The 58th Street Manifesto

The 58th Street Manifesto: Thoughts, articles, crafted words and miscellaneous expressions. Exploring the symbolism of the eight-pointed star, and recontextualising cultural appreciation.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Overcoming the Aural Fascism of Contemporary Advertising and Mass Media.
A special Goldstar Report

Have you ever turned on your television and, in the swirling confusion while the screen warms up, mistakenly thought that you had turned on your CD player? Before you disregard this simple question as a ridiculous stab at the common sense reality that you are currently engulfed in, please bear in mind that this sort of event may go unnoticed by many. We are talking about a confusion that manifests, simmers, and then dissipates in a matter of 200 milliseconds, to be immediately replaced by the blissful indulgence of finely tuned visual stimulus coupled with enticing audio cues.

Why would one make the mistake of confusing two dissimilar media sources such as a CD player and a television? The answer is simple. Aural Fascism!

The public relations industry was conceived, in it’s modern sense, during the World War I era. The successful birth of modern public relations, or PR, is often credited to their first successful campaign; the campaign that attempted to convince women that smoking cigarettes was not only alright, but in fact chic'. This campaign was an overwhelming success and the modern PR industry has flourished ever since. This first success, and every subsequent success, can be credited to a tactic known as ‘good marketing’, where marketing means a strategy that is capable of inducing (psycho/physio)logical responses in the target. All good PR can be credited to good marketing.

As the needs and desires of consumer humans (also referred to as bio-slaves) have changed over the decades, so has the marketing of various PR groups. Moreover, as the physiological triggers of the bio-slaves have changed, the strategies of the PR groups have changed to keep pace.

In the modern day, we are virtually surrounded by various tactics and derivatives of tactics used by public relations firms. PR firms are using the maximum amount of otherwise unbiased environment in an attempt to literally engulf a potential consumer. Areas of the environment currently being exploited to this end include media devices (TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet, etc.), advertising avenues (billboards, taxi cab ads, direct mail campaigns, etc.), endorsements (from celebrities, artists, public figures, etc.), custom goods (such as the Ben & Jerry’s Volkswagen bus, the Red Bull van, etc.) and the almighty word of mouth (such as the cigarette girls for various brands, the Captain Morgan personality, the Heineken stewardesses, etc.). However, PR firms try to go even farther than this by using strategies, such as word placement and neuro-linguistic programming, to achieve their ends. Yes, in this modern day, the strategies used by PR firms are indeed complex. This brings us to the topic of Aural Fascism.

Aural Fascism is a term, coined by Goldstar, to describe the strategy of using non-pop music in a commercial campaign as an attempt to hijack the bio-slave’s attention. This strategy has become more and more frequent over the last several years, and this is the foundation of the 200 millisecond confusion between your television and your CD player. It has been shown that a majority of people believe that the music they listen to is, at least partially, underground or independent (meaning it is unlikely to show up on TV). This notion is ultimately a relief mechanism from constantly being bombarded by ‘pop’ media, that is, PR founded media. A majority of people having a preference for non-pop music immediately leads to a catch-22. As more people listen to an independent or unaffiliated artist, that artist eventually gains enough recognition to become ‘pop’. Therefore, underground music is only truly available to the cutting edge of consumer. In an attempt to target this cutting edge of consumers, and the two or three tiers that are just underneath this target, advertisers are now using underground or independent music effectively as part of their campaigns. The examples of this strategy are too numerous to mention, but I shall mention just a few (as Artist, [Track], and Advertising campaign).

Dandy Warhols (Bohemian Like You) for General Motors,

Air (Surfin’ on a Rocket) for Nissan,

Devo (Whip it) for Proctor & Gamble,

Daft Punk (Technologic ) for the Apple iPod,

Gorillaz (Feel Good Inc.) for the Apple iPod,

B-52s (Rock Lobster) for Kmart,

Jurassic 5 (What’s Golden) for SBC/Yahoo,

Chemical Brothers (Galvanize) for Budweiser,

Iron and Wine (Such Great Heights) for Nextel,

AC/DC (Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution) for Nike,

Black Eyed Peas (My Humps) for Verizon,

Portishead (All Mine) for Victoria’s Secret,

Afrika Bambaataa (Looking for the Perfect Beat) for Visa,

Eric Dolphy (Out to Lunch) for Volkswagen,

and, the author’s personal favorite example,

Amon Tobin (Four Ton Mantis) for the new Hummer H3.

This new strategy is the next logical step for a PR industry that is running short on tricks. For the independent music aficionado, this technique is offensive at best; for the larger target of semipop-affiliated bio-slaves, this strategy has led them to possibly the best music in their bleak existence. Considering that it is a strategy aimed at one of the last known refuges of non-PR existence, it is a strategy that should be neutralized. Of course, the only way to neutralize an advertising campaign is to acknowledge it’s existence. It is the authors hope that this special report has contributed in some way to neutralizing this strategy.

All questions and comments can be directed to Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard Inc., Hill and Knowlton, Inc., INCEPTA (CITIGATE), Burson Marsteller, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, Ketchum, Inc., Porter Novelli, GCI GROUP/APCO Worldwide, or Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide


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