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We Can Change Our Wicked Problems!

Marketing, Advertising, Selling and PR

Marketing, Advertising, Selling and Public Relations are related, and often jumbled in our thinking.

Marketing

 

Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships, like traditional trading at markets.  Historically, people decided when we wanted to go to a market to trade for what we needed or desired.  We went to the market, found what we wanted, decided if what we found was right and traded for it.  Great!  We dealt with that when we chose to deal with that, and were free of it when we didn’t want it. Today, the markets come to us.  Even when we most want to be free of them, they intrude in our lives.  Most organizations do marketing, in some form, and it’s largely integrated into their overall operations, so it is all but impossible to estimate how much time, energy and money are spent on that, altogether.

Marketing is thinking of a business in terms of understanding or creating customer needs and desires, “demand,” and figuring out how to meet them with business products, processes and services, “supply.” Its concepts can be used to deliver public services to the public, or get votes, but it is primarily used as a fundamental business management process, how to make business ideas into goods and services, which customers actually buy.  It includes coordination of what’s called the “4 P's of marketing”:

  1. Product - identifying, selecting and developing products,

  2. Price - determining product pricing,

  3. Place - selecting and developing distribution channels to get to customers, and

  4. Promotion - developing and implementing strategies to inform people and persuade target audiences of the relative merits of a product, service, brand or issue, to increase awareness, create interest, generate sales, create support or create brand loyalty.

Advertising

 

Advertising is marketing communication acts or practices to promote public attention for one's product, service, need or message, and to persuade people to buy, endorse, vote or behave in ways purchasers of advertisement want.   Advertisements are generally paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, on radio or TV, on billboards and signs, via mail, websites, email, phone calls, texts or social media.

Selling

 

Selling is a subset of marketing, a business function focused on techniques and tricks to persuade people to actually exchange their money for its products.  Some is good communication, relationship building, and buyer assistance.  Some can be manipulative.  There’s an entire universe of sales gamesmanship, ruses to win at the game of selling, very close to cheating, especially in use against the poorly educated.

Public Relations (PR)

 

Public relations (PR) is the business, service or function of creating, inducing, promoting and maintaining desired or intended public understanding, approval and goodwill toward an individual, organization, business, and/or government, through publicity, news stories, communications and information sharing.  It’s marketing communications, but different from advertising and other marketing communications, because it often doesn’t pay for outside distribution, and sells the organization and brand, not just stuff.

In the U.S., we spent $12.5 billion on outside PR agencies in 2017.  That doesn’t count internal resources and services expended on PR.[1]  PR is done largely by creating, promoting and tracking:

  • Owned Media – Website content, annual reports, blogs, social media content, brochures, videos, podcasts, contributed articles, newsletters, white papers, SlideShares, infographics, case studies, ebooks, etc., created and distributed by the organization itself.  That seems fair enough?

  • Search Engine Optimization – Doing things so desired content appears near the top of Internet search engine query responses.  OK, but this is often abused, so not relevant content appears before the things people are actually looking for on the web, which degrades web experiences.

  • Media Relations – Writing press releases, articles and cultivating relationships with respected media to get them to write good things about an organization, brand or product.  Fair enough if honest, but these can be manipulative, like lobbyists writing laws for Congress is?  Now, there are 6 PR pros for each journalist,[2] like there are 23 federal lobbyists per congressperson.[3]

  • Financial Analyst Relations – Schmoozing and communicating with 3rd party financial analysts, so they say good things about the organization.  Fair game, if it’s honest?

  • Crisis Management – When things go bad, doing the right things to generate audience good will, spinning situations and actions to make them seem good.  Fair game, if it’s honest?

  • Public Speaking – Telling stories, so people can hear them in person.  Fair game, if it’s honest?

  • Industry Event Networking – Attending trade shows and conferences to build relationships.  OK.

  • Social Media Influencer Engagement – Getting people with social media followers to put desired messaging out to their audiences on social media.  Often this is paid influence or manipulation?

  • Brand Advocate Cultivation - Finding and feeding others to promote a brand.  OK, if honest?

  • Earned Media Content – Getting others to say good stuff about an organization, products or brand by word of mouth, in consumer reviews and ratings, blogs, press and other endorsements by:  flattering bloggers, commenting on and sharing their posts, pitching stories to journalists and bloggers, joining online communities and discussions, helping others, following people and sharing their stuff on social media.  Fair enough, if honest, but much is bought or manipulated and done because people don’t trust the organizations themselves?

