Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Marketeers

When I was in my twenties, I can remember my friend Lucy saying through the post-adolescent haze, something that was actually quite insightful: “Everyone we know is either an artist, teacher or healer.” It was true. “Back in the day,” when I was youthful, handsome and attractive, me and others of my ilk, especially my closest friends, in college or out or never would be, turned our gaze toward the future and dreamed of being great artists. And yes, there were many that became, by default or by choice, gifted and generous teachers and healers. But for me it was the arts that beckoned. My role models were poets like Richard Brautigan, writers like Vonnegut, with his treasure trove of novels, up and coming actors like DeNiro or the actor-directors Woody Allen or Warren Beatty, filmmakers like Copolla or Truffaut, visual artists like Rauschenberg or Robert Smithson, performers like Laurie Anderson or Robert Wyatt, the Talking Heads or the cast of the original Saturday Night Live. Broadcasters like Tom Snyder, Frazer Smith and Rodney Bingenheimer interested me too, as did the after hours David Letterman, who was constantly being compared to Ernie Kovacs. It seemed like something to aspire to. I did have one friend, Arthur, who went to business school in Boston and has gotten rich and gone broke a coupla times since then. But for the most part, Lucy was right. Most of us were artists, teachers and healers of some kind.

Today, it appears that the best creative minds of the younger generation have steered their utopian vision not to art, but to marketing. Perhaps they see it as The Art of Marketing. Perhaps they dream of A Better World Through Marketing, the way the generation a few before mine put their faith in science. But I doubt it. I think most of them just see it as a way to make money. Lots of it. Good gig, they think, as they select their major, Marketing.

The world is now overrun with these nitwits. They haven’t had anything even resembling an original thought since they played with their not-yet-a-dynasty Legos at age 4 or 5. That was when the creativity must have been pounded out of them by god knows what. Marketing experts make it their business to know about this demographic or that, just what makes them tick. But I am no Marketing Expert. I just look at shit and have a mechanism called instinct under my shirt that viscerally tells me if something is good or bad for me. That’s the way people used to do it, before The Attack of the Marketeers. Yes, we learned to listen to our gut. But the Marketeers do it with spreadsheets. So is it any wonder that business is booming, even during our horrid Voodoo Millenial Economy while nothing has any nutritional value? It is because our life is run by corporations and the corporations are getting their cues from these vacuous Microsoft Excel Jockeys.

But I will rail about our Corporatocracy another day. Today I am interested in highlighting what I have noticed about these rich young turks of our Turdworld country. It all comes down to one woman actually. Her name is Connie and she was a bright, sexy and gregarious twenty-something I used to work with. Perhaps she was in her early thirties, I don’t know. But she was a decade or two younger than me and that is what I am getting at. When I was her age, people like her were goofy artist-types, causing no harm to anyone but themselves. Sure we were poverty-stricken, but that, too, is a topic for contemplation elsewhere. We were happy. We were loud, confident and wrong, but of no consequence to anyone except the geezer next door who banged on the wall when the music got too loud.

Now that very geezer is marketed to by the marketing miscreants disguised as know-it-alls in ties, or if you work for a “start up,” no tie. Did you hear about the jumper cable that walked into a bar? The bartender said “OK I’ll serve you but don’t start anything.” Well, what I am trying to say is that now everything is controlled by marketing: the jumper cables, the bars, the joke books, the loud music the young people listen to, the walls people are banging on, even us unwitting geezers (I am in my forties, after all. They’d put me out to pasture if they could find a pasture), are serving our corporate masters via the marketing dweebs. But once again I am straying from my point.

I want to simply tell you about Connie, the clueless marketing dumb ass. As I said, she is an intelligent young woman. I respect her a great deal, believe it or not. In fact, that is my point. She used to be ONE OF US. But now the evil Mysterious Marketing Forces of Unknown Origin have swooped down and stolen our children, our cousins, our sisters and our brethren. Once likable people who were merely bad poets or untalented painters are now doing serious damage to the rest of us with their Bachelors and heaven help us Masters Degrees in Marketing. One day Connie sent out an email. This was in 2004. Only months ago. She sends out an email about our website activites-– regurgitating the conventional web wisdom of 1998. And that was stuff people came up with in the early nineties! The people that came up with it are either the 5% of genius exceptions to the rule of her very generation, or else still-functioning dinosaurs from my era who created the Internet and the web, too. Because 5% of any generation is always ahead of the curve and I do not believe for a second that what I am saying applies to everyone. Just most of them. The vast majority.

Anyway Connie’s email basically rehashed stuff that people were talking about in chat rooms before the marketers started calling them “chat rooms.” Chat rooms were just some some stupid Unix trick that your typical chip-chewing misanthrope thought up in the middle of the night, just like the Usenets and Gophers that circled the planet before the worldwide web made it safe for everyone to get an Internet address because now it had pictures. But again, I ramble. The simple point I am trying to make is that Connie’s email was full of old news and sent around to her bosses and people like me, her temp underlings, as she tried to brown nose the upper floors with some crap she took off some marketing web site who took it of some other website who read it in a book summarizing what some outlaw on the pre-Information Superhighway wrote in an email in 1991. I know this because I traced it back. I looked at what she had written which struck me at first glance, as obvious. As in, “Get to the good part.” But alas, there was none to be had because it was all marketing double-speak. Horseshit about what the web could do for us and our revenue streams if we could only market our well-positioned marketing things properly. Or something. I really don’t remember what it said. I know I saved it and it is here somewhere. I will post it if I ever find it.

But Connie was my boss and it was my job to read her email and comment on the substance of it, which has unbeknownst to her, withstood the test of time. So it must have some merit or the Marketeers wouldn’t be kicking it around on their well designed just-like-all-the other-one websites. Or I could ignore her email, which I did. But what I resent is that 1) I am an artist and I am working for a marketer and 2) marketers are creating markets that the artists and techers and healers have to fill instead of the artists teachers and healers creating art, teachings and healing the people that are then handed over to the marketers to sell. Our society is largely vacuous because the prodcts are not longer the things that people need, the people are now the products that are sold to the corporations. And this makes us feel like... well, products.

Suffice to say that the world has been taken over by idiots who want to sell you something because if they do, they’ll get money and then they can buy the stuff you want to market to them. I suppose it is all designed to make someone feel better somewhere but I haven’t found them yet.

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