Oh man, sometimes I just want to hang my head and cry. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten several messages for me to promote, support and contribute to some commercial marketing campaigns. Just so it’s clear, I will tell all of you right now that I will never, ever do such a thing. I firmly believe in exactly what Bill Hicks said.
What makes me want to cry (in the Johnny Cash sense) is that I know all the people who contacted me were earnest, ordinary Romanians who truly believe that these marketing campaigns were or are going to do some kind of good for society. I appreciate the authenticity of those feelings, I really do. But I am here to tell you that those marketing people are just using you in order to do one thing – make money.
I loathe mentioning them by name but I shall for the sake of “journalism”. First though you might remember when Romania Got Punk’d By A Chocolate Bar in late 2010. The ad agency in question, the Romanian branch of the international firm McCann Erickson, won a bunch of awards for their evil trickery and deceit. According to the bragging on their own website, that ad campaign “worked thanks to Romanians patriotism”. First of all, that’s not even correct English. Secondly, just as Bill Hicks said 20 freaking years ago, they did it by playing on that “righteous indignation” dollar (market). They ginned up a fake controversy, got people to get righteously indignant (rasturnat) and made a ton of money. The Romanian people didn’t get anything.
Now these same punks have a new campaign using the exact same method. The “righteous indignation” in question is that apparently if you go to Google and type “Romanians are” (in French, Romanian or English) then some unflattering results pop up. Hence you and I and every other “patriotic” Romanian should log onto their site and help change this.
This is total and utter crap. This is marketing and apparently “successful” marketing by an international agency in promoting their brand and making money but it has nothing to do with Romanian patriotism or promoting/ameliorating the image of Romanians around the world. Let me say that again just so it’s clear. They are doing this to make money. They don’t care about you.
Likewise Pepsi here in Romania has been running a campaign for a while that a lot of people wrote to me about. Again, I know a lot of earnest, good people support(ed) it and that makes me sad because I know their intentions are good. Pepsi’s intentions (as well as its marketing agency) however are not. They are doing this to make money, okay? They’re not interested in “revitalizing” or cleaning up urban centers in Romania. They are doing this to peddle more sugar drinks and make more money.
Now I know what the response is – hey okay they’re making money but at the same time they’re also helping in some way so let’s support the helping part and we’ll just not worry too much about the fact that they are making money. Right? I mean if McCann Erickson helps skew Google search results and this somehow positively modifies the world’s perception of Romania then that’s something “good”. Or Pepsi is going to buy some new trash cans or whatever (I have no idea what the winning idea was as it’s not on their site) and that’s a good thing. And you’re partially right, yes, these things are more or less good.
But the process is evil. And I do not say that lightly or in some exaggerated way. I am not some kind of Marxist and I do not think that a for-profit corporation making money is some kind of terrible thing. It is, after all, the reason for their existence. But marketing is evil.
A couple of years ago I was sitting in a bar and I met a very nice young lady who was studying at the big university here in town (Babes-Bolyai) and her major or field of study was marketing. Apparently they have an entire department (Rom: facultate) which focuses on this very subject. And so I excitedly began to talk about Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann and then realized that she had no idea who I was talking about. I later met other students of marketing and similarly learned that even they had no idea about the history and fundamental aspects of marketing despite the fact that this was the focus of their top level university studies. So if they don’t know then how could the “average” person on the street be expected to know?
I’ll save that for a future post then as we all live now in a world heavily inundated with marketing and so it’s very relevant. But I will tell you the conclusion right now, which is that Bill Hicks, recently censored from American television, who was on tour in England while dying of cancer, had the guts to tell the unvarnished truth. He was a professional comedian so his statements come across as jokes but in a future post I will detail exactly why he was right.
Switching gears to something more positive, you may notice a new image in the sidebar, which links to Shoebox.ro. This is a campaign started and organized by Romanians to send gifts to orphans and impoverished children here in Romania. It’s also a non-profit organization and I’ve spoken to a few people working with them and it seems very legitimate. Right now it’s going on only in Bucharest and Cluj but soon will be in Brasov. Click on the link for more and if you’re a user of Facebook, visit their page and give them a “like”.
Now that is a campaign I can support :)