  • Shared Media - Using social media like Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook to distribute content.  That’s fair enough, if it’s honest?

  • Paid Media – Paying to have desired content put in front of users, like ads in search engine results, social media and traditional media.  This is invasive paid advertisement.

  • Fake news – Distributing information that attracts attention but is not accurate.  Not cool?

  • Tracking – Gathering data on brand mentions, backlinks to stories and PR in others’ content, site traffic, coverage of PR content, etc.  That’s just data gathering that does no harm.[4] [5] [6] [7]

 

Many of these techniques are used in broader marketing and advertising, also, not just for PR.

Organizations are currently motivated to exhibit “social responsibility” in their PR efforts, in response to public demands for increasingly ethical and socially responsible organizations, products and actions.[8]  This shows the power of the public to influence organizations and behaviors if we insist on our values.  The public can accomplish much more than it does now, if it does more of that?  That’s encouraging!

The Wickedness

 

For good or evil, we are in a capitalist, market-based economy where most of us have to buy and sell things and services to survive and thrive, personally and in our workplace.  Communicating, who we are, as organizations and individuals, what we have to offer, as goods and services, and how others can engage with us for that, is part of all of that.  That’s the way things are now.  Or so it seems?

Problems come from intrusiveness and overwhelming volumes of it all, in society and our personal lives.  The U.S. is deeply inundated by invasive marketing and advertisements.  We’re under relentless attack by commercials:  loud, flashing, blaring incursions, trying to get into conscious and unconscious heads and program us to do what others want, buy their stuff, vote for their person, think of them this way, associate them with that.  It is altogether overwhelming, and it is causing us harm.

In 2019, advertising spending in the U.S. is $200 billion (17% of FADS),[9] on Earth it is $563 billion.[10]  36% of global advertising money is spent in the U.S., though the U.S. has 4% of Earth’s population.[11]  Twice as much advertising money is spent in the U.S. than in #2 China, with 4 times the population.[12]  Those ads add at least $200 billion a year to the prices we pay for goods and services in the U.S.

$100 billion (half) of U.S. advertisement money is spent for Internet ads, $71 billion (36%) for TV ads, $18 billion (9%) for radio ads, and 5% for all other, like billboards, (e)mail, and telephone ads.[13]

U.S. pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on advertising as on research and development,[14] $12 billion a year, including 770,000 TV advertisements targeted directly at consumers in 2016,[15] though doctors are supposed to determine what pharmaceuticals are really appropriate for patients, and that contributes to the highest prescription drug costs in the world.[16]

By the time we reach age 65 in the U.S., we’re exposed to 2 million TV commercials.[17]  In the 1970s, people in the U.S. were exposed to 500 ads a day.  Today, it’s 5,000 a day,[18] [19] [20]  1.8 million a year.  We watch 15 minutes of ads per hour of broadcast and cable television channel viewing, 1 of 4 minutes. There are 40 advertisements on a typical news webpage, 15 on a typical non-commercial website, 36 a day if we use Facebook, and 4.6 billion video ads per month on the top 10 online platforms in 2011.[21] 

U.S. advertisers spend $15 billion a year on advertising targeting children, 50% more than the federal government spends for the Head Start program for early childhood development,[22] and many children, like many undereducated adults, are unable to discern between biased promotions and unbiased facts.  The average child in the U.S. watches over 100 television commercials per day, and is exposed to media at least 7 hours a day, overwhelming volumes of programming noise.[23]  Is that healthy for children?

By end of 2019, 45% of U.S. phone calls will be spam, 90% with local area codes to trick us to answer.[24]  In the U.S., we get 147 million automated “robo-calls” a day, 54 billion, 440 calls per household per year.  The FTC Do Not Call Program receives 500,000 robocall complaints per month, 6 million per year, but it goes on and on.  The FCC collected only $7,000 in robocall fines, by end of 2018.[25]  It’s easy to do robo-calling, with few barriers to entry, costing callers almost nothing.  It costs human beings peace of mind, trust in answering phone calls, and functionality of the telephone communications system, because people are not answering phones in order to avoid robo-calls.[26]  It is an enormous invasion of privacy. 

 

National Public Radio and TV, and paid movie theater seats have ads now.  Pepsi plans to invade the night sky with an orbiting billboard advertisement.[27]  Is that OK?

