I read James Whittaker’s MSN posted lament on his reasons for leaving Google. He spoke of how he quit because Google was changing and focusing solely on advertising. He had no effect on my opinion of Google, but his article helped to solidify something I have been thinking about America. The things is, we Americans don’t make very much anymore. We have, as social scientists put it, become a consumer society where once we were agricultural or industrial. So should James or I really be lamenting such a huge avalanche of commercialism and advertising? I mean, if the majority of what we are all about is buying, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority part of our media is oriented towards selling. Is business supposed to ignore such a huge collection of people holding up their money and yelling “Me! Me! Sell to me?”
Whittaker waxes nostalgic for the old days. Every year I watch the movie “White Christmas” when the holiday season rolls around, and I feel tremendous nostalgia for my youth. Post war America had a lot to offer to a kid. In my lifetime I have seen a lot of paradigm shifts; I saw analog television come and go, I saw the rise of the computer, I saw man go to space and walk on the moon. I have watched the times change as we rushed headlong into this very moment, not that we have stopped here. We’re still rushing. But more importantly we’re still buying. We’re buying from the vendors who offers us the best we can get at the lowest price, and we’re no longer limited by logistics to buying locally. The marketplace has truly become global, and our higher labor costs have driven even more of our business offshore, making us that much less a producer country and that much more a consumer country.
In a consumer society, to make money we have to sell things. To sell things we have to get the word out that we’re selling it. So is it wrong to have have such a huge focus on advertising? We should expect advertising to be developed in the same way we approached the space race. In the sixties and early seventies we had the spectre of the cold war motivating us to take the high ground. Today the threat is a lagging economy, and it is logical, even if not pleasurable, that we should approach the task of reaching consumers with all of the same verve and ingenuity that took us to the moon. Whittaker waxes nostalgic and gripes about Larry Page and his direction for Google, but Is a CEO doing their job who doesn’t focus on the prime earner for their company? We’ve found that the social media is exactly the way to reach people on a personal basis. So a focus on G+ makes a great deal of sense if one wants to understand their market and match buyers to sellers.
Perhaps we might be a bit more discrete about the way we employ puffery to sell our products, but agri-business and industry went through dramatic change as we kept developing, and so we shouldn’t complain that marketing is doing much the same thing. Sellers want to reach buyers, and it is the job of advertisers to find ways to bring the two together. So while I have empathy for Whittaker’s lament, feeling myself that things just aren’t the same anymore, I try to understand that people are doing what it takes to grow their businesses. That’s not about mega-corporations and the 1%, that’s everybody. Times change and people have lamented it, even sang songs about it, for as long as I can remember. Progress demands a price, and in the society we have built, our progress is brought to you by [insert product here].