Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm telling myself I'm wrong in the comments too.

I haven't seen the TV show MAD MEN for the sole reason that I'm pretty sure it would make me want to kill myself. I've heard people talk about it though. And I've seen animated .gifs of the characters in livejournal avatars. With this knowledge, I can pretend to know why it's so popular; the most beloved form of entertainment right now is marketing.

I'm not saying people like it because it's actually about marketing. I think viewers realize MAD MEN isn't so much a show about ad executives as it is a show about selling a retro style of 'cool', nice clothes and the idea that cable makes classier entertainment than network television. That's why people like it, not because they want those things advertised to them, but because the show makes very obvious what it's trying to sell. All media is 'secretly' trying to sell you something, and by putting it not so much under the surface as just further away on the surface, MAD MEN is making viewers feel like they figured it out. It's real subliminal advertising is that it's making you feel smarter for watching it.

That's what's cool now, I think, having knowledge about marketing, figuring out why and how things are being sold to you. And it's been cool for a while. Most blogs or forums about movies are more likely to talk about how GI JOE was marketed than the actual (terrible) film. I think this, rather than decreasing attention spans, are why trailers are seemingly more popular than the films they're advertising. People into BATMAN don't so much talk about what he's up to, or how he's drawn than how he's being sold to the comic readers or how he could be sold to not comic readers. I realize this isn't new as it's been going on since the 60s, or since I've been on the Internet at least, but I think it's popularity has entered the mainstream, and there was a slight change in the discussion about it and how it's treated a couple of years ago.

I was raised by HE MAN. A show created to sell me action figures. I had no problem with this. I was also an impressionable 12 year old when grunge music happened. Remember 1991? Kurt Cobain said Rolling Stone was a corporate magazine, the music industry was fake, patriarchal society is just trying to sell us pre packaged fear and rebellion. He might as well of said 'Fuck He-Man.' But He-Man was my father, and no matter how much adolescent rage I'm going to throw at him, somewhere there is love.

College music and the college attitude became cool. Gen X, like their hippy parents before them, started to slightly rebel against marketing culture. Then, also like their parents before them, they got jobs, and had to start marketing themselves and their companies. And companies started having to advertise to them. There was a certain guilt embedded into Gen X advertising that carried over into companies and people advertising on the web. A friendly, sort of, 'this is an ad, we're sorry for trying to pull one over on you, but please buy our shit.' People used to apologize for having to register or have ads on their blogs. They felt sorry, or at least, knew you knew you were being marketed to and didn't want you to object. They also wanted you to feel like you were part of a group of people reclaiming the marketing machine. He-Man still wants you to buy his toys, but he's sorry he tried to trick you.

And, of course, it being Gen X, there was heavy use of irony. Indie music blogs started talking about, or singing the merits of Billy Joel or Britney Spears. Ads were all 'wink, wink, buy.' But it was cool, because they were kind of kidding. But they also kind of weren't. And now they totally aren't.

People a few years younger than me were raised by Pokemon. A show created to sell video games. They were impressionable 12 year olds when rappers and boy bands were the most popular music acts. Both rappers and pop groups have no qualms about advertising. You know what record label a rapper is on, or when his new album is coming out because he says it in his songs. These kids also grew up on not only ironic advertising, but web advertising, like Google, and Amazon, that is more personalized, but also much more obvious. They know everything is an ad, and I don't think they don't give a shit.

A lot of blogs have ads, and most blogs are almost attempting to sell the blogger as a product. A lot of people have Twitter accounts selling themselves (sometimes, it seems, for no reason). Most vlogs I see on Youtube essentially beg for comments, or star ratings. Corporate run websites or magazines, like Vice or Paste or Flickr, don't really hide the fact that they're owned by a corporation. They don't care, and don't expect you to.

You can listen to Billy Joel or Britney Spears or Madonna unironically.

The difference between the sons and daughters of He-Man and She-Ra and the children of Pokemon (besides one group's likelihood to be sexually attracted to furry cartoon monsters) is that marketing is no longer hidden, or at least not hidden in the same way.
Marketing has just become something else you do, like painting, or coding, or making music. And people love to criticize it like they used to criticize painting, or coding, or music. And that criticism is one of the most popular forms of entertainment right now.