The average adult in the U.S. gets 41 pounds of junk mail per year, 44% never opened;[28] altogether, 149 billion pieces of junk mail per year.  5.6 million tons of it goes to landfills every year; we spend 8 months of our life sorting it; and its annual CO2 contribution is equal to that of 7 U.S. states combined.  Marketers do it, because 5% of us respond to it,[29] so they earn enough to justify it, but it wastes our time and resources and creates deforestation, global warming and many other environmental harms.

February 2019, globally, 85% of all email, 204 billion messages a day, were spam, unsolicited sales, marketing, scam or hacker messages, trying to get us to buy, think or do something to benefit another, often at our expense.[30]  That’s 75 trillion per year, 10,000 for every man, woman and child on Earth.  The U.S. is the world’s worst spam enabling country, sending and receiving more than any other.[31] [32]  Increasing amounts are used for increasingly sophisticated identity theft, fraud or hacking efforts.[33]  Combatting it is technical war.  Spam costs society 100 times more than it earns spammers,[34] for:  lost time and productivity; wasted network and computer capacity; efforts to combat it; losses to scams, frauds, identity theft and attacks; and people simply not using email, because it’s overwhelming.

Our government and its spy agencies and contractors are collecting, for persecution and manipulation, Internet traffic to and from telecom customers all over the world, including:  our phone calls, emails, social media use, photos, documents, web browsing, computer and phone locations, electronic services interactions, financial and library records, computer microphone and camera hacks, and much more.[35] 

Following its example, so do U.S. businesses.  Anyone can legally buy for $25-$50 criminal backgrounds, current and past contact information, contacts, credit records, known and assumed relatives, marriages, employment history, divorces, driving records, social media contacts, neighbors, locations of computers and cellphones, blogs, photos, lawsuits, civil judgments, education and more on anyone in the U.S.[36] 

Businesses collect, buy and sell that and other information, like our physical locations at any time,[37] our current health and biometric data, including ovulation times,[38] for lower prices, in bulk, to market, sell and manipulate us.  How do you think Google, Facebook and other “free” services make money and have market capitalizations of many billions of dollars?  The U.S. does little to hypocritically protect us from these thefts, uses and abuses of our private information, certainly compared to Europe.[39]

Television and radio programming is just that, “programming,” programming like geeks writing software code to get computers to do what they want.  They’re mechanisms for conditioning us to think and behave in desired ways, and entertainments to attract and hold our attention while commercial programming takes place, programming and conditioning us what to think, do and consume.

Commercials blare, attack, bore and weasel their intrusive ways into our heads from all directions:  radio, TV, websites, applications, billboards, store signs, people waving signs, mail, print ads, robocalls…  It’s a wearying battleground of incursion into attention, into conscious and unconscious awareness.  Advertisements attack like diseases trying to overcome our natural defense systems, ready to pounce on any moment of vulnerability or weakness, sneaking in through multiplicities of subterfuge and boldness.  It’s exhausting and stressful to put up and maintain defenses against these relentless attacks.

Over time as a society, we spend trillions of dollars on advertising, enough money to meet the unmet money needs for solutions to many social problems.  Advertisement provides negligible social benefits?  We need comprehensible, easily accessed, reliable, trustworthy and comparable information about organizations and their offerings.  Do we really need advertisement, or is advertisement a pollution? 

Would we be better served by just providing comprehensive, readily available and accurate information about organizations and people and their messages, goods and services, that we could use to make informed decisions about what to think or buy, and from whom, when we choose to?  Such an information source would cost a fraction of what is currently spent on marketing and advertising. 

Much of advertising is designed to mislead consumers into less informed decision-making.  It appeals to emotion, subconscious associations, psychological needs, conditioning.  It tries to create urgency, often around saving money or some other time-constrained opportunity.  Act now!  It creates false reasoning.  For example, if you go into a store, not needing anything, see a thing you don’t really need costing $100, that is on sale for 50% off, and buy it, how much money did you save?  Very high percentages of people will answer $50, and even be delighted enough with themselves to go spend the $50 saved.  In reality, you save nothing, you spend $50, and for many that is with credit card debt at 15%+ interest, which people are unable to pay at the end of the month, which turns into much more than that in the end.

