Thursday, May 19, 2016

Episode 73: Trash Collection and the End of Humanity

I am a big fan of trash collectors, not the people who go through other people’s trash and collect stuff, but the people who come to my house early in the morning and take away all the stuff I throw away.  The other people are quite often hoarders, which is bad for the business of real trash collectors.  That is probably why real trash collectors have started moving away from trash collecting and towards waste management.  They do not want to be confused with people who actually collect and keep trash.  In any case, as much as I like trash collectors, I do believe they very well could be pushing humanity towards its demise.  

You see, knowing someone is going to pick up everything we throw away is making most of us less responsible and less thoughtful, which is good for people in the manufacturing business, the advertising business, the retail business, and all sorts of other business, but not as good for the actual business of living on a planet with other living things also trying to live on said planet. 

Trash collectors are really enabling bad behavior. 

As long as they keep coming to pick up trash, we will become increasingly irresponsible with what we throw away.  It is only a matter of time before we just skip using stuff and start throwing it away on the way out of the stores in which we buy the stuff.  (Judging by the quality of a large portion of manufactured goods today, the manufacturers are already operating with that assumption.)  Fewer and fewer things are made to last, because there is no money in making things that do not have to be replaced every 12.7 seconds.

What would happen if trash collectors stopped collecting our trash?  What if we had to figure out what to do with all our trash?  I bet we wouldn’t buy as many things.  Most of the things we buy end up in the trash not long after we buy them, because we know the trash collectors will just come get them, the manufacturers will just make more, the advertisers will tell us about all the new things the manufacturers are making, and the retailers will happily sell them to us.  

It is a bit like the hydrological cycle, except with stuff we don’t need, and it is less like a cycle and more like a slow straight line to a future in which we live on the skin of a gigantic whirling ball of waste.  At that point, we would probably abandon Earth so we wouldn't have to deal with the waste problem.

When we decide the solution to a problem is to make it someone else's problem, that's when we embrace the end of humanity.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Episode 72: Targeted Marketing

Advertisers are some of my favorite people, or at least they might be, if they weren't some of my least favorite people.  Actually, I am not sure about them as people, in fact, I am not even sure they are people.  In an age of bots and algorithms and such, advertisers are quickly becoming as faceless as they have always been soulless.

I bring all this up because the latest bothersome intrusion into my otherwise peaceful existence has been coming from the nether regions of the windowless basement dwellings of commercial marketing strategists straight to my computer as I wander aimlessly through the increasingly irrelevant expanse of social media.

Targeted marketing has taken on a whole new dimension now that the basement dwellers can actually use all the data they collect.  They have been collecting all sorts of data about us and our preferences for eons, but now they can actually use that data to make relevant ads pop up on our computer screens as we waste our time checking up on everyone else’s lives, while our own lives flitter on by.

I am all for these ads, because it reminds me that someone is always watching and waiting to sneak up and shove a relevant ad in my face.  It makes me think twice before I browse unsavory or embarrassing content, which is probably a good thing.  No one wants relevant ads popping up when what is relevant is also rather embarrassing and revealing.  Wait, I’m not actually all for these ads.  Part of me is pretty creeped out. 

Another part of me does rather like it when those ads tell me the things for which I have been searching are on sale somewhere.  After all, isn’t the complete infiltration of my virtual mind a small price to pay when it comes to saving some cash?  It’s not like the people responsible for the people responsible for the ads are trying to control me, right? I’m much too smart for…What the?  Snuggies on clearance!  That’s just what I’ve been looking for!  Sorry, but I can’t miss out on that.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Episode 75: Doctor Kim

Doctor Kim recently raised concerns when she tweeted a personal message containing an endorsement for a morning-sickness drug and someone revealed that the drug company actually paid her for her endorsement.  Although it seemed to be a conflict of interest, she is a widely trusted…wait, she is not a doctor?!  Hold on, she's just a celebrity getting paid to pretend her opinion about some certain product is actually high on the list of reasons people with working brains would purchase that product?  So, why is that causing any sort of stir?  