I can't believe I'm still typing, so I'm going to avoid the whole Republican VS Democrat, Apple VS PC, Xbox VS PS3, thing. Or that Kurt Cobain is a video game now (I like him more as a video game). Also I'm grossly generalizing, yo, and not saying one thing is better than the other.

I have all this stuff in mind when I'm trying to make a website for my artwork. I've had a domain for about 5 years now and I've been slowly updating it and changing things around the entire time. I want a site that's all 'hey look at my drawings, if you want', but I sort of need a site that also says 'and give me some of your money.' I don't want to come across like He-Man or Pokemon. Which is probably why I don't get jobs. Then I had a break-through the other night and came up with this:

Also, if anyone wants to pay me to attempt to write the longest set up for a joke ever, I'm your man.

Here's a song:

The Cancellation of Quasar

Here's the first 3 pages of the comic I'm working on right now, PAWS. I'm going to put it on my site to read in chunks. I've been waiting for a good stopping place for part 1. At first I was going to stop at page 5, but now I'm thinking 10. If this line of thought continues, Part 1 may encompass the entire thing.


Anonymous said...

henry jenkins is some academic who writes a lot about marketing and participatory culture. it's somewhat enlightening, somewhat boring.

in regards to your dollar billz marketing, i like it. i wouldn't care if you marketed yourself. i think what matters is that you don't cater or pander to the people who give you money just because they give you money. as long as you keep drawing people wearing hot dog suits, i'm okay with whatever you do. just don't spend it all on grills (by that, i mean the big fancy bbq grills middle-aged men love so much)

Stanley Lieber said...

I think the most important thing I've learned in my years on the Internet is that the quality of content is usually inversely proportionate to how much money I paid to acquire it. For example, I received a shipment of books and a couple of magazines in the mail today, and I can't imagine any of it measuring up to, say, this blog post.

You're totally right about He-Man.

These young people... I don't know about them. They're doing some kind of crazy shit with overlaying computer graphics on top of reality, now, inside of their cell phones, and I just don't know what they're going to come up with next. They will probably break the currency markets.

I guess pingbacks are already kind of replacing currency.

So: once matter compilers are up and running, carbon scarcity will replace petrol scarcity.

Fabian Kruse said...

You gotta live of something. That´s the fact. I feel that critical people don´t give a shit about being targeted by marketers as long as the product marketed is something real, something… authentic or whatever.
Everybody else doesn´t care at all and just buys every shit they offer him.

So yeah, you should market yourself if you want to get paid for your art. If you don´t do it, you may be real and everything, but you will still have to work as a waiter or something to make some cash.

Madeleine Bliss said...

yea man. i'm so tired right now but i know what you're talking about. mad men looks cool and all that matters these days is how cool you look.

three thumbs up for quasar.

i'm looking forward to the rest of paws. phoebe is totally going to steal the show that little devilish dog-thing. although that last page reminded me of me when i'm home alone. relace dog with cats and whiskey with a case of seltzer. it's a pathetic sight.

gunsakimbo said...

I actually just read a whole chapter of James Dyson (in the James Dyson autobiography) tearing apart the entire marketing industry in somewhat of the same way you just did. He talks about the evolution of marketing from people just selling their product to other people; to people not having as much time to sell their stuff so doling it out to someone else in the office who as a result has less of an attachment or understanding of the product; to those groups breaking off to form marketing groups, who at that point don't have any attachment to the product and don't understand or care about it; and then the switch in the general mind state that if you are selling a product you need to hire a marketing group who doesn't understand your product so they can sell it to a supposedly dumb populace who wouldn't understand your product either and will go on to generalize the information to fit in with everyone else's information and hopefully stand out with some exciting words and colors. I don't understand what I just wrote, but I do think that the marketing culture is a self-devouring leach that will do nothing less drain the blood from your american economy as we realize we are really good at marketing, but aren't creating any products to actually market anymore.

I think you should just make each comic available to download PDF or view online, and have a Donate button on the side, and have some comics that are for sale only. I think you should also market your comics through your music, describing how exciting your paid for comics are.