideology and culture to a host of special-interest groups clamoring in the trading-pits of pluralist relativism. Amongst these ruins, only the rapidly consolidating corporations of late consumer society maintain their form and cohesiveness, their vision and drive; and as their brand managers and image consultants and creative directors spin their seamless narratives they gain the trust of a disenchanted public that sees few alternatives to the advertised life. Recently a Colorado school district that was strapped for cash agreed to lease pieces of school property to advertisers. Rather than criticism they received hundreds of inquiries from other schools wondering how they too could add Burger King logos to the sides of school buses.

Almost through default consumerism has become the reigning ideology in American society, and its health is gauged by the way we now understand “freedom of choice.” Choice is a catch-all notion in a “consumer democracy”: it can mean school choice, where the problems of public schools are somehow solved by allowing the children of the wealthy to opt out; and it can signify personal choice, which, as Lasch notes, has increased in those matters where most people see the need for solid moral guidelines rather than further choices. But above all it refers to an ever-expanding choice of consumer products.

The consumption of goods is now so closely linked to identity that a new form of social analysis has emerged in which classes are defined not by property or profession or even income but by what products they purchase. These new social groupings are part of the elaborate schemata of marketers, where demographics and psychographics are merged to create mythical profiles of who buys what and for what reasons. In SRI International’s Values and Lifestyles System, an industry staple, there are eight basic classes into which all Americans fall. There are no rich, no poor, only those with more resources and less resources. From the low-demo “Strugglers,” who are “brand loyal” and “read tabloids and women’s magazines” to the “Experiences,” who are on top in the “Action Oriented” category and who “buy on impulse” and “listen to rock music,” there is a category for everyone. The information gleaned with the “new media” will provide marketers the building blocks of a new Leviathan. The old behemoth of Hobbes gave human form to the “bodies politique,” but the new Leviathan is the consumer society’s Body Demographic: an individualized mass of consumers, grouped in the humanized portraits of market segmentation, joined by passive observation of a sovereign lifestyle.

The new consumer society will no longer need the general advertisements broadcast from without at the entire populace; it will, rather, speak to consumers directly from within. “Aftermarketing” will attempt to make the purchase the first step in the advertised life, rather than the last, and other novelties, such as “relationship billing,” will hit consumers with ads based on the kinds of purchases recorded on their credit card statements. As American Demographics put it, new media consumers will “be more tolerant of advertising because it will be more appropriate and customized.” In the new media, the goal of the marketing message is not the “purchase,” but “further interaction.” As life becomes a “perpetual marketing event” we will no longer be able to discern where advertising begins and where it ends. In a realm that could have been designed by Kafka, we shall all awake not as giant insects but as “productive reach” targets of an innovative marketing plan. The next time around it will begin: Someone must have been telemarketing Joseph K …