That is most certainly not a conflict of interests.  Her primary interest is getting money, and the drug company's primary interest is selling drugs to make money, so this seems to be a happy marriage of complimentary interests.  Neither drug companies nor celebrities have ever been known to concern themselves with something so silly as actual people when money is on the table, or under the table, or has the remotest possibility of someday being anywhere near the table.

If you're looking to celebrity tweets for guidance on anything, you probably need to step away from social media for a few minutes and go out into the world to experience it for yourself.  People who get paid to be whatever the people who pay them want them to be are probably not the most trustworthy sources of information, and the people paying those people, obviously, are even less trustworthy.

Here's the thing, I'm not concerned that not-doctor Kim tweeted for pay about some drug she may or may not actually use, because that's just how things work when you are famous.  What concerns me is the fact that people are concerned.  You see, I assume most people would read that tweet for what it is, a commercial, and not as sage medical advise from a medical professional with actual knowledge and expertise.  From the tenor of some responses I've seen, it would seem there are people out there who would read it as the latter.  

If you are one of those people, there is still hope.  You can change.  It's really quite simple.  All you need to do is set aside your social media drug of choice, go outside, breathe actual air, look at actual things, talk to actual people, and be an actual person who does actual things.  In no time at all, you will discover you have an actual brain of your own, one you can use without any input at all from celebrity advertising puppets dangling from the golden strings of corporate profiteers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Episode 74: What Color is Your Soap?

Back in the day, whichever day that actually was, advertising made some sort of sense.  People had useful products to sell, and they wanted to tell people all about the useful features of their useful products.  Today, I had to buy soap for my dishwasher.  In the soap-for-dishwashers isle I found a dizzying array of options.  Oddly enough, most of the different options were actually from the same brand.  There was soap that was 6 x’s the power, and soap that was 8 x’s the power, and even soap that was 10 x’s the power! Okay, is this some sort of internal one-upmanship at the dishwasher soap factory?  Why wouldn’t they just sell the best soap they had? Maybe they are improving their soap so fast they cannot sell the weak stuff before the stronger stuff comes out. At least they are still trying to appeal to my desire to clean things, which makes sense if you are selling soap.  This is a concept apparently lost on the carwash people.

A few days ago I actually paid attention to the various benefits of the different car wash levels.  At first, things made sense.  The levels started with Good, then moved on up to Better, and then on again to Best, and finally on to Supreme, which did make me wonder how we differentiate among superlatives, but I could understand the car people clearly thought Supreme was better than Best.  The obvious question then is what makes a carwash Supreme.  Tricolored foam.  Yep, that is what bumps your carwash up another rung on the ladder of superlatives.  It’s not foam that is 10x’s the power of lesser foam. It’s not even 6x’s the power.  It’s just multicolored.  Okay, I realize the mushy-brained kooks of advertising think we are all very gullible and not very bright, but it’s like they aren’t even trying anymore. “Here, buy this soap because it is colorful, and won’t all those colors look fun when you are washing stuff?” 

Sure, companies have been using the old lets-differentiate-ourselves-from-our-competitors-with-some-sort-of trivial-detail-that-is-totally-unrelated-to-our-product-or-its-use trick since mushy-brained kooks took over the marketing racket, but they were way more crafty and less obvious about it.  I mean, they would take the same old thing, the thing maybe a few other people were also making, wrap it in sexy new packaging and say how much better it was than some other version of the exact same thing in less sexy packaging.  It used to be about the actual product, or at least pretend to be about the product.  

Has it really come to this?  They don’t even bother to make up something about multicolored foam being more effective.  Have our minds really been turned so mushy we will choose a car wash based on the color of the foam it uses? I, for one, will not!  I bought the Supreme because it was better than the Best, whatever that means, and that is why the mushy-brained kooks get paid the big dollars.