Saturday, 26 November 2011

The March of the Bastards

Another day, another bastard corporation tries to fuck people over. This time, Unilever, SABMiller and Nestle (surprise, surprise) are hawking their uber-advertised, non-nutritious shite to the developing world - to countries that are yet to deal with malnutrition and starvation. Clearly, for the good of the people in those countries.....

This story, I think, raises two points. First, the structure that exists within most major corporations neccessitates not looking out for the interests of humanity. Within most major companies the existence of short-term stockholders means the companies have to ensure good profits each quarter (every 12 weeks!) in order to avoid capital flight. This structural pressure from the stockholders forces a continual short-termism, which promotes, well, basically, finding different ways to screw people. These companies should not be trusted - particularly by governments entering in to "responsibility" deals or whatever the fuck they're called. The companies should be pilloried for their craven self-interest and bastardly ways in the short-term and the system should be reformed in the long-run.

Second, while we decry the use of propaganda in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union and claim its great effectiveness at "brainwashing" the population, the Western world remains entirely blind to the continual churning of propaganda from corporate machines. These companies manufacture markets, they create desires that satisfy the interests of corporations themselves and not of the people. In this particular case, they are promoting wants over needs and seriously fucking both people and countries over. Advertising will be the fucking death of us.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Advertising, Coke and the Politics of Food

After walking back from the local shops and thinking about how the cost of a "free" plastic bag must be covered by greater (if only marginally) costs in the shop as a whole, I decided to look around the web for some numbers on how much companies spend on advertising; figuring that the costs of advertising must eventually be born by the consumer (i.e. we indirectly pay to get advertised to). In particular, since generic brands are so much cheaper, I was looking for figures on Coca Cola. It turns out that in 2006, on revenues of $24 billion, a full $2.5 billion was spent on advertising by Coca Cola. Very roughly speaking, then, 10 cents of every $1 spent on a Coca Cola product goes on paying for the advertising that was meant to persuade you to buy the product in the first place. Frankly, I'd prefer to make up my own mind and pay less, but ho hum.

There are wider consequences to the average consumer paying for advertising. The majority of media services are heavily reliant on advertising revenue, even to the extent that they are willing to offer content for "free". So services that we consider "free" - Google, Facebook, Blogger - are indirectly funded by the average consumer buying advertised products - the products have a premium price that allows the companies to spend money on advertising that then funds companies offering free services. Basically, "free" services are paid for by us spending money that indirectly fund campaigns that are meant to persuade us to buy more products. "Free" products, and the majority of the internet, then, is the outgrowth of relentless (and non-socially-productive) mass consumerism, which is kinda depressing for anyone who laments the increasing consumerisation of the world but uses these services.

Anyhow, in the process of looking for this information I came across this website, which deals with the politics of food - - seems well worth a look for anyone interested.