Discounts and coupons, limited time offers, prices set high to cover high discounts, helping people think $199.99 is more like $190 than $200, spending more on stuff we don’t need to get free shipping than it would cost to pay for the shipping, not including in prices taxes we must pay, shaming us to pay tips to compensate employees instead businesses paying them living wages, and not including that in prices, making false or unlikely claims about products and services, flattery, approaching us as friendly humans and selling us when we open up, showing model examples better than those sold, falsely claiming sales won’t be repeated, requirements to buy more than needed for discounts, putting what we need at the back of the store to tempt us with other things, creating soothing sounds, sights and smells in stores…

There are armies of people employed in these manipulations, studying behaviors, creating, selling and buying ads, testing ad success rates, measuring “hit rates,” organizing “campaigns.” “targeting” people, “hitting people” with ads and offers, (notice the military terms), collecting, buying, analyzing and selling our private personal data.  They consume incredible resources doing it all.  It costs oodles of money. 

It feels bad, because advertising can ruin what it’s inserted in, like a noxious pollution?  It creates social and personal problems trying to protect ourselves from it, and, in the end, it often provides a disservice, confusing us with noise, so we make impetuous and uninformed, rather than sound decisions? 

 

As with companies selling gasoline and other toxins, it only works if they can push external costs off on an unsuspecting or unresisting public.  If oil companies had to pay for healthcare of those they sicken, replacement of the air, rivers, oceans, lakes and forests they destroy, and massive losses from global climate change caused by their pollution, they wouldn’t be profitable.  Similarly, if advertisers had to pay for the time of people whose heads they invade and pollute, advertisement would be cost-prohibitive?

Advertisement provides little real service at great social cost?  Yet, it’s relentlessly pervasive.  As human beings we go through life with shields up, protections against selling assaults, but those shields also separate us from each other.  We hide, avert our eyes and try to not open ourselves to these attacks, which could come anywhere, at any time.  That harms us and makes us feel bad.  It doesn’t make sense that we are doing that to ourselves. 

 

Change!  Share this information!  Get on Do Not Call/Mail lists![40]  Tell companies you don’t want ads and selling and won’t buy from them if they try to sell us, and don’t!  Turn off the channels in life that expose you to advertising!  Spend time with people and nature instead!  Write letters about this, even you think it doesn’t matter!  Think about how this relates to your values!  Offer and support ad-free business models!  We can change!  Let’s change!  Turn that noise off!

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter Input

 

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Endnotes

 

[1] “Estimated aggregate revenue of U.S. public relations agencies from 2000 to 2017 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183972/estimated-revenue-of-us-public-relations-agencies-since-2000/

[2] “Trends 2019”, Infinity Concepts, https://www.infinityconcepts.net/2018/12/four-public-relations-trends-for-2019/

[3] “The Future: Cities, Not Suburbs, Not Small Towns Either”, HB, Digital Insider, December 11, 2013, https://diginsider.com/tag/public-policy/

[4] “Public Relations Trends to Watch in 2019”, Baker Public Relations, January 7, 2019, http://www.bakerpublicrelations.com/blog-post/public-relations-trends-watch-2019/

[5] “5 Corporate PR Trends for 2019”, Whitney Ertel, Borshoff, February 8, 2019, https://borshoff.biz/corporate-pr-trends-2019/

[6] “Online Reputation Strategy:  Complete Public Relations Guide for 2019”, Admin, Net Reputation, November 9th, 2018, https://www.netreputation.com/public-relations-guide/

[7] “12 Powerful PR Trends That Will Shape Your Strategy for 2019”, Wendy Marx, MarX Communications, https://b2bprblog.marxcommunications.com/b2bpr/pr-trends-pr-strategy

[8] “Trends 2019”, Infinity Concepts, https://www.infinityconcepts.net/2018/12/four-public-relations-trends-for-2019/

[9] “Advertising spending in the United States from 2010 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/236958/advertising-spending-in-the-us/

[10] “Global advertising spending from 2010 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statistisa, https://www.statista.com/statistics/236943/global-advertising-spending/

[11] “U.S. Population (LIVE)”, Worldometers, http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

[12] “Statistics & Facts on the U.S. Advertising Industry”, Statista, https://www.statista.com/topics/979/advertising-in-the-us/

[13] “Advertising spending in the United States from 2010 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/236958/advertising-spending-in-the-us/

[14] “Fantastic Advertising Industry Statistics”, April 19, 2014, Brandon Gaille, https://brandongaille.com/advertising-industry-statistics/

[15] “Think You’re Seeing More Drug Ads on TV? You Are, and Here’s Why”, Joanne Kaufman, The New York Times, December 24, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/24/business/media/prescription-drugs-advertising-tv.html

[16] “Direct-to-consumer medical marketing spending increased over last eighteen years”, Brittany Hasty, MD and Daniel Fisher, January 10, 2019, https://www.2minutemedicine.com/direct-to-consumer-medical-marketing-spending-increased-over-last-eighteen-years/

[17] “Fantastic Advertising Industry Statistics”, April 19, 2014, Brandon Gaille, https://brandongaille.com/advertising-industry-statistics/

[18] “How Many Ads Do You See Each Day?”, GradSchools.com, accessed March 9, 2019, https://www.gradschools.com/programs/marketing-advertising/how-many-ads-do-you-see-each-day

[19] “Cutting Through Advertising Clutter”, Caitlin Johnson, CBS, September 17, 2006, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cutting-through-advertising-clutter/

[20] “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad”, Louise Story, The New York Times, January 15, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html

[21] “How Many Ads Do You See Each Day?”, GradSchools.com, accessed March 9, 2019, https://www.gradschools.com/programs/marketing-advertising/how-many-ads-do-you-see-each-day

[22] “Senate Passes $250 Million Increase for Head Start”, August 24, 2018, National Head Start Association, https://www.nhsa.org/pr-update/senate-passes-250-million-increase-head-start

[23] “Fantastic Advertising Industry Statistics”, April 19, 2014, Brandon Gaille, https://brandongaille.com/advertising-industry-statistics/

[24] “30+ Phone Spam Statistics for 2017, 2018, 2019”, Sam Cook, Comparitech, February 15, 2019, https://www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/phone-spam-statistics/

[25] ”The FCC Has Fined Robocallers $208 Million. It’s Collected $6,790.”, Sarah Krouse, The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fcc-has-fined-robocallers-208-million-its-collected-6-790-11553770803

[26] “Why robocalls have taken over your phone”, Colin Lecher, The Verge, November 7, 2018, https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/7/18069178/end-robocalls-lawsuits-do-not-call-registry-ftc

[27] “Pepsi Plans to Project a Giant Ad in the Night Sky Using Cubesats: Pepsi says it'll use an artificial constellation, hung in the night sky next to the stars, to promote an energy drink.”, Jon Christian, Futurism, April 13, 2019, https://futurism.com/pepsi-orbital-billboard-night-sky/

[28] “51 Breathtaking Facts About Deforestation”, Conserve Energy Future, https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-deforestation-facts.php

[29] “How to stop junk mail and save trees — and your sanity”, Elisabeth Leamy, The Washington Post, February 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/how-to-stop-junk-mail-and-save-trees--and-your-sanity/2018/02/12/6000e4c4-05d9-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0bd896acd323

[30] “Total Global Email and Spam Volume for February 2019”, Talos Intelligence, https://www.talosintelligence.com/reputation_center/email_rep#tab=0

[31] “The World's Worst Spam Enabling Countries”, Spamhaus, March 10, 2019, https://www.spamhaus.org/statistics/countries/

[32] “Top Senders by Country”, Talos Intelligence, https://www.talosintelligence.com/reputation_center/email_rep#top-senders-country

[33] “Seven Phishing Scams in 2018 and How to Protect Yourself: Don't fall for phishing scams. They're a threat that requires serious attention from users and companies.”, Brian O'Connell, The Street, November 28, 2018, https://www.thestreet.com/personal-finance/education/phishing-scams-14794737

[34] “The Economics of Spam”, Christopher Shea, The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2012, https://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/08/13/the-economics-of-spam/

[35] See the chapter on the Surveillance State

[36] “Best Background Check Services of 2019”, Eli McCormick, Top Ten Reviews, March 1, 2019, https://www.toptenreviews.com/services/protection/best-background-check-services/

[37] “Google confession: Yes, we track your location, even when you turn off Location History”, Seung Lee, The Mercury News, Phys.org, August 20, 2018, https://phys.org/news/2018-08-google-track-history.html#jCp

[38] “Facebook reportedly gets deeply personal info, such as ovulation times and heart rate, from some apps”, Lauren Feiner, CNBC, February 25, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/facebook-receives-personal-health-data-from-apps-wsj.html

[39] “EU vs US: How Do Their Data Privacy Regulations Square Off?”, Andrada Coos, Endpointprotector, January 17, 2018, https://www.endpointprotector.com/blog/eu-vs-us-how-do-their-data-protection-regulations-square-off/

[40] “Telemarketing and Unwanted Mail”, USA.gov, https://www.usa.gov/telemarketing

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